by Samuel Rowen
The role of female missionaries… church-mission tensions… cultural biases in exercising control… principles for proclamation.
The role of female missionaries… church-mission tensions… cultural biases in exercising control… principles for proclamation.
A recent national survey by Louis Harris indicates that the changes in women’s roles are continuing to forge ahead (Ms., July 1984). Note how women view the state of the women’s movement. Fifty-seven percent see it as having just begun; 24 percent believe the movement has peaked; 13 percent perceive the movement as having reached full-size. This means that 87 percent of women believe that there is more ground to be gained, with the majority believing that there is much ground to be gained.
The poll included both women and men, to find some of the significant issues in the "gender gap." Some of the trends and conclusions are as follows:
1. The gender gap has not diminished, but has actually increased. The poll looked at the voting patterns and commitments of both men and women. Louis Harris states, "More than at any time in history, women in 1984 are going to vote differently from men. Consistently, women are voting more Democratic than Republican, but most particularly are inclined to vote against Ronald Reagan in his bid for reelection. Making up a majority of the vote, at least 51 percent, women are far and away the most pivotal voting bloc in the electorate in 1984."
2. Discrimination on the basis of sex is becoming more important to women than discrimination based on other factors. This issue has become even more important than the issues of peace, foreign policy, and economic progress, though they continue to be important issues. Women now outstrip men by 74 percent to 63 percent in support of equal pay; 64 percent to 56 percent in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment; and by 60 percent to 52 percent in their favor of organizations working to strengthen women’s status in society.
Two factors have brought about this shift among women. First, self-respect among women has greatly increased to the point where they now believe they have the right to ask for equal treatment. Second, the flood of women into the labor market and higher education has made them more aware of the issues. There are now more married women with children working than there are remaining at home in the traditional role of housewife and mother. Along with this change, men have also increased in their opposition to sex-biased discrimination.
3. Whenever the gender gap tends to narrow or close, it is more likely the women’s views will predict the men’s views. For example, it was the women who were initially opposed to the war in Vietnam and served as a predictor of the later opposition of men. When polls show a narrowing of the gap between the views of men and women, it should not be assumed that women are following the lead of men. It is just as, or more, likely to be the men following the lead of women.
4. The most important figure is that 57 percent of the women believe that the women’s movement has just begun. This would suggest that the popular idea that we are in a "post-feminist" era is not accurate. "The youngest women surveyed, those between 18 and 29, exceeded all other age groups in their optimism, thus belying the notion that young women aren’t interested in feminist change any more. And they are the future." Harris dubs this force of women "a union without a union."
What does this have to say about mission? A whole lot. The relationship of these findings to mission was triggered recently by the comment of a mission executive. He said, "Increasingly, I find myself having to respond to wives who demand as much definition of their role in the mission as does their husband." It is not just the single women missionaries who need job definitions, but, increasingly, wives are not simply accepting the traditional role definition of wife and mother. The misson agency must have a significant role for them.
I talked recently with a woman missionary who returned from the field hurt and disillusioned. She had become the first woman to serve on the field council. Her field leader perceptively told her that the problem she was experiencing was that she was too threatening to the other men on the field. The reason was because she was receiving all the significant invitations from the national Christians for ministry which the men never received. Needless to say, this missionary is not returning to the field under that mission. She is contemplating an invitation from a national Christian organization to assume the chief executive position.
There is little to suggest that this trend will simply go away. Women still make up over 50 percent of our overseas missionary staff. The trends suggest that they will increasingly be discontent to be either voiceless or patronized. Now is the time for some clear and open dialogue between men and women. By this I do not mean simply including a token woman speaker at our traditionally male-oriented meetings. Mission agencies need to understand what is happening among women. Each statistic represents thousands of personal stories, stories that are not always apparent on our application forms.
The discussions about relationships between churches and mission agencies dominated the late ’60s and early ’70s. Or so it seemed to me. I recently wrote to over 60 of these agencies to see if my impression was correct. I asked for copies of policy statements and articles that were important to them. My hunch was substantiated. There has not been much written about this issue in the last six or seven years. That is until recently. As long as there is a significant missionary effort directed in areas where the church exists, this will be an enduring problem. I hope it will not so captivate our attention that it diverts the increasing momentum to reaching past new frontiers to where Christ is not known.
Nancy Adler ("Designing a Culturally Synergistic Organization," The Bridge: A Review of Cross-Cultural Affairs and International Training, Fall, 1981) identifies three different models of international organizational structures. First, is the cultural dominance model, an extension of the domestic management perspective. In this model there is a dominant culture and a nondominant culture. There is the recognition of cultural differences, but for the sake of organizational structure, the dominant culture demands the other nondominant culture to enter into its sphere of activity only at the points of contact within the organization. The perspective of the dominant culture prevails as far as the organization goes, but for the rest of life the nondominant culture can live its own life.
The second model is the cultural compromise model. This emphasizes the comparison of two or more different managerial styles. "This model recognizes culture-specific ways of doing business, only the similarities are used to create the organization’s policies and practices." The limitation is that some of the essence of both styles may have to be sacrificed because they do not have comparable touchpoints in the two systems.
The third approach suggested by Adler is the cultural synergy model. "A culturally synergistic organization is one in which structure, policies, and practices reflect the best aspects of all members’ cultures without violating the norms of any."
As one goes through the five-step process suggested by Adler for developing a culturally synergistic organization, an uneasy feeling begins to emerge. The model she suggests recognizes the contribution of all cultures involved in the organization, but seeks to create something new which doesn’t belong to any, but partakes of all. This doesn’t seem to square with the concerns for indigeneity, that is, something that grows naturally in the local soil. However, there is a place for something new that recognizes that every culture has been impacted by sin. We do need something new that does not violate the norms of culture, which we must respect. Yet at the same time, an organization that responds to the values of the Kingdom of God may be in conflict not only with the local culture, but also with the ether cultures that are intervening.
Any time people from two or more cultures come together to achieve some commonly valued goals, the potential for organizational conflict is real. Adler’s "five-step process" offers at least a starting point for designing a culturally synergistic organization. A few functional models of this kind would assist greatly the churches of Asia, Africa, and Latin America as they begin to assume greater responsibility for cross-cultural mission. The challenges of church-mission tensions will soon be theirs also, as they see new churches planted as a result of their missionary obedience.
There are at least two general paths to a feeling of control. In primary control, individuals enhance their rewards by influencing existing realities (e.g., other people, circumstances, symptoms or behavior problems). In secondary control, individuals enhance their rewards by accommodating to existing realities and maximizing satisfaction by fitting in with things as they are."
American psychologists have written extensively on the subject of control, but have primarily concentrated on or defined the issues in terms of primary control. John Weisz, et. al, in "Standing Out and Standing In: The Psychology of Control in America and Japan" (American Psychologist, Vol. 39, No. 9, September, 1984) suggest that the emphasis on primary control is the result of a cultural bias. By comparing the cultures of America and Japan the authors attempt to build a rationale for suggesting that the goal, for both cultures and individuals, is to achieve a blend of primary and secondary control.
An example of the cultural bias of American psychologists is the review of the evidence by the authors which shows that secondary control behaviors are classified by American psychologists as signs of "relinquished" control.
1. The presence of low ability and passive behavior are identified by American psychologists as signs of helplessness. It is possible, however, that this is acceptance of the inevitability of some circumstances in order to minimize psychological shock. This is called predictive secondary control and, thus, is not helplessness.
2. The attribution to others of outcomes, so that an individual adopts submissive behaviors, is perceived as the abandonment of control by American psychologists. However, the sense of loss of control need not be present unless a highly individualistic concept of control is required by definition. In vicarious secondary control an individual psychologically perceives oneself to be in control when there is a close identification with the powerful other.
These examples are adequate to show the way the same behavior is interpreted as both loss of control and exercise of control, according to whether it is viewed as primary or secondary control. Primary control is for the purpose of influencing existing realities. Secondary control is for the purpose of accommodating to existing realities. Secondary control is divided into four categories:
(1) Predictive. "Attempts to accurately predict events and conditions so as to control their impact on self."
(2) Vicarious. "Attempts to associate or closely align self with other individuals or groups, or institutions so as to participate psychologically in control they exert."
(3) Illusory. "Attempts to associate or get into synchrony with chance so as to enhance comfort with acceptance of one’s fate.
(4) Interpretive. "Attempts to understand existing realities so as to derive a sense of meaning or purpose from them and thereby enhance one’s satisfaction with them."
No one likes to be out of control. How control is exercised has strong cultural biases. The authors propose a significant distinction that can be helpful in understanding the nature of control. The extreme poles are problematic. Strong primary control in cross-cultural situations are prone to domination and cultural imperialism. Extreme secondary control can lead to fatalism. Both extremes do not represent a biblical understanding of control.
The authors reflect on the religious and philosophical roots in both cultures that have created a tendency toward primary control in American culture and secondary control in Japanese culture. The analysis of Christianity is not satisfying. However, there is enough truth in the characterization to cause one to reflect on whether Christians have been unduly influenced by Western philosophical thought to the detriment of biblical norms.
The meaning and exercise of control is of extreme practical importance. It is exercised within our mission agencies, in mission and church relationships, in our families, and in all of life’s relationships. The thoughtful reader will benefit simply by reflecting on his or her personal style of control in the light of the article.
Since we have both individual and institutional behaviors, which might be quite different from each other, the issues raised by the authors have significant implications for our institutional functioning. It would be interesting for some field missionaries to see if the authors’ constructs could be applied to their own situation. If you try it, and it helps to explain some things, you can write them up and send them in. It is in sharing new insights that we help, not only ourselves, but also others who are trying to faithfully proclaim the gospel.
Dennis Byler in "Proclamation and Culture: A Biblical Perspective" (Mission Focus, Vol. 12, No. 2, September, 1984) develops some principles for the proclamation of the gospel. They are worth stating without additional comment. If you find them as intriguing as I did, you will want to read the entire article.
1. A person approaching any society from the bottom as a weak, poor, uncouth, socially inept, homeless person will likely gain rapid access to the people and receive a good hearing for the message. Such a person will at least be as successful as someone who exudes an aura of power, success, prosperity, and boundless self-confidence.
2. The former will be perceived as sensitive to the needs of the people, understanding their condition, and ultimately trustworthy, whereas the latter will be perceived as insensitive, overbearing, and paternalistic.
3. Both types may well gain a following, but for radically different motivations. In the one case, people might wish to identify with the preacher whose social standing, power, wisdom, and influence upon divinity will be perceived to be beneficial to those who follow. But in the other case, people will confront a true and faithful witness of the risen Lord who brings hope in the midst of despair and courage and strength to the average, run-of-the-mill nobody.
4. Western culture needs a gospel proclaimed by means of weakness and foolishness. In our own culture Jesus needs true and faithful witnesses who not only identify with the weak and foolish but who actually become weak and foolish, those who not only identify with the poor, oppressed, uneducated, and sick but who actually become poor, oppressed, naive, and stalwart in the face of prolonged or severe illness.
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