It’s well known that emotions tend to be suppressed in Asian culture. CNN has long reported that sharing weaknesses is “taboo” in Asian cultures. More recently, Sam Louie in his book “Asian Honor” describes “Soul Murder” where Asian adults “have lost their abilities to say no, articulate what they want, set boundaries, or even acknowledge feeling hurt or sad.”
God’s love “hears” such weaknesses because His love meets us in our most shameful moments. LAW 2 is intended to communicate our relational separation from God.
In Genesis, we find the beginning of all things, including sin and the relational separation from God through guilt, shame, and fear. Being that the sense of “I” is diminished in much Asian culture (human essence lies in the qi, where there is no individual human existence), Asians tend not to feel guilt feelings as much as feelings of shame.
When those from an Eastern culture are presented with a “guilt-based” Gospel, I’ve seen many from an eastern culture “choose” to “receive Christ” more out of conformity (In Asian thought, a person is defined in a group setting, in the presence of another) than a true desire to follow Christ. I’ve seen this dynamic abroad and among American-born Asians. The sociological influence of our culture of origin does not stop at generation 2. I’ve met many who deny this, yet their actions prove otherwise. However, Jesus & Paul never stuck to the western, propositional, guilt model of sharing the Gospel. Their gospel was transcultural to reconcile people relationally to Christ. I strongly feel there’s too little training in this area.
A little digression here: So why are almost ALL Gospel presentations dependent on this appeal to guilt?!? Why do many Gospel presentations assume Scripture is needed even when the bible has no authority to the hearer? Paul never assumed such things; why should we?
That is a much bigger question I can’t cover here! I’ll just say this: a Euro-Western world view and hermeneutic has been the dominant lens to read the Bible and relate to God. And until a more Eastern hermeneutic rises up, theology as we know it will continue to marginalize those from non-Western cultures. Good thing God continues to reach people indigenously – people in the CIS through dreams, Chinese through the underground, and much more. God’s love transcends Western ways as He needs to. Jn 6:37
Although I was born in the US, I inherited much of this “shame” culture. In fact, if I were to look at my 10-year self from my now spiritually adult self, I see a child steeped in extreme shame. I never took off my sweater because I did not think anyone could accept me. And I rarely spoke to my parent’s friends. Some of them jokingly counted how many times they’ve heard me speak on one hand, in a span of about 10 years. I have tons of examples of such “fig-leaves” I learned to put on early on.
In my early engineering career and ministry years, I carried all that shame with me. Such was the inspiration of this following slide. It’s autobiographical, down to the fact that I once had a very nice engineer’s salary, and I gave, but it was just a drop of the bucket. But in years since, by God’s grace, I’m learning more and more about what my modern day “fig leaves” look like. I know where I escape, and a lot of that was through ministry.
To experience the Gospel, to experience relational reconciliation with God, I needed to know I was hiding. In my earlier ministry, pulpits were my fig leaves. I learned pulpit skills early on and well, scoring solid A’s in drama and speech classes all throughout high school, college, and seminary. Inside, I was the awkwardly social engineer who never learned to have a conversation. But on stage, I combined my talking skills with my engineering training to learn how to control and manipulate words to great effect. In order words, I mastered acting, or at least, with enough skill to preach compelling sermons. But what I really needed was to come to grips with my hiding, the same hiding exhibited by Adam. In my most recent career, this transformation is described here. But lo, I have a new inheritance today through the “Son of Man”…and that’s wrapped up in the 3rd law in the next post.
If you are using these posts as tools to share the Gospel, I encourage you to assess your own relationship with the Father first. When are the times you experience distance from God and why? What have you been taught from your youth in regards to shame and “keeping family secrets” and “not asking for help?” How is this reconciled in the Gospel?