What Does De-Westernization Mean?
A Supplement to the Sept/Oct 1996
Why is this subject so delicate?
Perhaps the reason this subject has created so much response is partly due to the extensive "cultural captivity" of the American church--and many, many books these days, written by American pastors and theologians point out that "captivity." But many more do not. Why? That "captivity" is so largely invisible, unnoticed and transparent to Americans, that it might better be referred to as a phenomenon of "seduction" which is unrecognized rather than a "captivity" which is recognized and resented, and which thus can be resisted consciously.
Do you want an example?
When one of these articles brings up the kind of marriage where the family determines the pairing off, our American instincts tell us that this is preposterous, that it strikes against all fairness and modern sensitivities. Yet, we are blind to the simple fact that our system does not work! Our world's highest divorce rate is clearly a huge impediment to missionaries from this culture trying to win over people in Islamic and Hindu culture to our "wisdom."
We may know, deep down, that very few divorces would occur if the two people were to really try to love their partners. But we cannot translate this awareness into a recognition of the failure of our system. We have hammered away for so long, in our novels, in our secular "religion," and even in "Dear Abby," that every one has the sacred freedom to marry the one he loves (even if that person is married to someone else), that we cannot go back now. Our seduction-- our secular religion--on this subject goes clear back to Romeo and Juliet. We say, "Marry the one you love," while most cultures say, in effect, "Love the one you marry."
Shall we go further?
In most cultures the married couple resides in and under one or the other of the two source families, and this is predetermined before marriage. Also, those families are multigenerational (what we call "extended" families) . And the generations are closer together (not having been pried apart by elongated school incarceration). This is how most marital struggles are resolved-- within that large extended family, not in the isolation of one-room apartment or single family residence or in an outpatient visit to a counselor.
In such a context children learn obedience by seeing their parents obey their parents.
Shall we go further?
In our system millions of men spend more time with their secretaries than with their wives. Children spend more time with their teachers and peers than with their parents. Why wouldn't we expect millions of Americans to choose the work-related intimacy over the see-you-later intimacy? Yet until recently many companies and universities have had and still have policies against allowing spouses to work together.
And our urbanized, specialized, stratified system is spreading to the urban centers of the world.
I am giving just a few examples of the drastic contrast between the cultural carrier of Western Christianity and that of many millions who would like to follow Christ without following Americans.