Saturday, March 14, 2009

Universalization and Cultural Misconceptions

Tonight we had a college student over for dinner. In talking to them about thier "intercultural requirement", she said that she would like to go to Africa. But, she was hesitant about staying in "nice" dorms as she felt it would be "wrong" to live differently than the native. As these live in abject poverty, she felt she needed to experience the same living conditions.

She went on to say that the way of the African was hospitality shown in meal sharing and that their culture is very generous in it. She said she thought that this was so admirable as it was so sacrificial. I asked her if she thought that these people would really identify their sacrifice, as a sacrifice, since this was a cultural "norm". She didn't seem to understand at first that her judgment was based on her own standard of living (the Africans would understand sacrifice as not being allowed to share their meal). After she saw my point, she acknowledged that what is deemed sacrifice is relative and sacrifice is not necessarily 'moral" or "spiritually more mature". What we value is part of our cultural heritage. She was assessing the spirituality of sacrifice with Scriptures, which are Middle Eastern "norms" of hospitality.

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