CULTURAL ADAPTERS & A exercise to help you identify consonant, selective and dissonant adapters.

Commentary by Prof. B.: Recently a student shared a case study which is not too dissimilar to what many of my students and colleagues have experienced. This student created an informal fallacy by equating generational age to culture. Here is the LEAD 600 student’s case study followed by an exercise  the reader can utilize to identify the consonant, selective and dissonant adapters in the story.

Student: You’ve presented a particularly intriguing ethical dilemma. You (another student) said, “Based upon research from Barna, more than ¾ of Christians come to faith before they are 21 years old.” However, you also stated, “The older worship leader should have equal opportunity to a worship position.” Therein lies the dilemma. Equality has forever been a problem in society. In his classic book on poverty and racism, Howard Thurmon closed a chapter with the following words: “Instead of relation between the weak and the strong there is merely a relationship between human beings. A man is a man, no more, no less. The awareness of this fact marks the supreme moment of human dignity.” In a conversation about church strategy and demographics, the desire to hire a younger person makes complete sense. However, in a conversation about equality and human dignity, the reduction of possibility for an older candidate is an offense. Of course, Thurmon is referring to serious issues like the racism of the 40’s and 50’s. However, from a broad ethical perspective, his statement remains true and useful.”

I responded:  I appreciate that you stated, “In a conversation about church strategy and demographics, the desire to hire a younger person makes complete sense.  However, in a conversation about equality and human dignity, the reduction of possibility for an older candidate is an offense.”

I think the key is to not always equate age with culture. Doing su could be an informal fallacy. By that I mean, your point seems to be that the worship leader should relate to the age of those people who make a decision for Christ. However as we know, being part of an age demarcation, i.e. generation, does not necessarily mean they are part of that culture. There are many people who live and assimilate into a dissimilar culture from which they’ve been raised. The culture in which most people have been raised is age specific. But we all know people who have been raised in one culture and yet relate to another… even assimilate into it.

To understand this phenomena is to understand the difference between “consonant, selective and dissonant adapters.” Charles Kraft gives an introduction to this phenomena in his classic, “Christianity in Culture: A Study of Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective” (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 113.

Kraft points out there are three types of adapters:

1) Dissonant adapters adapt very little to another culture because they’re very proud of their existing culture. They can become xenophobic and can usually only be reached by indigenous art forms such as music, liturgy and language.

2) Selective adapters adapting some areas but like to preserve the traditions of their culture. in my experience, they are often found in churches that offer blended services. They enjoy multiple cultures but sometimes are disingenuous: seeking to push other dissonant adapters to adapt beyond the comfort level of the dissonant adapters. This has been called the “creator complex,” e.g. to make over others in the image of our culture or the dominant culture. Wagner describes this as “Deep in the heart of man (sic), even in missionaries, lurks that ‘creator complex’ by which he (sic) delights in making other people over in his (sic) own image.” Wagner, C. P. (1979). “Our kind of people: The ethical dimensions of church growth in America,” John Knox Press, p. 76.

3) Consonant adapters adapt to a different culture previous culture and hold on very little to their previous culture.

There is a further an explanation of this in “The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart,” The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013, pp. 69-70) https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/cultural-adapters-3-types-consonant-selective-dissonant/

Now, knowing those missiological terms, how would you analyze the players in this example? The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness to anthropological in sociological dynamics in our staffing, volunteerism and leadership.

EXEGETE CONTEXT & How NOT to Do It

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In a recent class I taught at Kingswood University in Sussex, NB, Canada we discussed cultural exegesis. Kevin, a Presbyterian pastor and one of my students, provided a link to this video. It shows that even the movie industry has noticed that we often culturally exegete insufficiently and/or poorly. Watch this video as a reminder of what not to do:

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AwROL7OBkc

WORSHIP & A leadership exercise comparing worship in different eras (Yikes! The 80s are Back ;-)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This is an exercise about understanding how different cultures worship. My students enjoy it, so I thought I would post it here. Here is how the leadership exercise works:

Watch this video:

It is a humorous video that actually teaches an important cultural lesson too. It is by the Christian band called Glad. They were known for great vocals (and probably also for 80s haircuts 😉

(the video seems to have disappeared, but here is the audio version.)

But aside from their fashion statement, the group makes a good cultural point in this video. Write down a paragraph regarding the point of their video in your mind.

This is an exercise to allow you to dig deeper into cultural patterns and why they differ. So what is the lesson from this video about culture, when we recognize culture is comprised of behaviors, ideas and products (Hiebert, 1997)?

Here is a more recent version of the video to will enjoy also:

And, for a final bit of humor here is a puppet ministry visualizing the song.)

BIAS & Why It is Hard to Grasp, When You Haven’t Historically Experienced It

Saturday Night Live, SNL, 11/12/16.

CULTURAL BIASES & Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are hip.

“He (Jesus) continued this subject with his disciples.

‘Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more…

‘What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself’.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:22-24, 29-32‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Read more at … http://bible.com/97/luk.12.22-24,29-32.msg

DIVERSITY & 3 Steps to Start Designing a Bias-Free Organization

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Subtle practices in language, hiring, promotion and programming in an organization can unintentionally lead to unintended and unexpected biases. Read this seminal interview with Iris Bohnet, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, cochair of the Behavioral Insights Group and author of the book, What Works, about how researchers have discovered how to foster a more bias-free organization.

Designing a Bias-Free Organization

by Gardiner Moorse, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2016.

Iris Bohnet thinks firms are wasting their money on diversity training. The problem is, most programs just don’t work. Rather than run more workshops or try to eradicate the biases that cause discrimination, she says, companies need to redesign their processes to prevent biased choices in the first place.

Bohnet directs the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School and cochairs its Behavioral Insights Group. Her new book, What Works, describes how simple changes—from eliminating the practice of sharing self-evaluations to rewarding office volunteerism—can reduce the biased behaviors that undermine organizational performance. In this edited interview with HBR senior editor Gardiner Morse, Bohnet describes how behavioral design can neutralize our biases and unleash untapped talent…

HBR: Organizations put a huge amount of effort into improving diversity and equality but are still falling short. Are they doing the wrong things, not trying hard enough, or both?

Bohnet: There is some of each going on. Frankly, right now I am most concerned with companies that want to do the right thing but don’t know how to get there, or worse, throw money at the problem without its making much of a difference. Many U.S. corporations, for example, conduct diversity training programs without ever measuring whether they work. My colleague Frank Dobbin at Harvard and many others have done excellent research on the effectiveness of these programs, and unfortunately it looks like they largely don’t change attitudes, let alone behavior. (See “Why Diversity Programs Fail” by Frank Dobbin.)

I encourage anyone who thinks they have a program that works to actually evaluate and document its impact. This would be a huge service. I’m a bit on a mission to convince corporations, NGOs, and government agencies to bring the same rigor they apply to their financial decision making and marketing strategies to their people management. Marketers have been running A/B tests for a long time, measuring what works and what doesn’t. HR departments should be doing the same.

What does behavioral science tell us about what to do, aside from measuring success?

Start by accepting that our minds are stubborn beasts. It’s very hard to eliminate our biases, but we can design organizations to make it easier for our biased minds to get things right. HBR readers may know the story about how orchestras began using blind auditions in the 1970s. It’s a great example of behavioral design that makes it easier to do the unbiased thing. The issue was that fewer than 10% of players in major U.S. orchestras were women. Why was that? Not because women are worse musicians than men but because they were perceived that way by auditioners. So orchestras started having musicians audition behind a curtain, making gender invisible. My Harvard colleague Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse of Princeton showed that this simple change played an important role in increasing the fraction of women in orchestras to almost 40% today. Note that this didn’t result from changing mindsets. In fact, some of the most famous orchestra directors at the time were convinced that they didn’t need curtains because they, of all people, certainly focused on the quality of the music and not whether somebody looked the part. The evidence told a different story…

What are examples of good behavioral design in organizations?

Well, let’s look at recruitment and talent management, where biases are rampant. You can’t easily put job candidates behind a curtain, but you can do a version of that with software. I am a big fan of tools such as Applied, GapJumpers, and Unitive that allow employers to blind themselves to applicants’ demographic characteristics. The software allows hiring managers to strip age, gender, educational and socioeconomic background, and other information out of résumés so they can focus on talent only.

There’s also a robust literature on how to take bias out of the interview process, which boils down to this: Stop going with your gut. Those unstructured interviews where managers think they’re getting a feel for a candidate’s fit or potential are basically a waste of time. Use structured interviews where every candidate gets the same questions in the same order, and score their answers in order in real time.

You should also be thinking about how your recruitment approach can skew who even applies. For instance, you should scrutinize your job ads for language that unconsciously discourages either men or women from applying. A school interested in attracting the best teachers, for instance, should avoid characterizing the ideal candidate as “nurturing” or “supportive” in the ad copy, because research shows that can discourage men from applying. Likewise, a firm that wants to attract men and women equally should avoid describing the preferred candidate as “competitive” or “assertive,” as research finds that those characterizations can discourage female applicants. The point is that if you want to attract the best candidates and access 100% of the talent pool, start by being conscious about the recruitment language you use.

What about once you’ve hired someone? How do you design around managers’ biases then

The same principle applies: Do whatever you can to take instinct out of consideration and rely on hard data. That means, for instance, basing promotions on someone’s objectively measured performance rather than the boss’s feeling about them. That seems obvious, but it’s still surprisingly rare…

How can firms get started?

Begin by collecting data. When I was academic dean at the Harvard Kennedy School, one day I came to the office to find a group of students camped out in front of my door. They were concerned about the lack of women on the faculty. Or so I thought. Much to my surprise, I realized that it was not primarily the number of female faculty that concerned them but the lack of role models for female students. They wanted to see more female leaders—in the classroom, on panels, behind the podium, teaching, researching, and advising. It turns out we had never paid attention to—or measured—the gender breakdown of the people visiting the Kennedy School.

So we did. And our findings resembled those of most organizations that collect such data for the first time: The numbers weren’t pretty.

Here’s the good news. Once you collect and study the data, you can make changes and measure progress…

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2016/07/designing-a-bias-free-organization

CULTURE WARS & How Stravinsky’s composition “Rite of Spring” sparked a musical and physical clash between Russian cultures

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Worship wars over styles of music are nothing new. And, if you look at musical history you will see they are often a cultural clash between different cultural preferences. Understanding that cultures (including age, ethnic and affinity cultures) prefer different styles of music is part of understanding other cultures. Read this interesting article by the classical music critic of the BBC to understand a classic (pun intended) example of cultural and musical clashes that accompanied the debut of Stravinsky’s landmark composition “Rite of Spring.”

Did The Rite of Spring really spark a riot?

by Ivan Hewett, BBC Classical music critic, 5/29/13.

Of all the scandals of the history of art, none is so scandalous as the one that took place on the evening of 29 May 1913 in Paris at the premiere of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring.

The Rite descended into a riot, the story goes. Magnified in the retelling, it has acquired the unquestionable certainty that only legend can have. Everyone simply “knows” that there was a riot.

But is it possible to separate fact from fiction?

Was there violence?

Dozens of witnesses left accounts of the evening, but they tend to say different things. According to some, blows were exchanged, objects were thrown at the stage, and at least one person was challenged to a duel…

There had been some noise two weeks earlier at the premiere of Debussy’s ballet, Jeux, and critics had heaped abuse on Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography. Now Nijinsky had choreographed the Rite of Spring – rumoured to be the last word in Russian primitivism or modernist chic, depending who you believed. So part of the audience may well have been predisposed to be outraged.

“There was an existing tremor in the air against Nijinsky before any curtain went up,” says Stephen Walsh, professor of music at Cardiff University. Others say the trouble began with the start of the overture and its strangled bassoon melody, and other strange sounds never before conjured from an orchestra.

Igor Stravinsky, for his part, said the storm only really broke after the overture, “when the curtain opened on the group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down”…

The brand new Theatre of the Champs Elysees was “awash with diamonds and furs” according to one contemporary report. It seems that the beau monde really did turn out for this premiere – and some will have been keener than others on the avant-garde performance. Jean Cocteau wrote that “the aesthetic crowd… would applaud novelty simply to show their contempt for the people in the boxes”.

But were they divided by class? Buch says there are unlikely to have been any poor or even middle class people in the auditorium.

“My reading of the evidence is that actually the divisions went inside social groups – you have people who are very much alike and they have different opinions on the piece.” One barrier to understanding the quarrel, Buch adds, is that none of those who protested ever left a record explaining the reason for their anger…

The young Stravinsky had taken Paris by storm in previous seasons. His Petrushka, the year before, had been a massive hit. “There is no question at all, he was a star,” says Walsh. But compared with the Rite of Spring, “Petrushka was not such a forbidding score, by any means.”

Stravinsky himself said that when he first played the beginning of the Rite, with its dissonant chords and pulsating rhythm, to Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev asked him a “very offending” question: “Will it last a very long time this way?” (Stravinsky replied: “To the end, my dear.”)

So the music was as startling as the strange jerky movements of the choreography. Esteban Buch argues that you cannot separate the impact of one from the other. What upset people, he thinks, was “the very notion of primitive society being shown on stage”.

1913 production of The Rite of Spring

(Dancers portraying Russian primitives)

Fast forward to the last 30 minutes of this BBC2 video for an idea about the commotion this historic composition created

Read more at … http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22691267

CULTURAL ADAPTERS & 3-Types: Consonant, Selective & Dissonant

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 5/12/16.

To understand 3-types of “cultural adapters” read the paragraph below excerpted from Bob Whitesel (The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013, pp. 69-70).

“People from emerging cultures usually adapt to the dominant culture in one of three ways.

Consonant adapters are people from an emerging culture who adapt almost entirely to the dominant culture. Over time they will mirror the dominant culture in behavior, ideas and products. Thus, they will usually be drawn to a church that reflects the dominant culture.

Selective adapters adapt to some parts of a dominant culture, but reject other aspects. They want to preserve their cultural heritage, but will compromise in most areas to preserve harmony.(1) They can be drawn to the Blended Model because it still celebrates to a degree their culture.

Dissonant adapters fight to preserve their culture in the face of a dominant culture’s influence. (2) Dissonant adapters may find the blended format of the Blended Church as too inauthentic and disingenuous to their strongly held cultural traditions.”

(1) Alejandro Portes and Ruben G. Rumbaut in Immigrant American: A Portrait (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996). They suggest that organizations comprised of selective adapters will be a more harmonious organization.

(2) Ruben G. Rumbaut, “Acculturation, Discrimination, and Ethnic Identity Among Children of Immigrants,” in Discovering Successful Pathways in Children’s Development: Mixed Methods in the Study of Childhood and Family Life, Thomas S. Weisner ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture: A Study of Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 113.

See also on ChurchHealth.wiki info on the related study of “ethnic consciousness” by Tetsunao Yamamori, who created an “Ethnic Consciousness Scale” to measure the degree to which a person identifies with a specific culture. Tetsunao Yamamori’s article on ethnic consciousness and titled, “How to reach a new culture in your community” can be found online and in Win Arn et al., The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook (1979), pp. 171-181.

PRIVILEGE & Understanding Unconscious Bias #HarvardUniversity

by Bob Whitesel D.Min.m Ph.D., 4/26/16.

Harvard University offers a helpful online test to help you see your unconscious biases that affect your opinions, language, friends, church preference, etc.  Understanding that we all, everyone, has unconscious biases. These biases are not all bad but it is important to understand that our upbringing and our choices have led us to embrace biases that we don’t even know we have.

Check out this resources at http://www.implicit.harvard.edu and take the short test.  You don’t have to share the results with anyone unless you want to.  The purpose is just to help you better understand yourself and how you can relate more authentically and openly with others.From the website: Participation is voluntary. It is your choice whether or not to participate in this research. If you choose to participate, you may change your mind and leave the study at any time. Refusal to participate or stopping your participation will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which you are otherwise entitled.

What is the purpose of this research? The purpose of this research is to examine how people evaluate others.

How long will I take part in this research? Your participation will take up to 10 minutes to complete.

What can I expect if I take part in this research? As a participant, you will complete a decision-making task, answer some questions and complete an Implicit Association Test in which you will sort words or images into categories as quickly as possible.

What are the risks and possible discomforts? If you choose to participate, the effects should be comparable to those you would experience from viewing a computer monitor for 10 minutes and using a mouse or keyboard.

Are there any benefits from being in this research study? There are no foreseeable benefits for study participants. Scientific knowledge will benefit from a greater understanding of how people perceive others.

CULTURE & How Different Cultures Can Make Us Feel Uncomfortable: A Picture

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/11/15.

Have you ever wondered how Jesus might look today, and what kind of disciples He might call?  Steel City Church in Pittsburgh has some ideas.  This is a picture they utilized depicting Jesus at an updated version of The Last Supper:

Steel City Last Supper

So tell me, what do you think?  One student replied this way:

Dr. Whitesel,  I like that they see themselves as a continuation of the book of Acts rather than a copy of something that was. They definitely have the feel of a group of people who are willing to “be all things to all people”. They see where the need is and do what they can to take the message to the streets. At least that’s the feel I get from the website. It makes me a little uncomfortable to be honest, which probably means it’s a good thing. – Student


I too felt some uncomfortable feelings, and thus I penned the following response.

Hello ___ student name ___

Some students have a real aversion to this picture. And, you, like me, have some uncomfortable with it.
 Let me probe deeper and tell why I think this may be.

First, some of these people look like they may have been just a few years prior: streetwalkers, petty criminals and troublemakers. Thus, if they were in my class I would feel uncomfortable with them. Not because I don’t like them, but because I feel I might say something to offend them, or show that I am ignorant of their lifestyle.  I guess, I don’t like feeling like I am in an culture that is not like mine (it makes me feel uncomfortable).

But, what I am trying to say is that we all prefer our own cultural surroundings, because it makes us feel more in control, more powerful, and less likely to be embarrassed. But, if we are called to follow Christ, then we must be willing to go into these uncomfortable realms and learn foreign (to us) cultures to share the Good  News in their culture.  Thus, the uncomfortable feeling that I felt (and this student too) is probably the result of my pride in wanting to feel in control and empowered.

But, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’.”

Now, ask yourself.  How will you react the next time someone from a different culture invades your “personal space?”

RACIAL BIAS & A 7-minute Video That Will Startle You: A Girl Like Me #HBO

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “This documentary will open your eyes to what it feels like to grow up as a person of color in an America. Confirming the research of Kenneth Clark in the 1940s, this 7-minute video visualizes how people of color feel when growing up in a Caucasian culture.  Those of the dominant culture usually never realize the messages that are sent to people of color and so this 7-minute video is a must-view resource for Christian leaders.”

A Girl like Me, a 2005 documentary by Kiri Davis and Reel Works Teen Filmmaking (ABC News, 10/11/06 and the YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/mediathatmatters)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyI77Yh1Gg

CULTURAL BIAS & The Power of Asking a Different Question in Ferguson

by Larry Wilson, 11/26/15.

Seeing Things in Black and White

… As I watched St. Louis County (Ferguson, MO) Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch explain the grand jury action spliced with scenes of the gathering crowd outside the police station, I was struck by the obvious difference with which white people and people of color view events like the Ferguson shooting.

McCulloch’s calm explanation events centered on the facts of August 9. If we can understand these facts, he seemed to be saying, we can arrive at justice. Because that’s what whites are looking for in Ferguson: justice for what happened on that one day. Was this one officer guilty of a crime in the shooting death of this one black man? That’s the only question the grand jury was asked to consider, and the only question that matters to most whites, I think.

Reactions from people of color outside the room revealed that they’re asking a different question: How long must we live this nightmare? How many times will we watch this same scene unfold before someone recognizes the pattern and makes it stop?

And there’s the problem. People who ask different questions will seldom arrive at the same answer. Until we agree on the nature of the problem, there is no hope of finding a solution…

Read more at … http://www.lawrencewilson.com/the-power-of-asking-a-different-question-in-ferguson/

BIAS & Research Confirms Talking About Your Biases Can Help Reduce Them

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This soon to be published research in Administrative Science Quarterly found that if people are reminded that everyone stereotypes others to some degree, then they will be more open to share their biases and as a result be more creative. In other words, let people know that everyone has biases and that we should not be afraid to discuss those biases. Doing so, rather than hiding our biases, fosters more creativity and problem solving.”

Study Says Creativity Can Flow From Political Correctness

“I think most people want to be unbiased, and there are ways we can try to make that happen.” – Michelle Duguid,a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

by NPR staff, JANUARY 24, 2015 6:14 PM ET.

Michelle Duguid,a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and her co-authors set up an experiment to see if the notion that politically correctness impedes creativity held up to scientific scrutiny.

They sat down students in groups of three to brainstorm ideas on how to use a vacant space on campus. Some of the groups were all men, some all women, others mixed. Control groups got to start right away on the brainstorming, but the test groups were primed with a script.

The research team told those groups that they were interested in gathering examples from college undergraduates of politically correct behavior on campus. They were instructed to, as a group, list examples of political correctness that they had either heard of or directly experienced on this campus.

Duguid and her colleagues started another experiment, one that looked at stereotypes. They tested whether educating people about stereotypes would in turn reduce stereotypes. What they found was that by publicizing the fact that the vast majority of people stereotype, it actually creates a norm for stereotyping.

“People feel more comfortable expressing stereotypes or acting in ways that would be seen as inappropriate because it has set up this norm where everyone does it, so I might not be punished,” she says.

Duguid and her co-author tinkered with their message. Rather than telling the group that everyone was guilty of stereotyping, they simply told them that the vast majority of people put effort into not stereotyping.

“[It] actually had great effects,” she says. “It was the same as telling people that few people stereotyped. So that actually reduced stereotyping, and it was better, significantly better, than telling them nothing at all.”

For Duguid’s study, this was good news.

“I think most people want to be unbiased, and there are ways we can try to make that happen,” she says.

Read more at … http://www.npr.org/2015/01/24/379628464/study-says-creativity-can-flow-from-political-correctness