Sunday, March 16, 2008

In the Name of the Grandfather, the Son, and the National Spirit

A little cultural insight here—

In China, “face”, honor and shame, are a big deal. It goes beyond merely having “pride”. It relates to the very ambitions of life, one’s daily customs and interactions, and view of family. In China, there is a very explicit bias towards boys over girls. The effects of this are well documented. We had a friend recently tell us that his mom suggested he try to have a child and if it were not a boy then perhaps he could “get rid of it”. When you inquire why this male bias, you find a few reasons.

One is practical—boys are the “social security” of this society. When they grow up, they are supposed to take care of the parents, whereas girls will marry off and the couple’s funds mainly help the husband’s family. Ironically, however, because of the valuing of boys, parenting usually spoils boys and is harder on girls. Consequently, in actuality, these girls tend to do a better job at caring for aging parents than do boys who are often too selfish or irresponsible to care.

Other reasons though get more to the heart and soul of the Chinese culture, rooted in thousands of years of thinking. Since the Chinese worldview has no comprehensive understanding of the afterlife, all philosophical/religious thought tends to be very this-worldly. Thus, they see their only way of “living forever” to be by passing on the family name and instilling certain values and loves unto the coming generations. Thus, the preservation of honor is paramount. Thus, community is all the more important. Honor is “heaven”. Shame is “hell”. Worldviews are practical, affecting one’s biases, joys, hopes, politics, ambitions, customs….How strange we examine our own so rarely. Oh that we would let Scripture question ours.

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