Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shame Versus No Shame Cultures

Overhearing a conversation between my wife and our friend in India recently, my wife asked about the women she has been meeting with. These women were all Hindu’s that our Christian friend has known since high school and they occasionally met to talk about family, marriage and God.

“One of the ladies has accepted Christ as her Savior and was baptized,” our friend said. “Another one is still interested in Jesus and we meet often. Sadly, another friend has moved away. Her father got wind that she was interested in becoming a follower of Christ and put a stop to her visiting with us.”

In shame cultures the hierarchy of loyalty is family and religion before personal happiness or fulfillment. Arranged marriages in south Asia, even among Christians, shows respect to the group. “Honor killings,” though illegal, is justifiable in the eyes of many as dishonoring or shaming the family is a greater offense.

To most Westerners, shame cultures seem backward and oppressive. Individual freedom, me first, is what’s really important in our culture. Family, company loyalty and even children always takes a back seat to personal happiness.

The by-product of a self-centered society increasingly manifests itself into a no shame culture. There was a time in our country when adultery was a scandal. Today it’s mildly embarrassing, something that happens and eventually will be overlooked, and maybe even justified. Our no shame culture no longer knows how to blush. We live in a Britney Spears environment (“Oops, I did it again,” giggle, giggle) where a girl can have five kids with five different fathers and people are expected to celebrate the event, certainly not condemn (“Judge not lest you be judged,” has become American Christians favorite verse).

The lyrics are only slightly vulgar, so it’s okay and nothing to be ashamed of. The movie or sitcom is only partially suggestive, and though uncomfortable for a moment, it really is, after-all comical, so I will put away the shame so I can finish the show. The joke is crude, but, hey, it’s funny. The mother of all no shame activity (for some, certainly a minority) is Facebook, with posted pictures and discussions that has one objective…look at me, listen to me, sympathize with me. The no shame culture now believes the social network is the place to go to get affirmation for bad behavior. It’s also a place for enablers to show “grace” to those who have no shame.

We all have, and certainly I do, have a thousand things in our lives we are not proud of, even ashamed of. Rather than celebrate our flaws, however, let us be a little less transparent about our failings. As a guilt culture perhaps we need to feel a little bit guiltier. True, Christ has taken away our guilt, but it probably wouldn’t hurt if we blushed more, were more discreet and laughed about it less.