Monday, May 30, 2005


<< Seven dimensions of culture index
In a more individualistic culture, each person is understood to be born alone. They tend to see themselves as individuals rather than as members of a community. One's own satisfaction is seen as most important, so people make decisions based on the impilcations for them and their immediate family. The standard of living is understood to be highly dependent on opportunities for individual freedom and self advancement, like in the American dream. A community is evaluated based on how well it serves the interests of it's individual members.

In a culture that has a more communitarian tendency, a person is understood to be born into community - the family, the neighbourhood, the tribe, the country, et cetera. The community is regarded as being more important the individual. Every individual is responsible for looking after the whole community's interests. In this way, it is expected that the needs of every individual will be met.
The quality of life for each person is seen as being dependant on how much well they take care of their fellow human beings, even if at the cost of their own freedom. A member of a communitarian culture assumes that if they take care of others, then when they are in trouble someone else will atke care of them. A person is judged according to how well they serve the community.
It seems to me that the early church was very communitarian:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Acts 2:44-47
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
Acts 4:32
There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Acts 4:34-35

Do you think that your culture is more communitarian or more individualistic? Have you ever expeienced a culture that was the oppsite?

I think that Western culture slowly is becoming more communitarian, as a reaction against extreme individualism. But I think that the Western institutions (eg. the church, the mass media, the education system) are trying to maintain our individualism.
What do you think?
<< Seven dimensions of culture index

Friday, May 27, 2005


<< Seven dimensions of culture index
In a more universalistic culture, most people will presume that rules and values are more important than their own needs or those of their friends and family. In universalistic cultures, the rules apply equally to everyone. If there are any exceptions, then the rules will become useless.

For example, in a country that has a prodominantly universalistic culture, if a police officer catches her father speeding, he will have to pay a fine, even though the officer is his daughter.

The more universalistic cultures don't think that their friends and family are unimportant, it's just that the law is regarded as being more important.

However, in a more particularistic culture, human relationships are considered to be more important than rules. Also, if a person is in a difficult situation the law can be overlooked. The emphasis is on the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.

There are rules and laws in particularistic cultures, but their purpose is to demonstrate how people should treat each other.

Do you think that your culture is more universalistic or more particularistic? Have you ever expeienced a culture that was the oppsite?
<< Seven dimensions of culture index

Seven dimensions of culture

This semester I have been doing a unit called 'Me, Them and Us', which focuses on multiculturalism and cross-cultural communication. It's based on Fons Trompenaars' Riding the Waves of Culture. I've decided to write a series of posts about Trompenaars' seven dimensions of culture, as a revision of the course material.

The essential differences between cultures are in the solutions they choose for certain problems: problems in relationships with other people, problems caused by time and problems relating to the environment. Trompenaars has identified seven dimensions, based on the different solutions used to deal with these universal problems:

Specific/Diffuse (part one) (part two)
Internal control/External control

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Good Person of Szechwan

On Thursday night I went an saw the second year theatre students' production of Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan.

The story goes that the gods are on earth, looking for good people, and aren't having much luck. They arrive in Szechwan Province, in China, looking for somewhere to rest. The only person who gives them hospitality is Shen Te, a prostitute. As payment for Shen Te's hospitality, and because she is the first good person the gods have managed to find, they give her a large sum of money. It's enough for her to buy a tobacco shop and earn an 'honest' living.
However, because of her kindness and new wealth, Shen Te is expolited by the rich and poor. She finds that the only way she can look after herself is to create an alter ego. She disguises herslef as Shui Ta, a male cousin who is unsympathetic to other people's needs.

Some Christians have been upset by this play because the gods are portayed as being quite naïve and not very helpful. I expect that Brecht chose to portray them like this to show that we shouldn't just expect a Deus ex machina, or divine intervention, to fix everything up. We have to take an initiative ourselves. ('If God will Send His Angels')
They are also upset because Brecht implies that it's not possible to be a good person and survive - being good will kill you. It's not possible for us to live as God would like us too. But I think this is quite consistent with Christian teaching. In Romans 7, Paul admits that we aren't able to keep the law, but are dependent on God's grace.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

Went and saw Revenge of the Sith this morning at 12:01 am. Easily the best of the recent films. The opening battle sequence is the best Star Wars battle sequence.

Before the film started, Greg and Sean (two guys from Theatre Performance) had a lightsaber duel on the stage*. There were Mexican waves. There was much rejoicing at significant moments during the film**.

I reckon there were a number of War on Terror references. John reckoned I was reading into it to much.

*The cinema in Ballarat has a stage, because it used to be a theatre.
**For example, the Dolby Digital bit.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

What wouldn't Jesus do?

Props to Socksy.

More about Christianstein

A couple of weeks back, Steve apparently did a sermon about 'Christianstein', based on a story from John Duckworth's Joan 'n' the Whale. John responded with a story about Emergent Christianstein.

Basically, the story of Christianstein is that a mad scientist tries to build the perfect specemin of a Christian, incorporating everything from courage and patience to daily Bible-reading and cultural relevance. He ends up creating a monster, because he forgets to include any love.

Just like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (a.k.a. The Modern Prometheus), 'Christianstein' reminds me that we don't really know what's best for us. We try to become like God by stuffing around with people's genes, or by trying to shape ourslves and other people into what we think people should be like. What do we know? We forget about the most important thing, love.

Capitalist Megaquest

That^'s what Trav said the game we ran in Warrnambool on Friday night was called.

We (me, Trav and Dale) were supposed to be going down to Warrnambool to visit a kids club that is run by one of the churches there, and see if any of the leaders were interested in being involved with the Scripture Union mission in Warrnambool. It turned out that a number of their key leaders weren't going to make it that night, so they asked us to run the program, because Trav is a childrens ministry expert.

In Capitalist Megaquest the group is divided into a number of different countries. About forty kids turned up, so there were three countries, one in the sanctuary, one in the foyer, and one in a hall out the back.
At the start of the game, each country has to elect a Prime Minister. Everyone else gets assigned a job.

Prime Minister
The PM has to have meetings with the other PMs, where they have to sign forms. They also get interviewed on the news a lot and get paid more than anyone else.

Junk Salespeople
The Junk Salespeople have a table full of junk which they get to sell to people. They can also buy things from other people and try to resell it at a higher price.

McFood Salespeople
These people sell junk food.

The builders build houses from cards, and then tries to sell them to people.

Every now and then me and Trav and Dale would go and tell someone they were sick or injured, so they had to go to the doctor. In the country I was looking after (Victoria, in the hall out the back) the whenever someone had to go to the doctor, she'd ask for all their forks (we used plastic forks for currency) or she wouldn't operate, and they would die, in which case she would get all their forks anyway.

Shoe Salespeople
These people had to sell shoes. Except we didn't give them any shoes. So they either had to sell their own shoes, or buy other peoples shoes off them and then resell them for more.

We also had a number of other roles that were carried out by leaders:
Good News/Bad News People
I was the Good News/Bad News Person in Victoria, Trav was was in Tasmania and Dale was in Queensland. We had to go and tell people they had suffered an injury or illness, or had won the lottery, et cetera.

People who stole things, or didn't pay attention to the news, or threatened other people got sent to the gaol (a store room). The gaoler lectured them about what they had done, and made sure they didn't escape until they'd done their time. The PMs of Victoria and Queensland both spent a lot of time in gaol.

At the end of each day (I think they went for about twelve minutes) everyone went to the bank (the creche) to get their pay. One of the kids from Victoria didn't want a job, so she was on the dole.

Eventually, most fo the kids just started stealing off each other. At one stage more than half the population of Victoria was in gaol for stealing. A number of times one country invaded another country and looted all their shops.

At the end of the game we took them all into the sanctuary and Trav tried to get them to think about whether it's really worth it trying to get lots of money and lots of stuff, but they were to busy trying to steal each other's forks.

Viva la capitalism!

We have a new housemate, at least for a while. Kimberly moved in last night. This is good not only because Kimberly is a nice person, but also because it means I have to pay less rent and can get more stuff and come closer to realising my capitalist dreams!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

How cool is this?

...the Prophet, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, had a slightly different attitude towards Christians. He let the visiting Christians of Najran hold their Christian service at the mosque.
-Umm Yasmin, 'How Far from the Prophet Can an Islamic State Get?', Dervish

Backyard Camp

Tab has been on Desert Camp. Saturday night I had my own survival camp in the backyard.

John dropped me off at our hosue at about 1 am. We (me, John and Kelly) had been to visit John's friend's church in Geelong. I realised when I got to the door that I couldn't find my keys, and Alt Tab was out.

There were no clouds, so it was extremely cold, even though it had been a warm day.

Unfortunatley I couldn't break in. I've broken in before by taking the screen off the kitchen window and opening it, but that time it wasn't closed properly.

Luckily I had left my stereo outside, so I put Triple J on, and listened to Dave MCCormack (Dave Callan was on holidays) play some ... interesting ... and quite good music on The Graveyard Shift.

I found a couple of ways to keep warm, but neither of them were very good. One was to cup my hands around the lightbulb in the laundry (our laundry is seperate to the rest of the house). The other way was to put my hands in the steam that came out of the hot water system when it heated up. However, neither of these methods of getting warm was particularly good.

So I decided to make a fire. I found an old bowl in the laundry, and there were a lot of dead leaves around, so I put a heap of dead leaves and some bank receipts from my wallet in the bowl and used my lighter to start a fire in the bowl. This was quite good, but I had to keep relighting it, because there wasn't any decent fuel, only leaves and paper and cardboard. Because I kept having to use my lighter again and again, and sometimes it took some time to light, the lighter got very hot, and the plastic bits began to melt, until it was no longer a lighter, in that it could not be used to light stuff.

Alt Tab got back at about 5 am (she'd been at 21 Arms) and I had a hot bath.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Big Brother

The new season of Big Brother started last night. I know this because my housemate was watching it. She says she's sucked in.

One reason I don't like Big Brother, is because I think it is an example of what 1984, the source of the original Big Brother, warns us about.

In 1984, The Party enforce the use of Newspeak, a simplified version English, in which the vocabulary is always being reduced. The Party's aim in enfocring the use of Newspeak is to make it impossible for people to express or imagine dissent.

In a similar way, Big Brother is resulting in the simplification of vocabulary and meaning. It is making it harder to communicate the ideas presented in 1984. While the phrase 'Big Brother is watching you,' was once widely understood as a reference to a book about totalitarian society, now a lot of people understand it only as reference to a television show where heaps of people are locked in a house together and are on camera twenty-four hours a day because they want to win lots of money.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Tuesday night we satrted watching this documentary about the spiritual, environmental and socio-political revival in Fiji. This all happened after the churches of Fiji became willing to humble themselves before God in desperate prayer, and to cooperate with each other rather than to compete.

While we were discussing what we'd seen, we felt that we should do something to try and build better relationships between the churches in Ballarat. We're praying about that this week. Next Tuesday we're going to finish watching the doco, and then talk some more about this idea.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Out of Bounds Church?

Darren has written an interesting response/summary of Steve Taylor's The Out of Bounds Church?


Yesterday, in my Fantasy tutorial, we were talking about fairy tales, particularly Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The tutor asked us what people want to be saved from these days. One think I suggested was alienation. The tutor reckoned meaninglessness. What do you think?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Jesus Christ Superstar

Watched the 2000 version of Jesus Christ Superstar on the weekend.
I'd always been told (by Christians) that this production was blasphemous, but no-one would ever explain why.
I think I understand why now, but I'm not sure that I agree.

Jesus is portrayed as being very human, rather than hovering one foot above the ground. He gets scared. He finds it hard to lead his followers. He wonders if he really is just a very naughty boy. I'm not surprised that a lot of Christians find this offensive, but I'm not sure it's necessarily blasphemous.

I think the display of affection between Jesus and Mary Magdalene (and his other followers) would also make a lot of Christians uncomfortable. I realise that there isn't any scriptural evidence for a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary, but I'm not sure why this is so offensive. I think the director is suggesting that it might be one reason why Jesus' disciples were angry Mary Magdalene when she annointed Jesus, washed his feet with her hair, et cetera. (John 12:1-11) (Please tell me if this is incoherrent and I'll rewrite it.)

Lastly, when the production first went to America, a lot of conventional churches were concerned about the Jesus People (aka Jesus Movement, Jesus Freaks), a movement of hippies who wanted to follow the teaching's of Jesus. So they would've been pretty upset to hear about a play where Jesus and his disciples are portrayed as hippies.

Also, Alt Tab noticed that one of Jesus' followers is also on Queer as Folk, and I think there has been a Zoo TV influence.