A person with very elementary knowledge of culture correctly perceives it to be more difficult to live and work in some cultures than in others. Winter (1975) described the enterprise of evangelizing at different cultural distances by using the symbols E-1, E-2, and E-3. Thus, E-1 evangelization takes place when a missionary works in a culture similar to his own in language and general cultural experience, while E-3 work takes place where the missionary's host culture is radically different from his or her native rootage.
Similarly, Hesselgrave developed a more detailed means of computing cultural distance (1978:101-5). His scheme involves a ten-point scale on seven crucial items like linguistic forms, social structure, and world view. Thus, a higher number on the seventy-point scheme would indicate the need of greater effort and more time in personal identification and adequate task performance. Forewarned about the drastic cultural differences in an E-3 field of work, the missiologically informed person determines to be flexible and empathetic, seeking to understand and accept as valid the alternative ways of thinking and acting in the new culture. Perhaps on the front end it is understood that several years of diligent effort will pass before the missionary feels "at home" in the culture and is able to perform his or her tasks with some degree of adequacy.
For a variety of reasons, however, one may choose to evangelize in what Winter calls E-1 situations. In such cases a person is prone to accent cultural similarities and minimize cultural differences, especially at the physical level. Consequently, one tends to reduce efforts at identification, especially at the psychological level. The results may be as deleterious as the failure to adjust in E-3 situations. This article addresses the deceiving nature of evangelizing in close- culture situations.
External similarities like language, food, levels of technology, and housing are more obvious. Most popular discussions of cultural differences seem to center on the physical. Psychological factors are admitted but on world-scale the E-1 situations appear so similar that one is deceived into thinking that little effort needs to be made by the missionary in adapting to them. Neill (1964:392) reports that when Archibald Fleming, Anglican missionary to the Arctic region, spent his first winter with two Eskimo families in an igloo, he quoted favorably the words of Commander Peary: "A night in one of these igloos, with a family at home, is an offense to every civilized sense." Nothing approaching that is the norm in E-1 situations. Often the differences between cultures in E-1 situations are similar to the regional differences one may find in one's own country. So why exert a great effort in adaptation? Why not get into the work as soon as possible?
There are numerous cases of missionaries who are miserable in E-1 situations despite external similarities to their home culture. Such unhappiness cuts short the period of work in the second country, and potentially good workers have themselves to thank for the outcome of their fatal assumptions about non- adaptation or minimal adaptation.
It is certainly true that people may live fairly happily
for many years in a second culture by surrounding themselves with
the trappings of their home culture. But if their task is to work
with local people, they will be defeated by such arrangements.
This very scenario provoked Lederer and Burdick to write
Hall contends that the only time the famous defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow, decisively lost a case was in Honolulu in 1932 where he did not know how to appeal to the "formal systems" of his oriental jurors (1959:75). "Formal systems" is a crucial term; largely psychological, it is freighted with implications for identification. Perhaps more than the physical elements, the psychological factors determine acceptance in E-1 situations. Roman Catholic missionary anthropologist, Luzbetak, illustrates the matter well. When he inquired about the problem of missionary adjustment in Mexico, several bishops and religious superiors remarked,
Lynn Anderson's research indicated that many U.S.A. preachers with the Churches of Christ were not really accepted in English speaking Canada because they failed to negotiate the adjustments at the "formal systems" level (1965). Language, automobiles, houses, and food were largely the same for U.S. citizens and Canadians; but nationalistic feelings, matters of etiquette, and task orientations were different. Similarly, an English preacher informed me in the late 1960s that "at least half of the American preachers who come to England are not accepted." Where that is the case, one's effectiveness will be seriously hampered. Winston Churchill's quip that "Britain and America are two great nations separated only by a common language," is a gross cultural overstatement. According to George Bernard Shaw, as portrayed in "My Fair Lady," English has not been spoken in America for years! But even though there is enough language commonality for initial communication, other differences are very telling. As a part of her contribution to the war effort, anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote several booklets and articles designed to help British and Americans, troops included, to understand each other as allies in the 1940s (Mead, 1943, 1943a, 1944, 1944a, 1947). The formal systems are different enough even in culturally similar countries to cause a religious worker to be rejected if he neglects them.
A Brazilian going to work in E-1 Portugal will be faced with the same variables. A Honduran going to Bolivia or an Argentine going to Chile will face numerous formal systems differences. Language is only one dimension of a culture, and having it in common may deceive one into thinking few adjustments need to be made otherwise.
Even when a North American goes from Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, or Texas to work in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or one of the Dakotas, an unwillingness to make adjustments will hinder one's work. A Southerner will not be accepted if his notion of a church fellowship in the north is to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and root for the Dallas Cowboys. When students from the north describe themselves as having "culture shock" as a result of their moving south to study, it should be obvious that Southerners who go north to evangelize will find enough difference to make adjustments necessary.
A further complication is that close-culture, E-1 situations may attract workers who are unwilling to make "those drastic changes." In other words, they may tend to be people who study little missiology and are personally inflexible. Thus, they put forth little effort to adjust to differences, and the result is short periods of essentially poor work.
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Lederer, William J., and Eugene Burdick 1958 The Ugly American. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Luzbetak, Louis J. 1970 The Church and Cultures: An Applied Anthropology for the Religious Worker. Techny, Illinois: Divine Word Publications.
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Neill, Stephen 1964 A History of Christian Missions. The Pelican History of the Church:6. Harmondsworth, Middx.: Penguin Books.
Shewmaker, Stan 1970 Tonga Christianity. South Pasadena, California: William Carey Library.
Winter, Ralph D. 1975 "The Highest Priority: Cross-Cultural Evangelism." In Let the Earth Hear His Voice, ed. J. D. Douglas, 213- 25. Minneapolis: World-Wide Publications.