A Need for Self-Awareness in Global Cooperation
Modern way of thinking and doing still dominates much of the missions world. In the modern construct, under the banner of progress, efficiency, and systemization, we emphasized clarity where clarity simply was not possible and deemphasized appreciation for differences, diversity, and complexity. Everyone had to progress, going from uncivilized to civilized, pre-modern to modern, and pagan to Christianity. Civilization and Christianity were the answers for the world. Over time, successful civilizations become prisoners of their greatest achievements, which in turn become the pivotal cause for decay and ultimate decline. Similarly the modern Christian movements may become prisoners of our own greatest achievements if our reason for missio dei is based on the modern construct rather than the imago dei.
As I mentioned True Self in the previous blog, there is also False Self. False Self is a fake self, make-believe self, or egotistic self. False Self is the self that needs to die in order for us to live. Henceforth, just as there are True Self and False Self individually, there are also religious False Self5 and "irreligious"6 True Self as in collective systems. According to Richard Rohr, "The religious False Self is the best and the most defended self of all". He goes on, "The religious False Self can even justify racism, slavery, war, and total denial or deception and feel no guilt whatsoever, because 'they think they are doing a holy duty for God'" (John 16:2). On a more subtle side, we can all reside and operate out of religious False Self mode even in our missions practice particularly in the context of global cooperation, either unknowingly or faking or even denying who we really are. There could be other factors including political correctness, money, cultural orientations, and ignorance. I say the biggest factor stems right out of the modern construct and undying prevalent assumption that some civilizations/cultures are superior to others.
Although I don't have earth-shattering solutions, I share below my ongoing reflections on this topic. I'd love to get some feedback from you. What do these thoughts mean for global cooperation? What should we stop, continue, and/or start doing in light of the above observations?
1. Stop leveling others in the name of solidarity and orthodoxy. Leveling in itself may not be detrimental, especially in group oriented societies and can be used to create harmony and unity. However, leveling can also be used to justify our action to make others to think like us, live like us, and follow Jesus like us. It is reasonable to have my or our orthodoxy, but my or our orthodoxy cannot be the orthodoxy. The orthodoxy does not exist.
2. Continue to cultivate reticence. I'm borrowing this phrase from a colleague of mine, H.L. Richard. This is a good reminder. Even Jesus embodied "divine shyness" in that He did not pull His divine card out. Can we exhibit time and time again the miracle of restraint on our part to draw out others? And have them discover their own answers to questions? In our response to defend our orthodoxy and to make others own our orthodoxy, we hurry the process in the name of teaching and training.
3. Start respecting your own originality as imago dei. Adrian Van Kaam is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. He states, "The man who respects his own originality has a respectful eye for the originality of others". As we respect our own, we will be able to appreciate and have respect for others. This is right out of the Great Commandment of Jesus, "love your neighbor as yourself". I also resonate with John W. Gardner's thought on this, "The individual who has become a stranger to himself has lost the capacity for genuine self-renewal". Gardner links the idea of this "stranger" to an inability to contribute as awakened citizens toward an innovative society.
One More Thought
Self-awareness must serve as an important foundation to the four self movement. Self-awareness done well will serve as a catalyst for four self movement to take root. In due course, self-awareness will naturally translate into a healthy four self movement.
With True Self-awareness in process, all will be in a better place to cooperate and contribute as the global body of Christ.
I am sure you know that I am not talking about self-awareness as self-help or some new age practices. True self-awareness will not happen without God awareness. That is precisely why it is True Self-awareness. Furthermore, promoting True Self-awareness is convergence between spiritual formation and missiology disciplines. Jesus' teachings do not separate this process. So should we not.