Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Superiority Complex

Jeff Sachs, in his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time, writes of a faulty social theory. Here's a quote....

"When a society is economically dominant, it is easy for its members to assume that such dominance reflects a deeper superiority - whether religious, racial, genetic, cultural, or institutional - rather than an accident of timing or geography."

As I read my history books and about various empires and slavery and colonialism, etc. I find this to be without a doubt true. This bad social theory has repeated itself over and over. Here's something else I see as a truth.
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." Hebrews 2:9
Not just a few, but for everyone!
When we lived in Uganda we were fortunate to host many visitors from the U.S. We felt like we were running an active bed and breakfast and we loved it. Of course, many different types of visitors came through. Most we loved and they really helped us to minister and serve our Ugandan friends. Others were a testimony to Sachs quote above - they felt dominant due to their economically powerful culture which made it hard for them to minister. Several college interns would talk about how"lazy" Ugandans were. They would complain, "Why do Ugandans sit around all day long? If they just worked harder they would be better off." It wasn't just a youth thing either. Other older American visitors would use their short visits to expound on all of their solutions to overcome the multiple problems Ugandans faced every day.
Ugandans see the superiority complex of Americans so often that they often just tune them out. (Which says so much about Ugandans - other societies build resentment up to the point of terrorism) But friendships deepened and understanding became much clearer, when we all stopped offering our solutions and began listening more, adapting to their many positive cultural values and behaviors, and in general becoming more humble believing that God created each one of us in His image despite our cultural upbringing. The unemployed 35 year old Ugandan man deep in the village that is suffering right now from AIDS and malaria was made with just as much importance and value in God's eyes as this 35 year old American man sitting in his large home on a fast Internet connection, just finished with my third meal of the day, after having taken medicine to overcome the infection I had last week. I don't know why God gave me all of these things, that I'm so thankful for, but I know that I have these things NOT because I'm any better than my 35 year old Ugandan friends.
The longer we lived in Uganda the more we came to appreciate the value of listening, learning, understanding and humility while interacting with our Ugandan friends. After all, Jesus did those same things for us.


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