Did you know that 65% of the world’s population and 90% of unreached people groups are honor-shame cultures? Honor-shame might be a new term for many people, but it is the how the cultures of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia have functioned for hundreds of years.
“Honor-shame cultures are structured to minimize shame and maximize honor,” explains Jayson Georges, who has been researching the topic for the last five years. “Their primary response to sin is not guilt, (like Western cultures) but shame: ‘Oh no, someone might find out, and I’ll be scorned and rejected!’ Their primary motivation is not rules or conscience, but the avoidance of shameful opinions from others. Life is viewed through the prism of acquiring honor.”
Honor-shame cultures, Georges continues, are some of the neediest areas of the world. Areas where population density is the highest are mostly honor shame cultures, as well as the areas with the highest rates of poverty.
Often when missionaries from America or other Western countries do missions work, they struggle to find a clear way to communicate the gospel because of these vast yet often subtle cultural differences. That’s why Jayson Georges started honorshame.com, a website that exists to help educate those interested or involved in Christian missions to better understand the cultures they are trying to reach.
“The biblical culture was a collectivistic honor-shame culture as well,” Georges explains. “We assume our Western theology is the only way to read the Bible, but it has a blind spot. A theology for honor-shame cultures doesn’t seek to replace, but complement Western theology.”
“After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they hid and covered themselves. Immediately at the fall there’s the sense of shame, but God seeks to restore honor. In the gospels, Jesus is ministering honor to the shamed — the lepers, the outcasts, the Samaritans.
“The rejection and humiliation Jesus experienced on the cross absorbs our shame and our sin…through faith God grants us a new honorable identity. My main ambition is to get this concept on people’s radar.”
Jayson is currently missiologist-in-residence with an international organization of the Anabaptist tradition. After nine years in Central Asia, he lives with his wife and three daughters in Clarkston, Ga. – a diverse, refugee-resettlement town east of Atlanta.
Check out his website, honorshame.com, to learn more about this fascinating and relevant issue.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information about ministries in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.