Monday, July 17, 2006

animal hospital exposed

One of the issues I’ve run into, while in community and church is demonstrated by my parable Animal Hospital. I’ve seen the issue everywhere, so it isn’t just exclusive to the community of faith. It seems to be, at least in part, brought on by the ignorance of over-specialization: a trend in the modern world that has been creating a very particular intelligence vacuum.

The message of animal hospital is: don’t “surgically alter” the intrinsic components of how God created you or your people group and even more importantly, don’t let others—institutions, individuals, governments—convince you to do violence to your self in the name of their agendas and good will—no matter how well intentioned and well reputed they are. Doing any sort of cross-cultural leaping requires that one understands these dynamics well—and is sensitive to that which he/she attempts to “change” in the other culture. There are times when cultures do serious core damage to the structural integrity and beauty of another culture in the name of good will.

But more basically, this happens, cultural differences aside. It most often includes differences that one hasn’t been taught to recognize and place into context. This is where overspecialization is to blame. Specialization is great when it comes to expertise on the details, however, if not held in sway by context and a robust understanding of connectivity to broader themes, specialization is futile. Within the church, the specialization backlash was created by custom crafted programs designed to meet the specific “needs” and life-stages of the congregants: toddlers, teens, singles, single-agains, dad’s of teens groups, women’s prayer brunch, therapy groups etc. The over-specialization and categorization by its very structure is unfriendly to that which is different and outside the said categories. It breeds a mentality of order with no demonstrative elements of transcending and integrating. This is nothing new. But things become dangerous when over-specialized experts are given authority and entrusted with the fixing of people--when valid difference is taken for a malidy.

There is a classic written by H. G. Wells, The Country of the Blind, has the same sort of message.


Michelle said...

I thought about archiologists the other day digging up the bones of Californians. Their skeletons adroned with silicone, or hair line jaw fractures to realine the chin/ missing fragments of bone around the nose hole and cheeks.
Our bones would speak volumes of cultural obsession with vanity.

I'm in a delicate circumstance with one of the students at our youth group. My goal is to help her, but my pastors helped broaden my view to how her situation can be a platform to get the whole family help. I am not so opptomistic. The young student is one thing but the whole family ideal makes me feel in over my head.

Blorge said...

The young student's problem most assuredly includes issues with the family. The best way to help the student has to include helping the family dynamics. That being said, the people in the family may not want to change, even if the student does.

to put a more theoretical framework to what I was saying Michelle, I think that a systems approach is usually the most helpful if there are major relational problems.

Overspecialiazation may have some flaws, or maybe it's just a part of American culture that other people shouldn't go about messing up.

espíritu paz said...

I have found the systems approach to be very positive and all about correctly placing the individual in his/her context. It’s about harmonizing the system with respect to its relevant components. It is actually what I would identify as a “solution” to the over-specialization “problem.” Systems approach actually came out of clinical need—from what I’ve read. Individuals would receive counseling and after returning to their families (systems of origin)—they would “relapse” to their previous condition. The emphasis on having a well rounded, liberal arts education and the turn back to holistic medicine is just evidence that the social system is recognizing over-specialization and trying to correct itself.

Conceptually, I don’t think I’m saying anything you disagree with—but I do like the punchy push-back. :) I’m sure we’d have some differences about how this should be enacted in the particulars of daily life. But that is where mutual submission walks into the picture and we must deal honestly with the strengths and weaknesses and expertise we all bring to the table.