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.