Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

It’s My Normalcy

Written by: on November 3, 2015

“The contemporary era is one dominated by speed.”[1] There is much talk about living in an evolving world but those same people complain about the pace. People want things fast and people want it their way but when it is outside the scope of their control, they complain that the speed is irrelevant to their culture. Culture is not a part of your birth; you learn it through the development of your life. I never had Burger King while living in Jamaica but when I visit Jamaica, I am almost guaranteed to go to Burger King. We never had drive-thru fast food but it is now an accepted way of life in Jamaica. “We live in new worlds of social and cultural organization.”[2] I simply learned to evolve through the sphere of our influences.

“Contemporary social theory, by contrast, has directly engaged with the social, political, psychological and cultural inequalities between men and women – and in many cases has played a direct role in the women’s movement and its search for social justice.”[3] We have been cultured that men are providers and that they have different roles from women. Scripture teaches that women are a support to men. If this is the case, then it makes sense to have some inequalities between men and women based on the context of their roles. For example, a single woman who desires marriage by age 25 envisions “Prince Charming” as her husband who will provide and make her life better. However, at age 30 when she is still single, she quickly reconsiders and calls it independence and complains about inequality. She would also create her own resentment about men in society.

Elliott writes that Contemporary Social Theory is “a kind of doubled enterprise: a resourceful, high-powered and interdisciplinary project of the social sciences and humanities on the one hand, and an urgent critique of ideological thought and the discourses of reason, freedom, truth, subjectivity, culture and politics on the other.”[4] It was quite amazing that Elliott mentions that we experiment with freedom (p. 20) but that’s what we do when we assign roles by gender. We try to see what might work and if it works, then we are successful.

There is a thematic approach to this book and I never engaged in a greater interpretation of social justice until reading this book because I have always felt that people have a choice regardless of the available resources in their society.

I will focus on the second theme, which focuses on “the degree of consensus or conflict in modern societies.” Each society has norms or values that guide each individual that lives in that society. We could say it’s a culture since Elliott states, “There is, to date, no single adequate definition of society in social theory – and indeed one objective of this book is to trace the various definitions of society that have emerged in social theory during the course of the twentieth century and into the early 2000s.”[5] McDonaldization is a very appropriate term across any culture. “We are talking, in short, about the framing of a society without disruption.”[6] The reality is that we create the issue of social justice by determining what is unfair. I grew up in Jamaica where I would sometimes have one meal per day but it was a way of life for me. I understood there would be challenging days. Living in America, the average person can find a meal almost anywhere. Does having three daily meals in America means it is an unfair life for the person having one daily meal in Jamaica. Not necessarily, it depends on the normalcy of that society. We have to allow cultures to determine what a social injustice is for them and not create something that may not exist. “Everyone of us adopts the Bible and (at the same time) adapts the Bible to our culture.”[7]

Elliott provides a great framework in understanding that the topic of contemporary social theory is dependent on our definition of society. He showed us the existence of many societies that are not boxed into a universal definition because it is impossible. By reading this book, we find that Capitalism is also a social system based on individual rights. However, politically, it is a system of freedom (freedom to the free-market). Legally, capitalism deals with the rule of law and not the rule of man. Each society has a right to determine what is important to them, regardless of our interpretation. Sometimes it is unfair based on our society but we still have to determine cultural acceptance and not global acceptance. United States is often a model we use to measure how the world should live but if I never migrated to this country, I’d have to subject myself to the Jamaican society.

[1] Anthony Elliott, Contemporary Social Theory:  An Introduction (London and New York:  Routledge, 2014), p. 24

[2] Ibid. p. 571

[3] Ibid. p. 15

[4] Ibid. p. xiii

[5] Ibid. p. 4

[6] Ibid. p. 25

[7] McKnight, Scot. The Blue Parakeet. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010, p. 12

About the Author

Garfield Harvey

Garfield O. Harvey devotes himself to studies in cultural intelligence (CQ), global leadership and cultural anthropology. During his doctoral studies at George Fox University, he developed CQ Worship to help ministry leaders manage the tension of leading corporate worship with cultural intelligence. His research on worship brings a fresh perspective that suggests corporate worship begins the moment a church engages a community.

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