Term Paper: Cultural Issues in Four Texts

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[. . .] They view life on earth as fragile and believe that the continued existence of humankind is dependent on a new attitude of cooperation rather than conquest."

It is important to understand that Grenz is not in favor of postmodern views and thus refuses to endorse them. he feels that it is only the old religious beliefs that can help restore hope in postmodern society. Grenz maintains that it is the postmodern who need to understand the Church and not vice versa. This is because Church more or less remains stagnant and Grenz believes it is the unchanging nature of Christian doctrines that can help postmodernists come out of the thick clouds of hopelessness. On the other hand, Anne Fadiman is essentially a postmodern person who believes in the integration of cultures as she feels this might result in better understanding between people of various cultures. To support her views, she cites the story of the Hmong family who couldn't make the American medical community understand the importance of traditional practices. Fadiman feels that a postmodern understanding of cultures and traditions is the only solution to the communication barrier that exists between local Americans and their immigrant counterparts. Fadiman argues that the reason why Hmong people found it difficult to come to terms with the alien culture was because they consciously wanted to avoid and resist change. The barriers that they had carefully cultivated in order to stay away from assimilation process led to numerous obstacles. The author contends that the result of such conflict that arose due to perpetual existence of 'pull and push factors' can be tragic and catastrophic. She writes, "Although on the battlefield the Hmong were known more for their fierceness than for their long liver, in the United States many were too proud to lower themselves to the level of the petty criminals they encountered" (p. 193).

Fadiman advocates more assimilation, which she maintains, can lead to better understanding among various cultures and societies. In Remember the Titans, we again come across postmodern views where new ways of thinking are developed and advocated. We need to understand that postmodernism was a shift from modernism because it rejected absolutism of views. This age was the age of freedom of perception where old views could be scrutinized and even denounced, something that modernism did not dare attempt. We notice that Anne Fadiman's book and Remember the Titans both reject old views and urge readers and viewers to accept change and to be more ready to challenge old beliefs. Malidoma on the other hand, doesn't actually endorse postmodern value or belief system. He maintains that postmodernism gives birth to cynicism, which leads to rejection of traditional practices and beliefs. But instead of creating better understanding among cultures, the postmodern thinking system can create yawning gaps between them. He feels that the postmodernist society of America is deprived of the richness of spiritual culture of West African because Americans are rather cynical and a little too practical and thus cannot understand the significance of old tribal rituals and values.

Cultural Relativism or Absolutism

Stanley Grenz and Malidoma Patrice have highlighted and discussed cultural issues in the light of culture absolutism. They maintain that certain things are universally true in nature and thus they must not be allowed to alter with changes in the society and culture. Malidoma feels that traditional rituals and values have something good to offer to the society and thus they must be revered and cherished. He notes that elderly in West Africa are admired and respected for their wisdom and knowledge unlike America where most old people end up in nursing homes. This is one of the many valuable West Africans traditions, which should be incorporated, in so-called postmodern cultural fabric of America. He writes:

The old and the elder are the most revered members of the village community and its greatest preservers and nurturers. It is natural that everyone should be attracted by age, to becoming old...The elder is as important to the community as the newborn, in that they both share proximity with the Other World, the ancestors' world. The newborn just arrived from there, and the old one, the elder, is preparing to go there. The very young and the very old complement each other because they draw from one another."

Similarly Grenz also firmly believes in absolutism of Christian values and like Malidoma he also urges postmodern people to return to old beliefs for spiritual salvation. Fadiman on other hand depends on Cultural Relativism to support her arguments in favor of cultural transition.

My views and these issues:

The views expressed in these four sources have helped me re-evaluate my own value system and I feel that one must have the capacity to embrace old traditions and learn from them. While I cannot deny the advantages of living in a postmodern world, it is important to know that some beliefs are indeed constant and thus must not be forced to change or alter. Their beauty lies in their unchangeable nature and hence they can offer valuable lessons to postmodernists. In short, we must try to learn from other cultures and societies while simultaneously benefiting from positive attributes of postmodern age.

Works Cited

Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.

Malidoma Patrice Some, The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community, J.P. Tarcher, 1999

Stanley Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; February 1996

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