Edwin Friedman, in his book Generation to Generation, relates the structure of families to an electrical circuit. Your family is either “wired” as a series circuit or a parallel circuit, or, more likely some combination of the two.
Notice in the series circuit, the electricity has to travel through each light bulb before completing the circuit, which means, that if any one light bulb burns out, the circuit will not be complete, the electricity will not flow, and none of the bulbs will light up. In the parallel circuit, however, there is a complete circuit through each individual light bulb, meaning that even if any bulb burns out, it will not effect the flow of electricity through the other bulbs.
If a family is like the series circuit, anytime a problem or crisis happens, the whole family breaks down. There is no one to take a leadership role to fix the problem. Friedman calls this “linear thinking.” Members of a family need to differentiate themselves from the others in order to create a more parallel system.
“Differentiation means the capacity of a family member to define his or her own life’s goals and values apart from surrounding togetherness pressures, to say ‘I’ when others are demanding ‘you’ and ‘we.’ It includes the capacity to maintain a (relatively) nonanxious presence in the midst of anxious systems, to take maximum responsibility for one’s own destiny and emotional being.” (Friedman, pg. 27)
In a family, when some problem occurs, often one family member will show the symptoms of that problem more than he others. That member Friedman calls the identified patient. “The concept of the identified patient … is that the family member with the obvious symptom is to be seen not as the ‘sick one’ but as the one in whom the family’s stress or pathology has surfaced.” (Friedman, pg. 19)
A mistake, according to Friedman, made by counsellors is to assume that the identified patient is the only one with a problem and then try to “fix” that one person. In reality, the problem is with the whole family, and the whole system needs fixing.
The identified patient is often diagnosed with some condition. Friedman criticizes this practice….
“Diagnosis in a family establishes who is to be the identified patient. It is inherently an anti-systems concept. It is linear thinking [series circuit]. It denies other variables that are present in the system. Existentially, it makes someone ‘other,’ and allows the remainder of the family to locate their troubles in the diagnosed member. It also disguises opinions and judgments; in an intense ‘congregational [church] family’ struggle, this hidden effect adds to polarization.
“Within the personal family, the labelling effects of diagnosis destroy the person. It decreases, in the diagnosed member, a sense of control over the situation, increases his or her dependancy, and thus lowers their pain thresholds. The effect on nonsymptomatic members is that it fixes their perception of the diagnosed person’s capabilities. Eventually a family member’s label will become confused with his or her identity. Diagnosis also tends to concretize. It makes everything and everyone more serious.” (Friedman, pg. 56)
“Thresholds for both physical and emotional pain are lower when we are functioning dependently, and are higher when we are motivated to accomplish something. But there is also an interrelational aspect to this threshold dimension of pain. Where members of a family are too quick to spare another pain, the resulting dependency tends to make the other’s threshold fall. In addition, he or she will become addicted to having pain relieved through someone else’s functioning. Conversely, where families can begin to increase their threshold to another’s pain, the other person’s threshold is likely to rise, even though he or she may at first go through ‘withdrawal’ symptoms when the ‘addiction’ is taken away. Those who focus only on comfort, on relieving pain, or filling another’s need, tend to forget that another’s need may be not to have their needs fulfilled.”
What do you get when you combine feminism, leftism, and missions? You get the website: A Life Overseas. Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh there. There are some good articles on the site. It’s kind of like the Woman’s World of missionary blog sites. They do, however, give voice to what I think are some fairly stupid viewpoints.
There was once an article posted on the site which inspired me to write this: White Privilege, SJWs, and Missions. The Life Overseas article was written by a woman who was deeply offended when she discovered an Asian missionary to not be really Asian at all. The reason she thought he was Asian was because he used a pseudonym for security reasons. She had high respect for that missionary and his teachings. That is, until she found out he was a white male. Oh the humanity!
I criticized that article outright and called it for what it was: racist. The article was removed because, as this woman exposed the white man for not being an Asian man, she also compromised his security. Here is an excerpt from that article…
If you are an overseas worker in a certain East Asian country, you will have probably heard of [evil white missionary]. He is a theologian and missiologist who writes and blogs about contextualization. Many people I know read his articles, and as an Asian person myself, I was pleased that people were paying attention to an Asian perspective. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that…
[Evil white missionary] was actually a white man.
When I found out, I was shocked, but my shock quickly turned to irritation and my irritation to indignity.
Why is a white man posing as an Asian, and speaking as an expert on Asian issues?
And why does the Western church profess to grasp the inner workings of faith within a culture that is not its own?
You can read my other article to see how I feel about “white privilege” and “cultural appropriation”.
But now, a new article has been posted on A Life Overseas written by the same author. And I think it might even be more stupid than the first one.
The author, calling herself Grace Lee, is now claiming the entire western missionary movement is racist. Her evidence: her hurt feelings.
Here’s an excerpt…
Something is rotten in the state of Western missions when the very communities that are meant to proclaim God’s inclusiveness seem to make people of color feel other and less than.
There was that time I heard about an all-expense paid retreat for women on the field. Excited about the possibility of a fun and relaxing trip away, I found the promotional video online and eagerly watched it. But my heart sank as the video only featured frame after frame of white women. I knew immediately that this retreat was not designed with me in mind. I was not even on their radar, much less on their screen.
So, basically what she is saying here is, “There were only white women in the video, and that hurt my feelings, and so therefore: Racism!”
Then there was the time that our missions agency was considering mobilization of internationals. Leaders from around the region gathered together to discuss the pros and cons of such an endeavor. I and other minority members expressed our apprehension of recruiting locals into a primarily white organization, citing concerns about expansionism and assimilation. I was thankful that we were given a voice in this decision. But I was mistaken. Instead of hearing our reservations and taking time to reflect on the alternatives that we suggested, a task force was immediately formed at the end of that meeting to move ahead with the plan.
I don’t know, maybe her ideas simply weren’t any good. The reader isn’t given enough information to develop an opinion. We just have to trust her that it was racism.
Her accusation is quite extreme: “Something is rotten in the state of Western missions…” And if you’re going to be making that accusation, you need some hard evidence to back it up. But you don’t see that in her article. All you see is her hurt feelings.
I can understand that the makers of the women’s retreat video were insensitive by not including any non-whites in the video. But, under what circumstances was that video made? Was it a high budget project filmed in the USA? Or, was it filmed by some missionary ladies with an iPhone in someone’s backyard? Maybe there were only white woman available.
Grace Lee provides no evidence of real racism. All she provides is her hurt feelings and a demand that the reader acknowledge her feelings as sufficient evidence. The real world simply doesn’t work that way.
Did Grace Lee try to sign up for the women’s retreat and then receive an email stating that she was not welcome because she wasn’t white? That would be real evidence. But I assume she never tried to sign up because the promo video was enough to send her down into the pit of despair. I wonder what she would have found if she went to the retreat. A bunch of racist white women (who for some odd reason decided to be missionaries in non-white countries)? I doubt it.
You can’t expect equality of output where there is no equality of input. But that’s what SJWs demand: equality of outcome. We need to deal with injustices as we see them, case by case, individual by individual. To accuse the whole Western missions world of racism is complete nonsense. Historically, Christianity has been centered in the white nations, so of course there will be a larger number of white people in missions. Over time this will change, but until it does, falsely accusing people of racism, and slandering respected missionaries (like the not-Asian white guy mentioned above), will only cause unneeded, unnecessary division.
When one criticizes this SJW behaviour, the response is never, “I disagree with you and here’s why…” rather, it is, “You’re wrong and shame on you!”
Manufacturing false victimhood through hurt feelings trivializes the suffering of true victims by victimizing the trivial. If you want to make accusations of racism you need to provide real evidence (something that would stand in a courtroom) and only then can we stand together to denounce those guilty. Hurt feelings, generalities, and vague examples of what may or not be racism are not only insufficient, but will do much damage to the unity of the Church on the mission field.
In other words: grow up, develop a thicker skin, and stop being offended at everything. Oh, and having a sense of humour doesn’t hurt either.
P.S. If you believe you are guilty of white privilege, then never fear! There is an online course to cure you of your toxic whiteness. For only $297 U.S. you don’t have to be an evil white S.O.B. anymore! Click here to sign up!