Archive for research
Key findings of original research made available on the resources page of this site this week sheds light on some key findings about trust levels and discrepancies between these levels for the person on the street and the person in a Baptist church in Moscow, Russia. This research dealt with five key areas: 1) business; 2) government; 3) non-profit organizations (NGOs); 4) religion; and 5) media. Some of these findings include:
on business – “Moscow Baptists are significantly less trustful of business in general than are their secular counterparts, especially foreign companies (by an astounding 29%).” As a result, one analyst concluded that, the cultures of the Muscovite man on the street versus the person in a Protestant church, “do not have much overlap.” The analyst continues to state, and the church “just [doesn’t] get it” and, as a result, church-goers “appear, in the eyes of the lost, to have very little that is relevant to offer.”
on government – “Baptists seem wary of outside influence, showing less trust for the UN than the average Russian.”
on non-profit organizations – Russians have more trust in business than in non-profit organizations that are politically funded–whether the funding came from within or outside of Russia.
on non-profit organizations – “While in all other categories Baptists are distrustful of foreigners, they have scored foreign NGOs with the highest marks of the entire survey. Being believers, Baptists likely have less of a problem understanding an organization seeking to do something good for humanity without alterior motives…. Potentially, this could be an area where the Baptists could demonstrate their trustworthiness to the secular population. They could show a real sense of relevance and true community involvement by participating strongly and intentionally in this area.”
on religion – The man on the street in Moscow does not distinguish between Mormon or Baptists as he or she equally distrusts both (some 3%). They do have a 5-fold higher trust of Muslims. Yet the official religion, Orthodoxy, is viewed as being 20 times more trustworthy than religion under the names of Baptist or Mormon. For a religion that is practiced by some 2% of the population to be quantified as 20 times more trustworthy than another religion gives insight into the dearth of trust in general and in religion specifically by the average person in Moscow.
on media – Both the person on the street and the person in the trust distrust most forms of media. The man on the street prefers Russian magazines and international news while the person in the church prefers Russian newspapers and radio.
conclusions – “It’s clear that to garner the trust of Russians, the motives for your actions must be up-front and obvious. It seems that even self-serving or immoral motives are better than hidden ones. The particular history of the Russian people has apparently made them highly suspicious and careful in what they place their trust. They no longer want to have things controlled for them, and want to make up their own minds and form their own opinions.”
conclusions – “It’s pretty clear that Russian Baptists have a culture in their faith and in their churches that dramatically sets them apart from secular Russians on many levels. They are less open to new trends, less involved in change, more disposed to trust the government (at least locally), and less accepting of outside influences. While this traditional approach has its virtues, it will continue to alienate them from their neighbors as time goes on, and make them increasingly irrelevant in their communities. They must look for points of commonality to avoid this fate at all costs. Relevance often breeds trust, and without it, they will continue to score 3% among Russians in general. If 97% of the population finds you unworthy of their faith, then it’s time to take a hard look at changing something. Moscow will never be won by people who are disconnected from its society.”
Trust is essential. It is the core of relationships. It plays an integral part in developing one’s worldview. Ultimately, it is the call of Christ.
Much has been made of working in a post-Christian context. Research made public today indicates trust levels in a context that is far down this road. There is much to be learned from this study in Moscow that is relevant to work there, in other European urban centers, and in other contexts where the influence of the church is waning. While I will be posting more on this in the near future, I will share this graphic indicating trust levels of religious groups. The report is available on the resources page of this site or for direct download here.
According to research (chart below and here), the U.S. is increasing in spirituality while religion wanes. This study and others like it are not consistent with the views of several contemporary atheists such as Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein. A USA Today article–Atheism 3.0 finds a little more room for religion–shares this trend.
How are we to reconcile that religion is increasing while religion is decreasing? While there are several possible explanations, I will offer one that I feel is plausible–besides the possibility that this iteration of an atheist view is just starting to be published and may have impact in future numbers. (The following is a hypothesis based on anecdotal experience, not research.)
Spirituality involving thoughts and ideas associated with God are increasing. This is evident in the increase in the number of “spiritual” shows and movies as well as research results. Also increasing are acts of kindness commonly referred to as social action, but this does not appear to be included in research. An increase in social action is evident by the increase in socially active organizations and ideas ranging from clean water for third-world countries, human trafficking awareness, micro loans, etc. When researchers ask most U.S. respondents about religion, I suspect that respondents are expressing their opinion or experience on consistent religious activities whether it be a Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Islam, or other expression of ritualized church attendance. When this is an expression of anything–be it faith or process–that does not include action–making a positive difference in people’s lives–it is rejected as hollow by a growing number of people. The religion atheists are embracing according to the article is that of doing good and being good citizens. Epstein states that: “When our goal [as atheists] is erasing religion, rather than embracing human beings, we all lose.”
I would propose that future research include questions about belief in God or someone higher than ourselves; the importance of doing good for others; and frequency attending a religious ceremony. Both the research and the article point to a post-Christian reality. Both also point to the need for followers of Christ to incarnationally live out their faith in deeds.
According to data results released with an article–”How Spiritual Are We?“–from Parade Magazine this past weekend, the U.S. population has a strong belief in God, but we are not a religious people. Whether measured by “How important is religion in your life?” or “How often do you attend religious services?” the answer comes out roughly at some 30% or less. While there are many ways the information could be interpreted, this is taking the position that for those that have religion as the most important thing in their life or that attend religious services once or more times a week as being “religious” people.
Belief in God remains high, but the post-Christian surge continues as 38% are less religious than their parents. This move toward a post-Christian society reflects societies that are further along in this move in Australia and Europe according to other results and anecdotal observations (more on this in future posts).
Another key finding is the 71% that do not hold that their religion is exclusive or “closest to the truth.” Once again, signaling a post-Christian U.S. culture, this also is indicative of the relativistic, post-modern aspects of society. With the majority (59%) saying that all religions are equal in validity, it appears that most people in the U.S. would adhere to the tenet that all roads lead to heaven or some other place or state of being or some other closely held non-conviction or some other conviction that is loosely held…. (smile)
Parade Magazine does not provide information on gender, age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, etc. regarding survey respondents. Based on distribution methods for the magazine, I would venture a guess that the data results reflect a high number of middle to upper-middle income level families with more females completing the surveys than males. If this assumption is correct, then it is a reasonable guess that these numbers are possibly skewed toward a more religious sub-set of society than the whole of U.S. culture. My expectation would be that a broader group of respondents may cause the number of those that are religious to drop as well as those that are more religious than their parents, although belief in God would, I am willing to guess, remain constant.
In the grocery store, a restaurant, the airplane, at church, at some time you just might have run into the deluge of questions that can comprise a young child. I have seen this used in two ways. One kid is working his “why.” His questions are used as challenges rather than as interrogative tools. Wise in his own eyes, this kid is asking mom or dad to justify the given instruction. To justify their ability to give the instruction. The second way to use the “why” is as a tool to learn. When a child comes and asks in earnest, “Why does the sun go down?” the parent would like to provide the right answer. Humility is a powerful thing to verbalize the lack of understanding of the learner and to motivate the adult to share at a level the child can understand. Yes, mom and dad and other caregivers tire of the constant barrage even when asked with humility in earnest, but….
Continuing with the Upstream Collective JetSet case study in Taiwan, it seems helpful to encourage us all, myself included, to be life-long learners in culture. (I am currently applying this stuff to my new culture in a city I have lived in years ago in the U.S.) While some of the areas have been touched on here this week in previous posts, I would like to offer some specific areas for formulating questions that will be helpful to ask yourself and often to voice to others–especially nationals in the culture. View these questions as a base of questions that are helpful as you participate in your understanding of culture and the process of narrative mapping (much of this is thanks to Thom Wolf).
Geographical distinctions? – Taking notice of bodies of water and rivers is helpful. In Taiwan, you have both the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. What role have these played in history? Religion on the island is distinct from that in mainland China. These large water boundaries have made it possible for Chinese folk beliefs to be close enough to cross over, but far enough to not be as impacted through the Cultural Revolution. What is the significance of the Keelung and Xindian Rivers in the history and culture of the city? Other geographical distinctions may include major intersections of roads or railways; boundaries; and physical landmarks.
Mosaic of the land? – Seeing urban centers as collections of groups of people should help provide understanding of a city. In Taipei, there is a breakdown of cities and townships within the city. Are these representative of different classes or ethnicities or moralities of people? Does each city or township break down into further subsets? How do these groupings of people or villages look as it relates to socioeconomic status? How do these different groupings live life? Form relationships? Celebrate holidays and special events?
Meaning? – What is the religion of each people group? How did this religion come here? What is of great importance to the various people groupings? Is there anything that this people treasure so deeply that they are willing to live for it? Teach their children about it? Die for it? What churches (may include religious buildings and/or groups meeting) exist in the area?
Going into and participating in a culture as a humble learner is invaluable. Humble, as a child, the missionary will do well to ask questions while trying to understand culture and find ways to contextually share the gospel with the lost.
Mike and Kelly had just finished 20 hours of air travel. The clock indicated it was time for lunch. Their jet-lagged schedule and eye-lids pointed toward time for a long night of sleep. Deferring to the clock at the country of arrival, we went to lunch. Landing at a food court, I provided an overview of their options. The response was something like, “Anything that’s national.”
This couple understood and embraced the need to begin to understand the local culture even in a state of sleep deprivation. When arriving in a new culture, people would do well to seek to be a student of what is happening in the environment around them. Do people talk? If so, who is talking and to whom? At what volume do conversations happen? Do locals make eye contact with others? If eye contact is made, is it with both genders? Are people smiling? Do they touch each other? How much personal space do they allow? Is the amount of personal space different in public transport systems? Through simple observation, what can you learn about their social interactions, history, religion, etc.?
Be an experiential student of the local culture. Use all five senses to begin to understand your new surroundings. This is a honeymoon period. If a person stays in another culture long enough (often ranges from 1 to 18 months, though I have seen this happen in just a couple days), the honeymoon will pass. (This is another conversation for another day…not during this Upstream honeymoon trip.) During this time, seek to enjoy and acknowledge appropriately the things you observe and experience. Participate. Learn. Savor. Don’t complain. Don’t seek to fix things. Be a gracious visitor while being an ardent learner.
Some of the best advice I have heard for short-term partners and people starting a long-term commitment comes from a friend of mine that has been to many countries with groups. He shares with each group that there are 2 rules for his groups. First, no whiners. Second, semper gumbi (always flexible). These two rules work pretty well for allowing someone to put their preferences and expectations aside to be a learner that embraces the experience.
I have seen people be challenged in a cross-cultural setting when a Coke is served warm with no ice or perhaps with only a cube or two. When coming from a car for every person and a person for every car culture, adapting to a lot of walking and crowded public transportation can be challenging. On the Upstream Collective JetSet vision tour happening right now in Taiwan, the guys shared about an Idols-R-Us shop where you go to select and purchase your own scary little idol. As observers, we could enter an experience like this feeling condemnation for the shop and everyone that would participate in such a practice. But to learn about their beliefs and rituals and how those have come to be will go much farther in beginning to contextualize the gospel for the lost. Compassion for the lost at such a difficult juncture will help to build bridges for the gospel.
At this point, I would like to ask my honeymooning Upstream Collective coffee-loving friends…How’s the tea?
So excited to be away together celebrating our one year anniversary, my wife and I hurriedly threw some clothes in a suitcase after yet another day’s work. Broke and in love, we didn’t need much to be happy. At least we didn’t think we needed much…. Our destination was Williamsburg, VA. Our first day we had a nice time though it was a touch cool for us in our shorts and t-shirts. Frigid was a better description for the next day. The temperature had dropped more than 20 degrees while being accented by a constant drizzle. Though our budget didn’t have much discretionary capacity, we bought one William and Mary sweatsuit. Based on which extremities were the most numb we decided who wore sweatpants with a t-shirt or shorts with a sweatshirt.
In today’s internet-laced developed world, checking the weather is a given. However, there are a number of other things that would be helpful to know. This week, some friends from the Upstream Collective are leading some U.S. pastors on a Jet Set tour in Taiwan. I will be posting frequently this week with some how-to topics using Taipei as a case-based scenario for preparing and participating in mission.
Here are some areas for research and some links (not exhaustive). Feel free to participate using this case study as an interactive group learning experience. (Yes, I look forward to learning along the way too.) In the next post, we’ll look at next step items.
- Taipei satellite image (- zoom in tight on Taipei in the North and you can see the urban high-rise, concrete setting)
- China – administrative map (helpful for understanding the context)