Have you ever heard the term "Intercultural Intelligence"? Loosely defined, it is the academic language used to describe a persons learned capacity to adapt, understand, and function in a diverse setting. Folks who have developed high intercultural intelligence are generally open to new things, curious about themselves and others, emotionally mature, and have a low need to control their surroundings.
My major at university was in Intercultural Studies, and large focus of my degree was intercultural intelligence. My professors helped me not just to learn about various cultures, but to dig deep into my own ability to learn and grow in spaces where my culture was not the dominant one.
During cross cultural training in Thailand, I realized that as a white person I had a lot of personal work to do on my own need to control and my ability to be curious. I had to realize that I was not the Saviour, Jesus was. My [very dominant] culture is not what saves, Jesus is.
I often hear from fellow white folks "how do I have a more diverse friend group/church etc if where I am is dominantly white?" (I have, in fact, asked that question myself many times!) Here's what I am learning: start with you.
Where would you rate yourself on your ability to be curious (versus defensive?), or on your own ability to tolerate change? Go to a part of town or a mall or a space where you will likely be one of few white folks - how does it make you feel? Why?
In scripture, we can see an example of this when Jesus sits down with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Though his culture would have him not even speak to her, he engages her with curiosity and openness. His behaviour doesn't push her away, but draws her in. His disciples, when they see them together, react sharply with surprise. What could it look like for us as disciples today to unlearn those very kinds of sharp reactions as we create community with people outside of our cultural context?
If you would like to learn more about the intersection of Intercultural Intelligence and our faith, I would encourage you to join me for the upcoming seminar, promoted to us through our District office:
"Intercultural Intelligence: Shifting Realities and Implications for Christian Ministry"
with Dr. Stanley John (PhD, Asbury Theological Seminary), Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies at the Alliance Theological Seminary in New York.
Fri, May 14, 2021
7:00 AM – 3:00 PM PDT