Last year, Andy Crouch published an essay in Christianity Today that takes us toward an answer.Crouch's essay says:
Crouch starts with the distinction the anthropologist Ruth Benedict popularized, between a guilt culture and a shame culture. In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. In a guilt culture people sometimes feel they do bad things; in a shame culture social exclusion makes people feel they are bad.
Crouch argues that the omnipresence of social media has created a new sort of shame culture. The world of Facebook, Instagram and the rest is a world of constant display and observation. The desire to be embraced and praised by the community is intense. People dread being exiled and condemned. Moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion.
I’ve come to eavesdrop on this missions conversation because I suspect that honor and shame are becoming dominant forces in the American context. ...The essay is also here.
The idea of “shame cultures” originated with anthropologists. During World War II, Columbia University anthropologist Ruth Benedict was trying to make sense of the cultural patterns of the Japanese. Her 1946 book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, popularized the idea that Japan was a “shame culture,” in which morality was governed by “external sanctions for good behavior.” In other words, you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you. By contrast, in a guilt culture such as the West, you know you are good or bad because of an “internalized conviction of sin” — by how you feel about your behavior and choices.
Western civilization (Europe and USA) is a guilt culture, while the rest of the world has shame cultures. Guilt culture was a great advance of Judeo-Christian society, and is better than shame cultures.
Guilt culture allows for individualism, for forgiveness, and for the teachings of moral leaders, while shame is subject to the whims of the mob.
Yes, we are shifting to a shame culture, as a result of immigration, leftist influence, feminism, and social media.
As I write this, NPR has some feminist guests who are trying to tell us how to think about some shaming incident.
Donald Trump seems like an anachronism, because he refuses to yield to leftist shaming.
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