December 8th – Power Distance

By: Pastor Jarren Rogers

Geert Hofstede is a Dutch Social Psychologist who came up with the 6-D model of national culture. (Wow! What an opening sentence. Stick with me. I’m going somewhere with this.) Hofstede describes six determining factors one can use to better understand a nation’s culture. I’m going to list some of these factors for you. See if you can figure out where American culture lands. 

One of the most significant factors falls on a spectrum with Collectivism on one side and Individualism on the other. Collectivist cultures place a very high value on the family unit. Everything one does is to serve the family or tribe. Individualistic cultures are the opposite. While family units exist, the emphasis is on an individual’s success. People tend to feel more independent and are less likely to feel a part of a larger whole.

I’m sure you can probably guess that the U.S. is one of the most Individualistic cultures in the world.

Another spectrum is Uncertainty Avoidance vs. Uncertainty Tolerance. Uncertainty Tolerant cultures are generally okay with the ambiguous and uncertain. A culture such as this is not concerned with change and feels little pressure to adapt to their environment. Time for them is not a set rule but rather a general suggestion. The U.S. is an Uncertainty Avoidant culture. When we say the meeting begins at 10am, it starts at precisely 10am. We do not care for uncertainty. The more we can have a handle on our future, the better.

The main factor I want to focus on here is what is called Power Distance. In culture, this is the extent to which the less powerful members of society accept and expect power to be distributed unequally. For instance, in countries with a High Power Distance, you are not likely to have a difficult conversation with your boss or critique your political leaders. The powerful rule the less powerful, and that’s the way it is and ever will be. 

The U.S. tends to be a country with a Low Power Distance. You can go to your boss and offer input or ask for a raise. The structure of our government gives us the ability to critique our officials and vote them in and out of office. 

As I thought about this, I though about how Christianity as a whole must be the culture with the lowest Power Distance possible. Not only can we cry out to our God, but we can enter into His Presence whenever we please. We are able to bend His ear and lay our problems and difficulties before Him. We are to be like the persistent widow, consistently calling on Him to intersect our lives. 

Never before has there been a culture in which even the lowliest of servants can enter into the throne room of the king and be heard. 

But, more than this, during Christmas, we celebrate the fact that our King closed the Power Distance completely and became one of us. A human–with hurts, pains, temptations, and suffering. God with us.  

What a reason for praise!

Read more of this Advent Devotional and other Daily Pursuits at www.dailypursuits.blog

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