Join the Conversation: Honor-Shame Culture in US Cities & Churches

Join the Conversation: Honor-Shame Culture in US Cities & Churches

By Jess Mason, Supervising Editor

Before I had the pleasure of meeting Sang-il Kim, a Ph.D. candidate at BU School of Theology, I thought honor-shame dynamics were limited to specific cultures of the Far East, Middle East, and Africa. I was wrong.

My limited personal experience with honor-shame culture comes from my brief journey to China with a team of pastors. There I witnessed our cross-cultural guide go to an ATM, withdraw a wad of cash, and present it to our Chinese host, after we had unknowingly offended our Chinese friends in some way. She had received our shame and made the culturally appropriate gesture to restore our honor in their eyes.

Last month, Mr. Kim opened my eyes to the surprising levels of honor-shame dynamics now present in US cities, including Boston. Notably, he said that the American face of honor-shame dynamics today goes far beyond immigrants from traditionally honor-shame cultures.

I was inspired to brainstorm with him what it could mean for Boston area pastors—what does it look like to shepherd well amidst this emerging dynamic of honor and shame?

Mr. Kim's full article (below) aims to raise the awareness of Boston Christian leaders to honor-shame culture in their congregations, communities, and theology. EGC invites you to join him for conversation, and consider with others how you might engage honor-shame dynamics to the glory of God. 

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Sang-il Kim is a doctoral candidate in Practical Theology and Religious Education at Boston University. His dissertation delves into the harmful effects of shame and how teaching and learning Christian doctrines can be an antidote to them. Sang-il plans to balance teaching and research on human emotion and Christian theology, with youth and adult Christian formation in view.