Thursday, January 26, 2012

"An Idiot Abroad"

This travel program is not your typical British Comedy. If is funny, but it also makes you think on many more levels than just wit. The premise is that Karl Pilkington, a rather insular and close minded Brit, is sent around the world to broaden his horizons. It is perhaps a great training tool that could or should be considered for the segment of church population enamored with the “mission trip.” In any case it couldn’t hurt. Three things that would be helpful for anyone wanting to go to another culture jump out right away:

First, Karl does us a good service illustrating by the way that culture shock affects people, because by design his trips set him up for the greatest possible shock everywhere he travels.

Culture Shock is something for which every well informed group tries to prepare. You can’t become immune to it. It is not something that you overcome with experience. But you can enter it with the knowledge that it is going to rear its ugly head and therefore be ready for it.

The truth is that a lot of the “mission trip” crowd never really experience culture shock. Their trips are often too short to take them beyond a Honeymoon phase with the new culture they encounter; and often their trips are designed to minimize the stranger aspects of the culture. It is, however, quite surprising just how unprepared some groups or individuals can be for culture shock. Those are the groups that forget to share that God loves them and instead start telling everyone they see how God wants them to be more American!

Secondly, Karl’s trips invariably bring him face to face with the religious traditions of the countries he visits. One eye-opening aspect of his observations is the similarity (and similar emptiness) that all the religions share. This includes the empty nature of many of the “Christian” traditions. This is a good reminder for those wanting to make a difference that they aren’t bringing a religion to the world. Religions are empty, man-made, attempts to get to God. The Gospel is the message of God coming to mankind. The believer’s task is to share that simple message, not to engage in futile, culturally insensitive efforts to attack a person’s heritage. Let God handle that later.

Finally, the show could serve as a bit of practice. If you get the chance to watch the original British airings of the show, you will be exposed to an altogether different culture. Karl’s “un-beeped” use of colorful language and the uncensored filming of some of the various cultural approaches to nudity can help the viewer practice a mild reaction. Such a discipline separates the tourists from the globe trotters!

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