Growing Kids God's Way?
A Critique of Growing Families International
By Dr. Barbara Francis
While at the AACC Conference I was approached by a Peruvian missionary. He described his anger and dismay at missionaries disregarding the needs and characteristics of the indigenous people by imposing the GFI model, which is "totally inappropriate for many cultures." He felt it was disrespectful, at best, and unscriptural at worst. "If this is the biblical model, why does it not line up with cultures other than those consistent with middle-class America? Is God's Word not applicable across all periods of time, across all cultures? Is the Bible only for you Americans?" His words were humbling and shocking—and painfully true. We Americans tend to label our brand of Christianity as ultimate Truth. How arrogant.
This issue has been addressed in less poignant ways by others who have examined the GFI material from a cultural perspective. Thomas Giles, in his article "Are Ezzos Culturally Insensitive?" (Christianity Today, 8/19/93) comments on the pejorative manner in which the GFI material defines certain cultures: "The Ezzos say, ‘Primitive societies are at the end of the human spectrum because of depravity, not the beginning. You cannot bring Third World maternal disorder into a complex American society. There is no justification for Christians to look at godless societies to discover how to biblically parent.'" Ezzo further emphasizes his position by stating that "There is no light in these [primitive] societies. So why are you looking to a godless society to find out how to biblically parent?" (Giles, Christianity Today, 1993).
This attitude is prevalent throughout the material, from Preparation for Parenting to Reflections of Moral Innocence, where "the primitives" are consistently aligned with deprivation and immorality. According to Diane Komp, professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, "There are troubling ethnic implications to [the Ezzos; statements] that smacks of xenophobia," adding that the Ezzos' position apparently does not integrate the fact that many of their pejorative statements regarding "the primitives" also apply to lower-economic, and Afro-American and Hispanic communities within our own country. This certainly pertains to committed Believers in other nations as well.
As I consider these things, I can't help but wonder Jesus feels about it all.