Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Does Bennett understand the Golden Rule?

In my previous post on the third stage of ethnocentrism, minimization, in Bennett's "Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity," I briefly mentioned that Bennett sees the "Golden Rule" as somehow characterizing this phase (see (He goes on to say that what he calls the "Platinum Rule" is characteristic of moving into the ethnorelative stages of acceptance and adaptation, learning to "do unto others as they would have you do unto them" - but that's a discussion for a future post.)

The way Bennett discusses the "Golden Rule" may be problematic for people who are used to thinking of Jesus' words as a pinnacle of ethical teaching; and I suppose that some might on that basis reject Bennett as not knowing what he is talking about, if he would suppose that living by Jesus' "Golden Rule" is only a stepping stone toward a deeper and more positive way of relating to others.

Thus I raise the question, does Bennett understand the "Golden Rule"?

To quote Jesus' words,

"Therefore, whatever you want people to do for you, do the same for them, because this summarizes the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

I would argue that Bennett does not rightly characterize the essence of Jesus' teaching here. He does rightly point out that often (and in the stage of minimization in dealing with culturally different others), we ere by doing to others as if they were us, and thus falling short of treating them in the most fully loving way.

But Jesus' intent, I believe, is that our "doing to others as we want them to do for us" would imply, that we understand them and thus do to them as they want us to do to them - for this is what we would all want, is it not? I want people to understand me, to know me, to show me respect in the way that is meaningful to me, etc. And thus, to follow Jesus' teaching, I should seek to relate to others in the depth of knowing them as they are (and not projecting myself onto them, assuming that they are like me).

Thus, although I think Bennett misrepresents the heart of the Golden Rule, I believe his model (the DMIS) and teaching stands, and in fact resonates with, I would even say is built upon, the teaching of Jesus (though I don't think Bennett ever actually refers to Jesus).

My point here is that one can hold to Jesus' teaching as the pinnacle of ethical teaching, and embrace Bennett's model. For me, at least, they are compatible. And to "do unto others as I would have them do unto me" is to be led in the direction of ethnorelativism, growing in understanding and accepting others as they are. Which, I will argue in coming posts, is a significant movement in the direction of seeking to build peace.

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