Jean Twenge is a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and “the author of more than 180 scientific publications and books.”
In her book Generations, Twenge identifies two cultural shifts that ‘push’ people away from religion. She writes:
Religion, by definition, is about believing in things that go beyond the self, and is usually practiced in groups of people who are expected to follow certain rules. Collectivistic cultures tend to be religious cultures, and individualistic cultures tend to be less religious. Growing up slowly is also an uncomfortable fit for religious tenets, which often encourage sexual abstinence until marriage. When the norm is to marry in one’s late 20s or early 30s, fifteen to twenty years after puberty, no hanky-panky until marriage becomes difficult to pull off (295-296).
For one, I trust her research and expert judgment. And, upon reflection, it makes sense that in individualistic cultures where marriage is delayed, the path of discipleship requires ‘swimming against the tide.’
However, I wonder if there are elements of collectivist cultures that make it equally difficult to follow Jesus? For instance, if one is expected to fit in with the approval of elders and peers, it might be challenging to obey Jesus in defiance of their expectations.
That is, when we prioritize ‘following Jesus’ vs ‘being religious’, I wonder how that focus changes our analysis. When we are mainly concerned with loyalty to Christ, are collectivist cultures better than individualistic ones at forming disciples? Or are the challenges different in each culture?
My hope is that as participants from both collectivist and individualistic cultures come together in Uncommon Pursuit, we will share our respective strengths with one another while helping each other with our respective blind spots.
I look forward to hearing different opinions on this.