Fear-power can function in at least three arenas: spiritual, emotional, and political.
In the spiritual realm, people learn to fear the power of unseen spirits. The local shaman (witch doctor) is able to put a curse on a person and they die. That kind of power demands serious respect. Often rituals that seek blessing from dead relatives’ spirits are part of everyday life. Sometimes the spiritual realm is referred to as folk-religion or animism. Thankfully, the Lord of Lords has given us power to resist the temptations of demonic forces, and that is why the Gospel is really good news to those coming from this background.
In the emotional realm, fear-power can be seen in the reactions of people to circumstances. Anxiety is often the symptom of the loss of control in a set of circumstances. New international students have many fears about powerful professors who have a modicum of control over their future and careers. At other times the fear of retaliation by more powerful people or groups may result in all manner of behavioral choices to control or reduce the fear.
Political strongmen (think Mafia Godfather) use fear-power in socio-political terms. People submit to them for fear of the consequences of not doing so. But families can use the same sort of fear to control family members and bring about compliance. Financial control can be a part of that.
Understanding the role of fear-power in an international student’s life can explain much. Inviting the student to talk about the fears he or she has can be a door opener to better understanding. Just talking about the issues can be therapeutic for the student and insight producing for those listening.
Principles cited in this blog: Fear-power is a part of all cultures in some way. More authoritarian cultures tend to use it more as well as tribal cultures. Knowing that fear-power can work in and through spiritual, emotional, and political means can help understand student better. Inviting them to talk about their fears can be therapeutic.
Application for ISI ministry: Insight into an international student’s cultural background can help us understand why they do what they do and how they relate to failure. Because each person is unique, it is good to dialogue about these issues with students you know.
Next blog topic: Special Christmas blog
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson