Monday, October 1, 2007

DOES ANYTHING GOOD COME OUT OF ANTHROPOLOGY?

When I was a sophomore at USM (THE University of Southern Mississippi for those who do not know), I was forced to take Anthropology. “What use is that?” I remember asking in my utilitarian, critical voice. “How will hearing about bones, clicking languages, and people with discs in their lips help me?” Well, that partly turned out to be true. But you can understand that when I was asked to teach Cultural Anthropology at ABC, I was tossed between excitement and fear. That’s always a good combo! But would it be any use. Well, under our rubric, we teach it with a purpose, to use the subject to inform our role in the Great Commission. So, it gets a little more interesting than discs, clicks, and Lucy the She-Ape. Seniors at ABC take this course. As seniors, they are usually worn from the academic journey and ready to transition into various ministries and callings away from the classroom. So, I thought I would try and address both problems. So, I am able to teach an academic principle once a week in a classroom setting. Since anthropology is a course of study which “reads men, culture, and behaviors” we study topics like communication (verbal and non-verbal), values and development of those values, social stratification, kinship systems, marriage, etc. Then I purposefully impose the topics into a “missions” framework, encouraging students to always pretend they are missionaries and to ask, “How would this knowledge assist in furthering Christ’s kingdom?” Since subject is humanity, the answers are always positive. In addition, I am able to create ‘field projects’ useful to the context for research; you know, to give food for thought regarding research that might benefit these men and women as they serve the church here someday. Right now, I’m developing two projects which we will take our skills from the classroom into the field. The one I’d like to share with you involves Partners in Hope, an AIDS ministry in Malawi which provides care, education, and comfort to those afflicted with this dreaded disease (and to their suffering families as well). Since we know the founders and many of the workers at this ministry are ABC grads, I’ve developed a project that will benefit both my students and their work. Partners in Hope is currently developing plans to begin a work in a village with which they have had no contact. Thus, they do not know the attitudes of the people toward Christianity or AIDS. It will be the project of my class to develop a ‘survey field project’ which will collect this information for use in developing an adequate strategy to develop this work. So, we are excited to actually be able to “use” our classroom instruction for something more practical.
Sam

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