Sunday, February 6, 2011

Has Multi-Culturalism Failed?

Tolerance. It’s the buzzword of the day. And it sounds good in theory. After all, what authority does one individual have to tell another person that he or she is “right” or “wrong”?

Recent BBC headlines suggest that “hands-off tolerance” may in fact be detrimental. David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain stated in a speech this weekend,
"Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years…”

These words raise the question of unconditional tolerance and its implication in counseling. People gain their identity from being part of a group that shares common values. In Britain, extreme multi-culturalism has led to a national problem: Mini-cultures that isolate people, rather than bringing them together.

Prime Minister Cameron argues that many immigrants “live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.” Tolerance of religious groups, particularly radical Islam in this case, puts other members of society at risk. Europe is quickly becoming a seedbed for terrorism.

In his speech, Mr. Cameron suggested a fairly unpopular thing: Intolerance. That Britain should “believe in certain values and actively promote them.” If common values are important in a society, the question arises of just what obligation a community (and a counselor) has to reinforce these values. And who decides the values?

As Christian counselors, I believe that it is critical to wrestle through the implications of tolerance. The object of our profession is people. Our clients may well come from a variety of different cultures. People define themselves by their birthplace, their religious background, their own particular traditions.

By its very nature, counseling fundamentally includes a common relationship. Nearly every therapeutic approach—from Freudian free association to Rogerian reflective listening—emphasizes the importance of unconditional positive regard.

Jay Adams and counselors of the nouthetic orientation would argue that counseling begins with confrontation, calling the client to repentance before God. So what about counseling clients of other cultures and faiths?

It is important that we recognize our egocentric tendencies, appreciate other cultures, and avoid "preaching" at clients. As Christian counselors who hold to a Biblical worldview, there will cerainly be times where confrontation, reporting, or referral are necessary. We as Christian counselors must think through and develop clear ethics. In our attempt to identify with clients and show unconditional positive regard and acceptance, we must be careful lest relativism leads us to the dilemma facing Prime Minister Cameron.

Are there limitations to your tolerance?

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