Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Cultural pitfalls

About 20 years ago, when online discussion forums were relatively new, a forum for discussing Christian mission puiblished guidelines for participants, which included the following tip:

Write with an international audience in mind. Don’t assume the reader is necessarily familiar with your culture,  especially popular culture (eg food products, TV shows & personalities), current events, and politics. This doesn’t mean you can’t refer to these or discuss them as appropriate, but you may need to explain them as you go.

Perhaps even now such tips could be useful.

Recently an Orthodox Christian poster on Facebook posted the following picture:


In view of who the poster was, I took it for a picture of a group of Orthodox monks, dressed for gardening.

The one second from the left looks most like a monk, and the next one, in the baseball cap, looks least like one, but could be a novice or a visitor.

I later discovered that they were characters in a TV show that is popular in the US, called Duck Dynasty, about which there has recently been some controversy.

Fortunately, unlike in 1993, we have the web, and search engines, which makes it possible to look up such things and find enough of the backstory to discover what is going on, but in spite of the globalisation of culture, there are still cultural pitfalls, and we still haven’t arrived in the global village that Mashall McLuhan foresaw.

But it still raises questions for me.

Why would a TV show in the US have characters dressed to resemble Orthodox monks?

And what cultural images come to the minds of people in the US when they see real monks, particularly when they have been influenced by TV shows like Duck dynasty?





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4 thoughts on “Cultural pitfalls

  1. rwhegwood on said:

    The association is hardly monastic…most people from their parts don’t know what Orthodoxy is let alone anything about Orthodox monks. Orthodox monks in full garb are more likely to be mistaken for Muslim immigrants. I know of one whom locals called the “old wizard”…like in Harry Potter or in scary Halloween stories.

    The image locally associated with the Duck Dynasty crew pictured above is very rural and somewhat survivalist …swamp people…or Appalachian mountain people…think Grizzly Adams meets Ted Nugent. ( ( These are deeply folksy folks. These were hard living sorts (hippies and bike riders) in their youth who found Jesus but kept their hard/wild rural evocative style and passed it on to their children.

    They wear beards because it looks tough and manly…and shaving is for sissies and the citified. If you saw someone like that at a bar you would think twice or three times before messing with them…just in case. Sort of Hippies gone commando (ranger/military sense)….except that locally (deep south) going commando is a euphemism for not wearing underwear… Anyway…that’s the drift of it: Back woods, country, rough and tough, not much for fine manners or fancy ways.

  2. Peter on said:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one to think their beards look Orthodox.

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