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An Intimate Revelation

Intercultural Bible Reading with Adolescents

Taggert E. Wolverton

An Intimate Revelation chronicles an unprecedented multi-year research project that investigated what happens when adolescents from around the world read and discuss Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son together. The study gathered together adolescent participants, pastoral leaders, and theologians from several countries to read in conversational communities, and these groups then exchanged their interpretations with each other across cultural and religious distinctions. The result is a helpful step forward in understanding how adolescents make meaning when they read the Bible and how the intercultural reading process can spur participants toward spiritual growth.

The book begins by presenting thorough explanations of the foundational concepts of the project before then focusing on each of the groups’ specific experiences through a close examination of their transcripts and written materials. With that foundation laid, a critical analysis of the material investigates signs of spiritual growth as well as the adolescent participants’ ability to function in the process of intercultural communication. The participants’ hermeneutical interpretive grids are presented along with evidence of their ability to create theological applications, and finally the process of intercultural Bible reading is itself compared to the characteristics of effective youth ministry as a hopeful ally in the development of the next generation’s spirituality.

As a report on the only study of its kind to empirically observe adolescent Bible readers participating in an intercultural reading process, these pages offer insight and motivation to pastoral leaders, theologians, and anyone else questioning how to connect this globally aware generation to a vibrant faith.

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6 The Role of Intercultural Openness


. 6 .

The Role of Intercultural Openness

As was discussed in the chapter on intercultural communication, successful intercultural communication occurs when both parties understand and accept responsibility to maintain an attitude of “mindfulness” such that misunderstandings and the natural tendencies to misinterpret can be admitted and corrected, when they approach the process with positive motivating factors like hope and good intention, and when they have sufficient communicative skills to navigate through the ambiguous situations that will most likely arise in the process of intercultural communication. Since Chapter 4 has already summarized the appearance (or not) of these characteristics in the groups’ exchange processes, the purpose of this chapter is to examine how groups which displayed a high level of intercultural openness (as defined by Gudykunst) were also ones which demonstrated recognizable spiritual growth. The goal is not to show causality (which is not possible with such a small sampling), but to look for any indications that the two factors mutually appeared in the experience of the groups and especially how they may interact. The group with the highest level of intercultural openness which also displayed the most spiritual transformation will be presented first, and then two other groups which showed openness and growth will be examined. Finally, groups ←137 | 138→which demonstrated low levels of both intercultural openness and growth will be analyzed.

The Yamato Group

Of all the groups, it is the Yamato group which most clearly displays the highest level of...

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