Whatever Happened To Honor? Part I

Why is it that after almost 40 years of being a follower of Christ, I still feel out of step with most of American Christianity and feel as if there is something wrong with me? Why is it that as much as I tried, I could never sacrifice relationship over the American Church’s corporate mentality?

These questions were always running in the back of my head like one of those looped videotapes you see in stores that keep showing the same thing over and over again. Often my response was, “You are too sensitive. Don’t be so petty. Get over it. You can’t expect everyone to be wrong so it must be you?” And so on.

Let me give you couple of examples of what I am talking about.

If I was in my office working on my computer and a friend walked in, I would stop everything I was doing to attend to the person who was sitting across my desk. I wanted him/her to know that at that moment they were the center of my attention and nothing else mattered. Yet, if five minutes later I walked into the same person’s office, it would deeply hurt and offend me that my friend would continue banging on the keyboard without once looking up to listen to what I was saying. No, this had nothing to do with one’s ability to multitask or lack of it. To me, this all had to do with giving importance to a friend over an email that could be sent 10 minutes later.

If a friend needs a job, that need becomes my need, especially, when I know some people who might be interested in giving him/her a job. Unlike so many people I know, it is not good enough for ME that I can refer the friend to the right people. I take it upon myself to make sure the people know he/she is my friend and expect them to treat my friend with utmost respect. For, how they treat my friend is a reflection of their treatment of me.

I can imagine what kinds of questions might be going through your minds. What if the email couldn’t wait for 10 minutes? Don’t you think just directing the person to the right people should be good enough? Whose got the time to do follow-ups? Exactly, you are hitting the nail on the head. These were my questions too, yet I hardly ever remember an email that could not wait for 10 minutes and I could always make the time to follow up with my friends’ job hunts.

Does that make me a people pleaser? Am I an insecure person who wants to make sure everyone around him is happy with him? Believe me, I continually scrutinize myself over my actions. Did a desire to give people importance make me an “airhead”, as the president of the Christian organization I worked for once called me? He believed that only an “airhead” would give so much attention to just anyone.

It was only a few years ago, while teaching a seminar on honor and shame, the building block of most Oriental cultures, that I realized how much my culture of origin has to do with who I am today.

The formative years of my life in Iran was shaped under a Shame-Based culture—shame vs. honor. I really don’t want to take the time to talk about that culture. However, it is sufficient to say that within that culture, honor is the greatest attribute one can seek. Giving honor brings a person more honor. I was taught that taking care of my friends or my community was an honorable act.

By the way, the Bible, having been written in a Shame-Based culture is filled with passages dealing with this issue. Consider the following passages.

Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” Genesis 30:20

Genesis 45:13 “Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”

Luke 9:26 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Revelation 21:27 “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Unfortunately, honor is an attribute, which, for the most part, has lost its importance within the American church. Most of my experience has taught me that taking the time to honor people of God is not conducive to the American corporate church mentality. Unless, of course, you are a mega-church pastor, an accomplished author, the president of a Christian organization or a televangelist with a funky hairdo, then we better honor God’s anointed or His wrath shall come upon us.

Recently, a friend told me the following story. He had been working for a missions organization for several years giving it all he could. Even though he had a Masters degree, he worked for a minimum wage because, like most of us, he wasn’t in the ministry for the money, but to make a difference for God’s Kingdom. For all the year he was there, along with other co-workers, he never got a raise because, according to the president of the organization, due to financial hardship, they could not afford to give any of the employees any raises. However, later on, my friend found out that through all those lean years, the president of the organization never stopped making his six-figure salary.

But even that was not as dishonoring as what happened to him during the last Christmas he was with that organization. I will let him tell the story.

“I was sitting at my desk when we were all given an unwrapped brown box.”

“What is this?” I asked.

“It’s your Christmas gift.”

“As soon as I opened it, I was about to scream. Inside the box was a gift that, two years earlier, I had designed for the board members. The management had not even bothered to change the two year old calendar that was left in the box.”

Talk about being dishonored. Yet, the management of this Christian organization, which was supposedly spreading the message of Jesus all over the world, had no idea why my friend and other co-workers were not grateful for getting a second-hand Christmas gift. To the management, this act of gift giving should have been received as something magnanimous where, in fact, the employees felt it to be so demeaning.

I literally can recount scores of incidents like this told to me by Christians from all types of denominations and backgrounds, but I finish this blog with one of my own stories.

A few days ago, just a week after my radical prostatectomy operation, I received a call from the producer of a popular Christian radio show in Los Angeles area. He had received an email from a dear friend of mine who had suggested me as a guest on the show. After introducing himself, the gentleman asked if I would be willing to do a radio interview the following day at 5:00 PM. I happily and graciously accepted the offer.

In the past 30 some years of being a believer, because of my unique background, I have been on numerous radio and TV programs. For five years I produced a Persian TV show which was aired among the Iranian community in the Los Angeles area. All that to say: I am not new to radio or TV interviews. I know how quickly a daily TV or radio show can switch directions and bump a guest off the show. So, after I got off the phone, I told my wife about the interview, but I also told her, “I am not holding my breath.”

The next day the same gentleman called to inform me that my interview was pushed back 30 minutes and a few hours later, the interview was postponed to the following Thursday at 5:30 PM.

Thursday came and went and, yes, you guessed it, I never heard from the producer. I waited till mid-day Friday hoping I would at least receive the customary phone call telling me why I was bumped or that they were not interested in interviewing me any longer, but it never happened. So, I called the producer and this is how the conversation went:

“Hi Danny this is Shah.”

“Shah???” It was obvious he couldn’t immediately remember who I was.

“Yes, the guy you were supposed to have an interview with yesterday.”

“Oh, Shah! I never told you we were going to interview you on Thursday. I said if we needed you, we were going to call you.”

“No, you did not. You called me last Monday to tell me I WAS going to be interviewed on Thursday. Do you remember?”

“Well, sorry. I forgot to tell you that we didn’t need you.”

“Couldn’t you at least, out of courtesy, call me and let me know so I could run some of my errands yesterday rather than sitting by my phone waiting for your call?”

“Well, sorry!”

We said our goodbyes and I hung up.

What bothered me the most was his tone of voice. As if he was annoyed that a peon like me would even dare ask why he thought I wasn’t worthy of a lousy phone call. All through our conversation, I wanted to ask producer Danny the following question. Again, to some the question might make me look like a sore loser, but to those who know me well, know that to me it is a matter of HONOR.

“Danny, would you have forgotten to call me if I was Pastor so and so?” I was going to name a popular mega-church pastor. We all know what his answer would have been and that is my point of contention.

Any more, just like the secular world, the corporate church has divided the people into, as an old Christian boss of mine used to say, “major leaguers” and “minor leaguers”. The “major leaguers” are the famous ones, God’s anointed, the mega-church builders. They are the ones who have written all the “how to” Christian books. They are the only ones who have something to offer to the rest of the church. And the rest of us, who don’t have the above qualifications, are the “minor leaguers”. And producer Danny was not any better or worse when it came to assessing people’s value. To him I was a “minor leaguer” who should have been grateful that his radio show even considered interviewing me. However, the story didn’t end there.

Just a few minutes after I finished talking with Danny, the phone rang again. It was him.

“Shah, I need to apologize to you. I dropped the ball. I SHOULD HAVE called to let you know that we were not interested in interviewing you.”

“Danny, this means the world to me. My upbringing demands that we honor each other. You dishonored me by not calling me back originally. And I want you to know that had nothing to do with you deciding not to put me on your show. But now you have restored my honor by apologizing to me,” I told him. He went on to apologize again, but it wasn’t needed.

Today I don’t question the validity of my feelings and actions any more. I have come to realize that my feelings are not only valid, but also they are very much biblical. Those who are made in God’s image are worthy of my time and attention. But, I am also not as bent on expecting that everyone treat me the same way. However, this does not mean that we, as those who are called to be God’s ambassadors in this world, should not learn how to treat people, regardless of their status, with a level of honor due to them.

I have to admit that Danny’s second phone call left me with another nagging question, “Would he have ever admitted to his wrong doing if I had not confronted him and if so, why do so many Christians allow the leadership to dishonor them with regularity and yet not confront them?” which forces me to look at the issue of honor and shame from another point of view.

Stay tuned for my next blog.


24 thoughts on “Whatever Happened To Honor? Part I

  1. This is a great post. I always feel more reflective upon myself after I read what you write. I have been thinking about you and Karen lately because of Thanksgiving. I hope that yours is great! Lindsay


  2. I am a Southern Californian – third generation Southern Californian at that. Yet, I too find honor in short order today. Perhaps I feel less dishonored when people treat me as you mention in this blogpost, but I am appalled by dishonor given to people in ways you suggest here.I too am an Airhead, and perhaps we should start an Airheads group for those of us who sit and listen to friends, or even more airheadish to those of us who sit and listen to strangers. I guess our problem is we don’t understand the cult – uhm I mean the culture of true Christianity in America. We are Airheads, and we are treated as if we don’t know jack. 😉 As for me, I am proud to be an Airhead with you.


  3. Dear Shah,Thanks for the post, I fully agree with you. To a great extent, the America “Christianity” is what the corporate American Church defines and in it the honor is defined by what the corporate church does and the honor goes to who is at the top of it (the people who make the major leauge)!Recently in a conversation with a typical adolescent of a mega church, I was schocked to see how large a gap there is in the minds of us “Christians” depending on our native cultures. It was after we came back from our mission trip to the middle east. I was sharing with my young American friends here about my experience of meeting a group of pastors/ministers who came to be taught by us in that conference.In my first conversation with this eager crowd who had travelled to a different country to hear us, I shared that myself and other Christians in America were interested to go to Iran, to serve with. To my surprise, the response of the head pastor from Iran was: “we pray that the doors do not open for you to come and serve in Iran, because we don’t want the American Christianity”!!Guess what was the response from my young, faithful and sincere American listener here: “But do they understand at all what Christianity is about?”I simply said that he and others daily risk and some lose their lives on it…they know what Christianity is about… and then I explained that all they see is the Christian TV networks and hairdo plus the prosperity gospel…that is again very American…and does not work for Christians in other countries. And of course after few hours and some more fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters they understood that not all Christians in America are “American Christians”, and we had a wonderful time of teaching and fellowship that is continuing to today.Although it may not seem like it, on general I like Americans and I don’t blame them. For me it is the corporate culture that has too much power in their lives and has shaped them more than they know… to the point of defining their best of both worlds and their “dream life” as their message of “Good News”.Keep on going my dear friend and pastor. We love you,Yours,Farhad


  4. Hi Shah, First of all I am honored that you include me in your list of people to share your heart with. In regards to honor I do not think your culture is unique in honoring honor; I think that is a godly attribute. I was born and raised in America, and I have a deep sense of honor. I learned it from God and I think that is where you learned it as well. In regards to the organized thing we call the church: I think it is wrought with the American culture: goal orientation. Having goals is a good thing. However, it is wrong when goals are the focus and people are tossed aside for them. The Major Leaguers believe wholeheartedly in ends justifying means- goals. As in it is okay to thrash your family but spread the Gospel. I know a missionary who just left to South America and left his wife and kids with an unpaid house payment. I wonder, what happened to “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Lying, cheating and stealing are acceptable as long as you tell people about Jesus with the proceeds. [Well most of the proceeds. No, some of the proceeds (do not muzzle a pastor, while he treads out the grain…)]. This is why people get tossed aside. I mean, the major leaguers are doing the work of God. And those emails are for the Lord; how can you expect the Lord to wait for a peon like you? You on the other hand already know Jesus, so to talk to you is a waste of time. Remember the Great Commission has everything to do with selling ones home moving to Timbuktu, making converts and then having nothing to do with them. Read it for yourself. [By the way where is the “Great Commission”? I cannot find it in my Bible. (Which by the way the Great Commission is the most important thing Jesus said as it is the last thing he directed His disciples to do. According to this missionary who spoke at a church I used to attend it is the most important thing Jesus said as one always saves the most important instructions for last. Neither “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” nor “Love your neighbor as yourself” made it.) But I digress.] I visited the “mega-church” you used to work for a couple of Wednesdays ago. (By the way, I do not think “mega” covers this church well enough. “Giga” is more appropriate). I was a regular attendee of that church for six years. Once my wife and I moved away we found a new church and have not been there since but for a few times. I do not know if it is because I have been gone for so long, or if they have changed, but I was appalled at the slobbering over the patriarchal pastor (name caller to you). In fact, with no exaggeration I heard more praise for him during the service than for Jesus. They mentioned his name to Jesus’ Name at least a 50 to 1. At one point some leader stood up to make an offer for 45 pastors to come and learn from him; to come and sit at his feet and learn…Sit at his feet? Isn’t that supposed to be Jesus’ feet we sit at? As this “Giga” pastor, this pastor of pastors as they described him, took the pulpit, I was thinking he would say something about tall the slobbering about himself, but he did not. He just went on with the service. Later I wondered how Peter would have addressed a crowd if they praised him like this. And how Jesus addressed the man who called Him “good teacher”, and how Herod responded when they said he was a god. (I know- I better watch it, Gods anointed and all). You are right Shah: you are a minor-leaguer. You care about people. You take time to spend with people. I am one of those you have spent time with and I will never forget how much you helped Alicia and me. But you are in good company: Jesus is with you. And I want to be a minor leaguer too with Jesus and you.Dennis


  5. Phil or as we pronounce it is Farsi, feel, I hope I was clear that my point of contention is not with individuals, but with a mindset. It was out of a deep sense of honor that you refused to back down from your actions, which made your old denomination to give you the left foot of fellowship. No, you should have left it as, “the cult”. Because when you study, not necessarily the theological, but the psychological characteristics of cults, many of our Christian churches and organizations fall right into that categories.Shoot, any more, we have Christian groups for everything, why not, Airheads for Jesus? I will also be honored to airhead with you.


  6. Dear Farhad:I hope it is clear that I am talking about a mind-set and not individuals. After almost forty years of living in the US, I proudly consider myself to be more American than many Americans I know. You and I were raised under a shame-based culture which, definitely has its own flaws, but has given us a different set of values. However once those values are taken too far, we become suicide-bombers. As those who claim the name of Christ, our job is to constantly walk a tightrope of balance and often question the culture we live in. In our case, being displaced people, we have the privilege of knowing two separate cultures. In Christ love and knowledge let us strive to pick what is good in each culture and discard the rest.


  7. Dear Dennis:No, my friend, the honor is all mine. It is you who have taken the time to read what your friend has written.I hope it is clear that my bone of contention is with a mindset and not with individuals. Most my friends, you being one of them, are American men and women with deep sense of honor. Do you remember the day I took you with me to confront the restaurant owner who had dishonored my daughter? With a bum knee and all you went with me. I can’t tell you how good it felt to have a huge brother like you by my side as we demanded that the guy apologize to my daughter. We scared the crap out of him, didn’t we? As for the pastor you were referring to, I don’t put all the blames on him. I think we are just as much to be blamed. We (maybe not you) are the ones who constantly put these men on pedestal and and treated them as sinless or flawless leaders who spoke the pure words of wisdom to us. You tell a person that he/she is perfect and flawless long enough, they will eventually come to believe it and demand to be treated as such.By the way, now that you have a daughter of your own, if ever needed, you can always count on me to go with you to restore her honor. My love to Alicia. Maybe, one of these days we will take another medical team to Tajikistan.


  8. Shah-We abort our babies…why should we care about a co-worker who stepped into our office? The fact that we allow and do not fight for these children speaks volumes about how we regard human life. I wonder how many of us also ignore or cast aside even taking care of ourselves. Somewhere we have forgotten that we have been created in the image of the Most High God whether we are in the major leagues, minor leagues, or standing outside of the fence. (Sometimes, however, those outside the fence get more attention until they are “benched.” Hmmm. We are messed up!!) I enjoyed your testimony and stories!! Can I pass it around? Tracy would like a copy and I’d like to let my brother have a listen, too. After reviewing the shame and guilt culture principles, I had a curious thought today as I rolled through a stop sign…I’m not in the habit of doing that, but some of the signs around my town should be yield signs in my estimation. The thought in my head was, “God wants you stop…Obey the law.” I wondered what thoughts have dashed through your head when (if) you roll through a stop sign. The actual question I asked myself was, “If I had grown up as a Christian elsewhere, how would the Holy Spirit correct/guide me?” Then I thought, how much of my thinking has been me or culture … and not the Holy Spirit??? (This is an exciting time to live on earth as I can experience many cultures here in the States and through travel. It is good to have my eyes opened to other’s interpretation and application of Scripture.) One other thought on honoring others. Clearly, Jesus was about loving people. How unfortunate that we have allowed the voices and mindsets of the world to infiltrate Kingdom principles. I’m praying for your family daily and hope that you have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday. Michele


  9. Michele:You are correct, we abort babies in the western world, but, in the name of honor, the Middle Easterners commit suicide bombings killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children. Both cultures have their own flaws and problems. We should always strive to find what is good in any culture and leave the rest behind. The problem arises when we assume our culture, whatever that maybe, is a Christian culture; not realizing that there is no such thing.Your question is quite intriguing. I don’t roll through stop signs. Not because I am afraid of what God might think about it (He has much bigger things to worry about) but, because I don’t want to get a ticket. I save my lies for something much greater. Let me tell you what I am talking about. Was Rehab is liar or a hero? She lied in order to save the lives of the Hebrew spies. When I was a missionary, traveling to all those Muslim countries where I was routinely questioned as to what my occupation was, I never told them the truth. I always said I was a teacher, which by the way, was partly true. I was there to accomplish a much greater goal than to worry about telling the whole truth to a man with an AK47 around his neck. I feel a blog coming up.The western Christianity has greatly been influenced by the Roman culture. As one historian said, “Christians Christianized Hellenists and the Hellenist Hellenized Christianity.” You are very wise not to assume that, as an American Christian, everything you do is Christian. This is a very naïve and arrogant assumption that, unfortunately, permeates the American church today.You have given me a couple of ideas for my next blogs, thanks. You will find the sequel to this blog interesting since it will deal with us not taking care of ourselves and allowing, the so called leaders, walk all over us.Please feel free to share my testimony with whomever you want.


  10. it seems as if you and i grew up in the same culture with the same values. 🙂 i don’t know that i would have phrased it honor and shame because i grew up in the states – what you are describing sounds like what i call care, compassion, friendship, integrity and love. i have to admit though that i have spent much of the past 3 years wondering whether i was born in the right century, culture, etc. my belief system,lifestyle, integrity and personal goals/pursuits of life and truth are incongruent with my culture and century. you do me honor to call me your friend and it is my honor to return the compliment. in a congruent quest to honor, trac


  11. Hi Shah,Thank you for your newest blog. You are salt and light to me and manyothers. You model what you say. You raise the sinking standard ofwhat being a friend is. You’ve defended my honor when I wasn’t evenpresent and would never have even known.I just read this morning in Numbers 25 about Phineas who was “zealousfor the honor of God.” One of the greatest ways to honor God is totruly honor a person, and one of the greatest ways to dishonor God isto dishonor a person. You’re that kind of zealot, and your blogdescribes a grievous affront to God, the major league/minor leagueevaluations and treatment. Your blog would be meaningless if yourlifestyle didn’t validate your words. I highly esteem you for yourcourage to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others.Have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. I’m truly thankful foryou, and honored to be among your many friends,


  12. Trac:Thank you for your comments. Again, I never meant to say that I was the only one with these values. God knows there are millions of Christians with these values. These are the Christians who have become tired of the church as usual and are now voting with their feet as they leave their churches.I was mostly referring to a mind set that is quite prevailing among our American Christian culture. That mind set which has given us leaders who have no problem abusing the members of the body of Christ in order to achieve their own personal ambitions.I am also honored to be among your friends.


  13. i am enjoying reading your articles. i appreciate your honesty. i have always loved your engaging personality, the way you have of honoring those you meet. i’ll never forget when you took tracy, michele, luann and i out to eat at the denver convention. i am also very sorry for the hurt you experienced.


  14. shaw.. really naming your blog shahshank… hahahaha. you are the funniest guy i know. i’m not gonna lie, i only read 6 sentences of your blog. love you man, keep writing. hopefully i’ll read more next time.


  15. If you are an Airhead…then I say lets all be Airheads, because your words are good and HONOR does matter. If validating people makes one an Airhead…then I say God Bless the Airheads. If putting people ahead of agendas makes one an Airhead…then I say Jesus must have been an Airhead. Oh, dear, do you think the “major leagers” will call me a heretic if I call Jesus an Airhead? Oh well, I’m not here to please THEM anyway!When did Christianity become all about bigger and better anyway? I thought it was supposed to be about Glorifying the Son, which in turn Glorifies the Father. We don’t need a mega (or a giga) congregation to glorify God, all we need is two or three gathered together in His name.Thank you for being an Airhead. There is honor in standing up for what is right and in speaking the truth. So, keep asking those questions and speaking the truth. Shake us up. We need it to keep from getting swallowed up in the “Christian system”. I am sorry that you were treated so rudely by that Radio Guy. Rudeness does not honor anyone. It degrades the person dishing out the rudeness as fully as it degrades the one being rudely treated. I am ashamed at how thoughtlessly rude we Christian Americans all too frequently are! No one that Jesus died for (which pretty much covers everybody) deserves to be treated rudely.


  16. Hi sHAH,You said: “You are correct, we abort babies in the western world, but, in the name of honor, the Middle Easterners commit suicide bombings killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children. Both cultures have their own flaws and problems. We should always strive to find what is good in any culture and leave the rest behind. The problem arises when we assume our culture, whatever that maybe, is a Christian culture; not realizing that there is no such thing.”Thank you for writing that. There has been so much negative and derogatory hype in this country toward people of middle-eastern heritage since the incidents six years ago, that I have come to feel that American Christians have turned their backs on reaching out to a whole group of people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.Whether this attitude is motivated by fear, misunderstanding, or hatred…it is the WRONG attitude.And I am ashamed to admit that my own heart has sometimes had to fight to stay away from embracing it.Jesus never had this attitude toward any culture of persons. We have countless Biblical accounts of Him reaching out to all sorts of non-Jewish people. (the centurian whose servant he healed, the Syrophoenician woman whose dauthter He healed, and the Samaritan woman at the well, come redily to mind, but there are many other examples) Indeed the story of the good Samaritan defies us to reach out to others who are from far different cultures than our own. The events that occurred in New York and DC were appalling, but no less appalling than the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children. In God’s eyes sin is sin and murder is murder…no matter what instrument is used to carry it out. To believe otherwise is arrogant presumption.We cannot carry a banner in one hand that says “Ban Abortion” while holding one in the other hand that says “Death to Muslims”That is hyprocrisy. Violence and hatred begats Violance and hatred, it always has, it always will. It is wrong to believe that any form of murder is okay with the Jesus who died to set sinners (all sinners) free.Wow, sorry, I didn’t mean to rant and rave on and on. I simply wished to point out that I agree with you that it is a myth to call ourselves a Christian culture. As you so eloquantly stated, every culture has it’s flaws. As you, I want to have a heart that seeks out the good and leaves the rest behind, so that I can be an effective witness for Christ. And I am painfully aware that it it ONLY BY GOD’S GRACE that I will be able to do that.


  17. In my experience, God is interested in teaching honor to humans. Middle Easterners have the advantage of living in a culture that has embraced and practiced honor. Perhaps I can only speak for myself, but Westerners must find their way towards honor through toil and pain.By hurting some people I’ve loved most, and by building a reputation of “flakiness” with others that I’ve loved most, your honor has ground its way into my thick heart. It may be true that my built character is “worth it”. But it didn’t come without a wake of destruction in its path.In all seriousness, I wish I knew you earlier in life.


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