"Mission possible" - The Belief in the Power of the "Better Man"
Abstract: This paper deals with the question of what experiences individuals do make, who aim for persuading and convincing others of their ‘own’ and how these experiences structure their everyday life and their self-image. To clarify this question a general and anthropological aspect of human being arises: the optimization and standardization of the human others under the provision of one’s own, which leads directly in the vibrant centre of modern societies in a globalized world. The idea of the ‘better man’ is best characterized by a variety of components, such as selfless service and charity to other, readiness to make sacrifices for fellow human being, self-flagellation, self-deception, and expediency of self-abandonment, which are necessary to one’s own task, especially to enforce a change, optimization, and equalization of other. Some of these strategies for alteration derive from previous theoretical considerations and reflexions on empirical research that has recently been accomplished: From the perspective of psychology of religion and culture, the current intercultural practice, the religious self and the meaning-making actions of contemporary Protestant missionaries have been investigated.As will be shown, missionary activity is rooted in both the process of the formation of experiences and the knowledge acquisition, in the course of which individuals ascertain oneself about their self by meanings and interpretations that are culture-specific and at the same time characterized by one’s own biography. Eventually, missionary activity is just one mode of a more general target-oriented human action, which aims at the improvement and perfection of other. The objective of the paper is at least twofold: both results of empirical research and new perspectives of methodological issues on inter- and transdisciplinary research in social, cultural, and religious sciences will be shown.
Publication: ‘Mission possible? - The Believe in the Power of the "Better Man": Strategies of Religious Optimization and Standardization’ [Mission possible? - Der Glaube an die Kraft des "besseren Menschen": Strategien der religiösen Optimierung und Normierung], Congress of the International Association of the Psychology of Religion’, Bari/Italy: Università Degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro.