Often, even when they become Christians, both Caucasian Americans and Chinese have a "bottom-up morality". What do I mean? Caucasian Americans, based on much research, are instinctively committed to individualism, and with that individualism a commitment to moral absolutes. That does not mean they practice morality but on the instinctive level they sense that is where they have to make their decisions about life. While on the other hand the Chines national and the Chinese American has a relational morality: what is acceptable to the family, friends, and close associates determines their instinctive morality. "Chinese identity is defined in terms of the system of relationships in which a person is involved (Olwen Bedford and Kwang-Kuo Hwang, "Guilt and Shame in Chinese Culture," Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 33, p. 130). For the Caucasian it is a guilty/innocent morality that is individualized and for the Chinese it is a shame/honor morality based on how the person performs relationally. "Western individualism is premised on the conception of personal rights, rather than personal duties or social goals. In contrast, Confucian ethics are based on concepts of personal duties and social goals rather than on personal rights (Olwen Bedford and Kwang-Kuo Hwang, "Guilt and Shame in Chinese Culture," Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 33, p. 131)."

When persons from each group become Christians, most often they carry that morality over to their Christianity and that determines their relationship to God the Father. The most striking example for me is, I once asked a group of Caucasian university students who were leaders in Campus Crusade (now called Cru), when they woke up in the morning did they wake up with a sense of new-found fresh innocence with an expectation of living under the Father's affection or did they wake up feeling guilty. Every one of them said they woke up guilty. The irony of course is that justification by faith should create a sense of fresh innocence. It did not because they were captured by their cultural instincts. Their morality was bottom-up. Their cultural background determined how they related to the God who is up in Heaven.

In the same way when Chinese become Christian, they take their moral system of finding honor or acceptance by relational performance. So they have to obtain their sense of acceptance by what they do. With God, however, the reality is we can never do enough to gain the feeling of acceptance that is given as a gift in Christ. So their earthly way of finding acceptance again creates the "bottom-up morality." They take their cultural instincts and apply it to the God who is up in Heaven.

In a sense, culture is like a car stopped on a road. Imagine an American Caucasian is in front of the car, and a Chinese national in back of the car. The front bumper of the cultural car is guilt, and the back bumper is shame. When the cultural car goes forward, the Caucasian is hurt by guilt. When it goes backward, the Chinese person is damaged by shame. Ultimately no advantage occurs either through shame or guilt. If he did everything right, in theory, the Caucasian could be guilt free. But he does not. And the Chinese individual should feel perfectly honorable if he treated all of his relationships well. But he does not. So either way the cultural car runs them down. The way out is top-down morality.