This post first appeared in the Christianity for Life blog
There are many separate groupings of humanity that adhere to different and varied world views and practices. We call these groupings cultures. Cultures have come and gone throughout history, making an accumulated contribution to the cultures currently practiced around the world. We have rich archaeological evidence of ancient Egyptian, Roman, Aztec and Ethiopian cultures to name just a few. Depending on how you measure success, some of these cultures did very well, and others not so much.
In the 21st century there remain many different cultures in the world, some very old, some new, and some just temporary. But unlike the great civilizations and cultures of the past, there is very little physical separation between today’s cultures. We’re tripping over each other left and right, and influencing each other in almost every facet of life. Take food for example (a favorite topic of mine). Have you been to the food court at the mall lately? The one I frequent features Mexican, Greek, Korean, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, British, Italian and, of course, American fast food. Each of these culinary styles was developed within their respective cultures based on geographic location, climate, prosperity, availability of ingredients, religious eating taboos and a host of other influences. With the possible exception of British food, those I listed rate very high on the yummy scale and have become popular throughout the free world (don’t fret, I’m an ex-pat Brit).
So in the area of food, we definitely benefit from the influence of cultures different from our own. Other cross-cultural benefits include fashion, literature, music and the arts. We share and build upon these things to enhance the human experience in this world.
Now, we don’t share everything. There are cultural practices that we’d rather not embrace. For example, as an expression of mourning, the women of the Dani tribe in Indonesia cut off a segment of their own finger whenever a relative dies. In rural India, a person of the untouchable caste is prevented by culture from ever improving her lot in life, or that of her children. The haka tradition of the Maori people involves menacing facial expressions, grunting, guttural howling, loud chanting, stomping, clapping, chest-thumping, and tongue-wagging intended to strike awe and fear into opponents. We try not to do that where I live.
So culture is a very subjective thing.
I’m no anthropologist but I think its easy to observe that residents of countries that are founded upon or have embraced a particularly successful culture enjoy relative peace and prosperity. Those residing in countries where the culture is characterized by say, oppression, greed and corruption do not enjoy much peace and prosperity at all.
Is it OK to say that? In our world of political correctness and leftist feel-good ideologies, we’re discouraged from declaring that any particular culture might be superior to another. We might be accused of racism, or even worse, hate-speech.
So let’s be clear on that. If someone tells you that Asian people possess higher intelligence than white people, they’re making a racist statement. If they maintain that white people are more trustworthy than people of color they’re taking a racist position. If, like Hitler, they blame Jews for their nation’s economic woes, that’s hate-speech. But what if they proclaim that Japanese culture is superior to Hindu culture, or American culture is superior to North Korean culture? Are those racist statements?
Before I go any further into this minefield, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am a Christian. My God teaches me that every human being ever born is equal in His sight, and I believe that to be true. All individuals are born equal. No exceptions.
But some cultures leave a lot to be desired.
I live in Canada where something called multiculturalism is embraced. Its government policy. We’re a nation of immigrants, myself included, and since the early days of British colonialism the country has grown and prospered through primarily European emigration. Apart from the myriad aboriginal cultures, Canada actually developed something of its own culture. We have Mounties and hockey, Eh?
But like many western nations, the face of Canada has changed immensely in the past few decades. Looking around at faces, one might mistake the city of Vancouver for Hong Kong. Some suburbs resemble the Punjab region of India. Turbans and Sikh temples. Burqas are multiplying fast. Its a much different country than the one my family emigrated to in 1967.
And that’s OK. Canada is a free country with an enviable standard of living. Opportunity abounds for those willing to work for it, and we welcome immigrants from around the world who want to contribute. The whole world. We need immigrants to keep our economy strong. Its a win-win thing.
People are welcome, but some cultures leave a lot to be desired and are best left at home.
The simple fact is that western culture, with all its flaws, has provided us with the freedom, prosperity and human rights that we enjoy but take for granted. This is a culture that should be promoted, not held equal with lesser cultures.
A few years back, my neighbor’s teenage daughter took her own life rather than accept an arranged marriage to a man in India she had never met. She was born, raised and educated in Canada; a child of western culture, victim of another.
Honor killings are on the rise in North America and Europe. Hindu and Muslim women, killed at the hands of their their own family because they are victims of rape, or because they brought dishonor to their clan by seeking western freedoms. Selective abortion is common, ensuring the birth of sons, not worthless daughters.
These are the cultures that are displacing traditional Judaeo-Christian culture. These are the cultures we’re asked to embrace in the name of multiculturalism. Why?
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