I don’t know about you, but I have grown accustomed to hearing the cultures of primitive peoples lauded as untainted and the closest thing to perfection. These tribes, kingdoms, and people groups, relatively unexposed to western customs, seem to have the close connection to nature and instinct that developed people groups have supposedly lost, declare anthropologists and those resistant to modern changes. I almost began to believe it during my college tutelage. The textbooks declared it; the professors declared it; the field trips declared it; the documentaries declared it. Yet certain nagging contradictions held me back from fully subscribing to that conviction:
1. The treatment of women. Progressive America is all about the rights and equality of women. We resent anything that gives even a hint of placing males above women. Yet primitive cultures do just that. Look at the sexual objectification of women in Tahitian hula, for example, beginning at very tender ages. This hula is an extremely sensual dance, but it is celebrated because of its cultural value. What about the hoots, hollers, and catcalls that resonate through the audience as the women and girls violently gyrate their hips and hold their hands above their head or place them provocatively upon their sides? That’s not objectifying women?
2. The acceptance of social classes. Progressive America is appalled by social class. We are agonizing over the fact that there is a growing gap between the middle and lower classes in our own country, and everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else as they actively play the blame game. But if I remember my anthropology studies well enough, every ancient culture had the very same thing. In Hawaii, if even the shadow of an Ali’i fell upon a peasant worker, that worker was to be killed. Life was great if you were a member of the ruling class, but woe! if you were an average citizen. This is true for any primitive culture – then or now.
3. The role of religion. Progressive America is deliberately removing all traces of Judeo-Christian values from the public and governmental sectors of society. For some reason, these values threaten the rights, freedom, and progress of the American people. They are seen as bigoted, intolerant, and hateful. Christian speech is viewed as hate speech. But interestingly enough, traditional religion was an integral part of ancient culture – and these religions were anything but inclusive. If the people didn’t adhere to them one hundred percent it cost them their lives. Sometimes the religion demanded the lives of its people on an annual basis in the form of human sacrifice. Sometimes these religions incorporated child prostitution in their places of worship. This certainly isn’t discussed too much when ancient and primitive cultures are praised on NPR or PBS or the Discovery and History channels, is it?
These were just three simple examples of the selectivity used by those leading progressive America. There are so many more – the cannibalism, the child brides, slavery, slash and burn techniques in farming, polygamy, honor killings, genital mutilation, etc. America is not innocent either. Less than 200 years ago we ended the cultural tradition of slavery and what a horrific tradition that was. We are currently harboring the tradition of infanticide in the form of abortion. We are celebrating homosexual marriage and stripping all traditional values from family entertainment. Any resistance to these cultural changes are condemned, just as they were during the time of slavery.
Culture is inseparable from humanity. It is what defines us as individuals and as community members. Culture formulates our worldview by gaining our approval or disapproval. The very fact that culture is integral to mankind makes it fallible. Culture cannot set our moral standard for culture is designed by man. As Brad Pitt declared in 12 Years a Slave, “Laws change. Social systems crumble. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, it is a plain fact, that what is true and right is true and right for all. White and black alike.” This can be said for all cultures. Murder is wrong in every culture; not because the culture says so, but because murder, in and of itself, is wrong. Child molestation is wrong in every culture; not because the culture says so, but because child molestation, in and of itself, is wrong. Why? Because the Creator of mankind is the Creator of universal law. He has set the standard for right and wrong, good and evil, and in the end He will administer supreme justice for every law that has been broken. Neither wistful glances into the past nor romantic stories about days gone by can erase the wrongs committed by tainted cultures, past and present alike.