Culture Faultlines

After talking about ideas of masculinity in the Church, and after looking at complaints about the mix of Christian identification and political issues, there came up this news item on the Japanese view of their returned hostages from Iraq.

At the base of the cultural views of East and West on such issues is something of the very different philosophical views of individuality, social responsibility, and moral duty.

How very difficult for those caught in the crushing demands of opposing worldviews. And as Jesus pointed out ( in the case of God and Mammon ) you will please only one side. It is impossible to meet the approval of both.
Democracy is sometimes called a Greek idea, but its present form is rooted within the Reformation’s interpretation of the Bible’s mandates of man’s duty. It is a Western idea, mainly. Grown out of the soil of a Reformation fertilized England.

And Japan, while strongly advocating freedom and democracy, has a different view of social responsibility grown out of different soil. The Western mindset is a veneer lacquered firmly onto the social base of traditional Japan. But ths hostage situation created some cracks in the veneer.

To the American mind, the hostages were doing something highly honorable and sacrificial in putting themselves in harm’s way for the sake of the needy persons of Iraq. The journalists were brave to risk the vulnerability of on-scene reporting as freelancers. That is our way of seeing it.

But the Japanese way has a different set of standards, and the returned hostages offended those standards in adhering to a set that most of the West applauds.

The whole idea of choices is one with many landmines when cultures meet. And it seems that there are even more when they try to meld ideals of government into their culture without addressing the ethical changes that will incur.
It illuminates the great difficulty the West will find in trying to implement freedoms and government forms in the strongholds of Islam. Especially where there are strict dictations of particular sects.

If Japan, in its secular society, has had struggles with the clashing standards of what constitutes duty to ones country and ones fellow man, how much more societies where there is no advocate for the individual? And any system where the idea of God is superimposed over the government will end in the most vicious of oppressions. Without answer or recourse.

That is why the Reformation views on government were founded squarely in the idea that God gave law as a means for man to govern himself properly, with due rights and process. Where the Law is King, but not a law unto itself. Where the ideals included certain inalienable God-given rights that even God, Himself, would not compromise.

Those ideas must be cultivated in the soil of the people. The freedoms must rise from grassroots level. And in the cultural faultlines, one will have to jump to one side or the other. The lines will not be nation’s lines, they will be lines based within the state of the heart.

2 thoughts on “Culture Faultlines”

  1. Two problems with that.

    First is that Iraq was a secular regime, not a “stronghold of Islam.”

    Second is that the angry response to the Japanese hostages is far less to do with their social responsibility towards the people of Iraq and far more to do with the situation their government was placed in. The families of the hostages begged for Japanese troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, and when the hostages were released without this, bowed very deeply and made a sincere apology for the request. The first words of all the hostages were “I’m/We’re so sorry to cause all this trouble”. It’s felt that they caused an embarrassing situation for Japan.

    The way you and a lot of Western commentators have put it is “Japan is an Asian nation and doesn’t value caring for others like we do.” Japanese daytime TV is a veritable bombardment of people doing good deeds. What difference there is is not “we in the West love foreigners, and they don’t” but different beliefs about to which groups their responsibilities lie. If the aid workers had not been held hostage and not caused a difficult diplomatic situation for Japan, they would not have been regarded with condemnation.

  2. The problems in Iraq do not arise from the former secular state, the problems in Iraq arise from ethnic and religious conflicts. But what gives rise to the the intransigence of terrorists?

    It is their beliefs. Saddam Hussein simply used the conflicts to support his own reign of terror.

    “is an Asian nation and doesn’t value caring for others like we do”

    Exactly. They have a different system and a different way. Who is it that places the scale of good and bad? And where does that scale come from?

    Why did those modern Japanese risk the wrath of their nation? They made different value judgements. But that did not change the systems values… it was their individual choice of which values were paramount.

    I am not saying that the Japanese are wrong to have their values. I commented on the clash of the different sets that modern Japanese are dealing with in such situations as these.

    All standards are to be held in contrast to only one as a measure. That is not a cultural standard.

    It is one more evidence that there is such a thing as a measure of good and bad. It can be denied, but not escaped.

    It is not all good.

Comments are closed.