Published: 4 March 2008 (GMT+10)
It is interesting to observe the quandary of former European colonies where a western culture prevails, in handling the status of indigenous groups. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and South Africa spend fortunes supporting indigenous people as cultures separate from the rest of the population. Very often these communities become cesspits of alcoholism, drugs, molestation and abuse. Governments scratch their heads and pour ever-increasing amounts of money at the problems without ever solving them, it seems.
Those citizens of such countries that are integrated into the general society often cannot understand why these indigenous people are not set the same standards as the rest of the population; in other words, ‘Take your opportunity to get an education, work hard and provide for yourself and your family.’
Society as a whole seems to treat these communities and cultures with a different yardstick than that we apply to our own peers and children.1 If our society truly believes in the equality of human beings in western democracies, why does it do this? The very condescension inherent in this attitude seems at odds with the modern world’s disavowal of racism.
I suggest the answer lies in the limits of people, constrained within the naturalistic, evolutionary mindset, to evaluate or ‘rank’ a culture, practice or belief. The only options are to believe one culture associated with a particular ‘race’ to be superior or more advanced than another (politically incorrect today), or else that it is of equal value and merit and therefore demanding preservation and ‘special treatment’. The former was the evolutionary way of thinking in western culture for probably 150 years before WWII. Western humanist men and woman saw an obvious superiority in their cultures when compared with indigenous cultures in the lands they colonized. The rule of law, rights of the common man, protection of women and children, scientific and medical advances, democratic practices of government, education standards and quality of life all exhibited obvious superiority to the lack of many or all of these things they observed in indigenous communities. They concluded that as these benefits of Western society seemed primarily associated with white skin colour, that whites were further along the evolutionary path than various other racial groups (such notions were already in existence prior to Darwin, whose grandfather already published a fully-fledged theory of evolution). The ‘white supremacy’ that has so plagued western society for 200 years was born. Within the mythical evolutionary paradigm, it would have been difficult to arrive at any other conclusion.
What these humanists had arrogantly failed to see and accept was that the society and culture they inherited and valued was built, not on skin colour, but on the Christian worldview. The fact that this worldview was primarily associated with those of less pigmented skin colour was a result of the providence of history during the last few hundred years. This, and the fact that it had previously been predominant in darker skin cultures of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, was lost on them.
The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas has written, ‘Christianity has functioned for the normative self-understanding of modernity as more than a mere precursor or a catalyst. Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in the light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.’2
Individuals and societies reap what they sow and the benefits of Judeo-Christian values reached their apex in the 300–400 years after the Reformation. Those of us who inherited this superior (though not perfect and fast disappearing) culture do not have our skin colour to thank, but the grace of God and the convictions of many Christian preachers, politicians, lawyers and laymen that took God at His Word. With this framework and way of thinking, they built the foundations, sometimes with their lives.3
This heritage is fast withering away and may disappear altogether. It may even become primarily associated with people of other shades of skin colouring4 and bring the same benefits to those cultures as it brought to protestant Europe and from there to other European countries, the colonies and beyond. Its influence is not genetic but lies in the realm of ideas and beliefs and therefore has no physical boundaries.
Unfortunately, both the Christian worldview, as well as the worldview of philosophic naturalism/materialism which predominates today, arrived in many of these places at roughly the same time. And the arrogance and greed of the latter brought devastating consequences in many instances. The evolution-inspired idea of supremacy based on race reached its destructive climax in Hitler’s Germany. The world has rightly recoiled from it since then, but is now left in a sociological vacuum, unable to determine the relative value of beliefs and practices.
Supremacy is a politically incorrect notion today but ideas have consequences and the greatest, noblest of ideas given us in God’s Word, resulted in the greatest, temporal benefits to mankind (besides the eternal benefits). They were the result of a worldview derived directly from the ‘big picture’ given in the Bible. The fact that this worldview was primarily but not exclusively associated with a particular group over the past few hundred years is of no more significance than the predominance of a certain colour of clothing in a crowd on any given day.
- This does not mean, of course, that it is easy for individuals within those indigenous communities to simply take that advice and advance their cause. Dysfunctional cultures/communities impact the lives of individuals and can often impact their ability to benefit from such things as educational opportunities the rest of us take for granted. Much of the money spent on such communities is often squandered on bureaucracy, and despite the need to escape from the ‘victim’ mentality, there is always the reality of discriminatory attitudes, in a self-perpetuating cycle. Return to text.
- http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Jürgen_Habermas Return to text.
- An increasing number of academics, among them non-Christians, are today willing to concede that the advances of modern science and technology would not have been possible without the way of thinking provided by Christianity. return to text.
- We all have the same brown-black skin colouring chemical—melanin—only differing amounts of it, leading to different shades of the same colour, essentially. Return to text.