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Some cultures are better than others

Is it arrogant to say that all cultures are not created equal?

It might feel that way; but it isn’t that way. To say some cultures are better than others is not only not bigoted, but biblical.

One story can serve to illustrate: while working in India, the British general, Sir Charles James Napier (1782-1853), was confronted by Hindu priests who were complaining about the British prohibition against Sati (or suttee). This was the custom of burning a dead man’s widow alive on his funeral pyre. To this complaint Napier reportedly replied:

“Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

The world has taken Christ’s warning in Matthew 7:1 not to “judge lest you be judged” and twisted into an admonition to never make judgments of any kind. But that is relativistic nonsense, as becomes clear when we continue to verse 2: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” God isn’t calling on us to withhold from all judgments; his warning is against making arbitrary unfair judgments. We need to be sure we use significant criteria when we make our evaluations – the sort that, were the roles reversed, we would be happy to have used against us.

This is why racism is wrong. Racists base their judgment of a person’s worth on an inconsequential criterion. Would a Ku Klux Klan member want the same standard he uses, to be used against him? “Sorry, but you don’t have enough melanin, so you can’t sit at this counter.”

This is also why it is biblical to say some cultures are better or worse than others. When we evaluate them in light of biblical standards we can say with confidence that a culture that threatens death to anyone who converts from Islam is inferior. When it comes to immigration we could still welcome people from such a culture, but only if they are ready to acknowledge the inferiority of this and other aspects of their native culture.


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