Are theocracies preserving cultural integrity or persecuting the minority? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 01:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Just 'cause it's so much fun to have these talks with all of you, I thought of another doozy....(and I really do enjoy these threads...LOL)

Is it still religious persecution when it's a theocratic government maintaining cultural integrity by minimizing opposing (and in their mind damaging) influences??

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#2 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 05:04 AM
 
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Ooooooo, you do think of interesting topics!

I was actually thinking about this too. But not in the sense of theocratic governments, so if I may I'd like to widen the topic to include non-theocratic governments that wish to protect their culture for other reasons.

Specifically I'm thinking about Vietnam, because that is what I know, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were others. There is religious oppression in Vietnam--the government tightly controls all religious groups and jails people who try to set up independent religious organizations. This isn't restricted to Christians, although obviously they are targeted; Buddhist monks that refuse to practice in the official church have also been jailed.

It's bad, no doubt about it. But I can't help having some sympathy for their reasons for doing it. It's not so much because they are communists and think religion is the "opiate of the people" -- the government today is basically communist in name only -- it is more because they are a former colony and the French priests that arrived in Vietnam in the 1700s acted as the vanguard of colonialism. They came and started converting people. The Vietnamese leaders reacted against this because, like most traditional societies, religion was very much the core of their culture. They thought it was barbaric that the Christian converts wouldn't worship the ancestors, and believed that such impiety would weaken the whole nation. So they told the priests to leave. The priests didn't leave, so they killed a few. Which enraged the French and gave them an excuse to invade. And so on. The Christian Mountgenards (sp?) were also used extensively by the US in the US-Vietnam as well.

So you know, I don't really blame the Vietnamese government for being suspicious of religious groups. Religion is a highly effective way to motivate and organize people, and it can and has been used for political purposes all throughout history. For a country like Vietnam, which is fairly small and has a long history of foreign domination (Chinese, French, Japanese, US) I can understand that they may feel such groups are a risk they are just not willing to take.

I strongly support freedom of religion and hope that one day there will be true freedom of religion in Vietnam. But I can't condemn the government. The fears that fuel their actions are valid, I think. In Vietnam their fears are political, but in another country it might be the fear of losing their culture. There was a comment in the other thread to the effect that converting to Christianity doesn't really affect the culture of a people, but it does, because religion is often the core of the culture.

So basically I am messed up and don't know what to think about it.
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#3 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 11:38 AM
 
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again I have to say I don't think this is likely something that *can* be answered with surety. It's quite subjective.

It IS persecution/oppression. no doubt about that. BUT the meaning is clearly different than just randomly hating other religions. well atleast in part it's different - but the true underlying tone of both seems to be fear of what the religion means or will do to a country/people/person.

On the other hand... people would and could argue that religion is more important than culture. of course this would vary between religions as to which was more important. and what about it was more important. (corperate vs. personal worship ect)

In my eyes there is NO perfect governmental system. no perfect way of protecting selves AND others. no way to not discriminate while keeping selves safe. Forever it will go on trying to protect itself... changing, growing, morphing into new things. it just is. Religion as well as patriatism lives with in a person and can't be pushed into a person from the outside. this may cause people to take on the culture of the religion, but not that passion of it.

Of course, I do believe my "religion" to be more than just religion. it is my heritage AND my passion. it's my purpose. and right or wrong, I know many peopel feel the same about their religions (which boggles my mind when i think about it!) People who are not religious tend to group all religions together and say things like "a different religion is right for different people". but dare I say most passionate people simply do not believe this. (some, I realize). just as most people don't believe it's ok to beat your kids as a way of raising them or that eating deadly poison is good for you in some cultures. (I know a little far-fetched... but my point is that it isn't as a easy as "this for me, and that for you"). so again, it gets even more complicated there. and some people would say there are different religious experiences and way for each person - but only within a certain realm. (like who in America would agree with child sacrifice even if it's from a passionate people who truly believe they are doign right, for example?)

it's just... complicated. religion is complicated. it's like asking "what is the purpose of humanity?" and expecting to get the same answer from everyone. it just aint gonna happen.

did I manage to get an answer somewhere in my bunny trail there?

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#4 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 11:45 AM
 
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I think that a theocracy has to be, by nature, totalitarian (although, obviously not all totalitarian govs are theocracies). Of course the most prominant example in today's world is Iran. I think that the gov there does less cultural maintainance and more attempting to create an ideal religious society. That is the big difference to me...Persian culture is actually being destroyed by the gov. there because tehy do not see it as conforming to Koranic ideals.
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#5 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 12:20 PM
 
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I don't believe that any theocracy is even a legitimate government. Every individual has the right to choose their own religion. Its as important as food, water, or air. You are always going to have people who don't follow the religion of their parents. Its just a fact and no claim to cultural integrity should trump their rights.

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#6 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 02:36 PM
 
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Of course, I do believe my "religion" to be more than just religion. it is my heritage AND my passion. it's my purpose. and right or wrong, I know many peopel feel the same about their religions (which boggles my mind when i think about it!) People who are not religious tend to group all religions together and say things like "a different religion is right for different people". but dare I say most passionate people simply do not believe this. (some, I realize). just as most people don't believe it's ok to beat your kids as a way of raising them or that eating deadly poison is good for you in some cultures. (I know a little far-fetched... but my point is that it isn't as a easy as "this for me, and that for you"). so again, it gets even more complicated there. and some people would say there are different religious experiences and way for each person - but only within a certain realm. (like who in America would agree with child sacrifice even if it's from a passionate people who truly believe they are doign right, for example?)
If I am understanding you correctly you are saying that the missionary impulse comes from the passion and belief that one is saving souls for eternity, bringing people a better way of life? And so that work takes precedence over temporal things like culture and government?

If so, I do understand that. But as you said, it is so subjective. Whatever the Ultimate Truth is of the matter, from our earthly perspective one person's salvation can be another person's destruction.

Oh, and I have to add that I don't think that a universalist attitude towards religions ("this for me and that for you") is a function of how passionate one is toward their religion, it is a function of the religious beliefs themselves. There are religions that are not universalist, so even the most passionate believers accept that another religion may work better for another person. Buddhism is one. From what I've learned from the Jewish people on this board, I think Judaism is another. I'm sure there are more that I don't know about.
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#7 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 03:14 PM
 
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I have a lot of sympathy for, for example, the Saudi position on non-Muslims entering into Mecca. The religious justification is a little tenuous, but the history of colonialism and orientalism being what it is, the history of specifically European Christian travelers making a simultaneous entertainment and mockery of Islamic cultures, I do sympathize. I can't see how it can't be said to be both, however -- preserving cultural integrity AND persecuting the minority. There's no either/or there to be had.
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#8 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 03:26 PM
 
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Oh, and I have to add that I don't think that a universalist attitude towards religions ("this for me and that for you") is a function of how passionate one is toward their religion, it is a function of the religious beliefs themselves. There are religions that are not universalist, so even the most passionate believers accept that another religion may work better for another person. Buddhism is one. From what I've learned from the Jewish people on this board, I think Judaism is another. I'm sure there are more that I don't know about.
You know, Buddhism is traditionally concidered a missionary religion. Yes, many Buddhists feel the way you describe, including I believe the Dali Lama, but I don't think their reasoning is really comparable to Judaism.

As for the original question. It seems to me that a lot of theocracies have two things in common. One is that they often have a very large majority of people who belong to one religion.

The other is that they reject the possibility of secularism. And I don't think that it is so much that they think it is a bad thing, but they think it is not really possible.

In our system, the institutions of church and state are seperate. People's beliefs, though, do enter into government because the voters have beliefs, religious or otherwise, as do the representatives. Now in some cases we suspend those beliefs, allowing each individual to work them out for themselves. Usually there is a way to judge what kinds of latitude individuals need to be given, in a constitution for example. (Though there are cases where it can be very difficult.)

But theocratic systems would usually say that is a fools' dream. I suspect they would agree that belief (religion) and action (government) are always connected in the individual, and so we cannot separate them at the institutional level either. So both would see the individual as in a way the primary unit in the community, but the conclusions they draw are really different.

It also strikes me that secular systems really only work if there are a core set of beliefs that all religions or worldviews embrace in a similar way. If we ever had a sizable group of people with fundamentally different ideas about most things in our population (selfishness is good) then it would be a real problem.

Mind you, I don't think that is likely, but who knows?

I know we tend to think of some of the more brutal regimes when we talk about theocracy, but what about Bhutan?

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#9 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 04:22 PM
 
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You know, Buddhism is traditionally concidered a missionary religion. Yes, many Buddhists feel the way you describe, including I believe the Dali Lama, but I don't think their reasoning is really comparable to Judaism.
You are right, as I understand it Judaism basically sees itself as God's plan for the Jewish people only, so it has no missionary impulse at all. Buddhism is very much a missionary religion but really has no problem with it if the local population says "no thanks" because that decision isn't going to condemn them to an eternity in hell; the worst that will happen to them according to Buddhism is that they may need to go through a couple extra reincarnations before they reach enlightenment. So there just isn't the urgency there that other religions' missionary efforts have.

It is interesting that you brought up Bhutan, since it is a Buddhist theocracy. Apparently it is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world (number 8 on the list, and the only poor nation in the top 20) but it also is consistently identified as being oppressive to other religions and persecuting Christians in particular. So how's that for a total mixed bag?
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#10 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 04:30 PM
 
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I wanted to add that I think part of the reason Western countries in general have more freedom of religion is because we are confident enough in our power that we can afford the luxury of freedom of religion. A small country like Vietnam or Bhutan does not have that luxury. Even a big, powerful country like China, while not afraid of military invasion by a foreign power, is afraid of "cultural colonialism" where the immensely powerful Western culture, through the internet, movies, trade, etc etc, eclipses and replaces traditional Chinese culture. So they try to assert their identity, in part by returning to their traditional religion and banning all other religions.
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#11 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 04:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok my take is that Buddhism is a missionary religion but not a proselytizing religion. There's a HUGE difference. Buddhists do good works, but will help even those who don't have any interest in (or even reject) buddhism itself.

So does a government have a right to say hey, our country is based on this belief system, it incorporates this belief system into our daily lives, our daily laws, and we aren't ok with any other faith interference?

The first thought that came to me was Iran. I'm sure there are more.

I'll opine a bit longer when I'm not juggling the kiddos...

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#12 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 05:17 PM
 
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Well to be fair a lot of Christian organizations do good works for people regardless of whether the people accept Christianity or not. I used to work for a Christian charity in a refugee camp; certainly we hoped our example would lead people to Christ, but we weren't going to pull out if they didn't.

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So does a government have a right to say hey, our country is based on this belief system, it incorporates this belief system into our daily lives, our daily laws, and we aren't ok with any other faith interference?
This is the crux of the issue, isn't it? I suppose the answer depends on whether one prioritizes the collective (the whole country) or the individual. Obviously the answer here in the US is "no, the government does not have that right". Because we prioritize individual rights. However I can think of Western countries that have drawn the line in the sand, not at religion, but at other cherished national values. The comment made by a Dutch (I think?) politician comes to mind along the lines that the one thing they will not tolerate is intolerance because it goes against the national character.
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#13 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 05:45 PM
 
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Well to be fair a lot of Christian organizations do good works for people regardless of whether the people accept Christianity or not. I used to work for a Christian charity in a refugee camp; certainly we hoped our example would lead people to Christ, but we weren't going to pull out if they didn't.

yes I'm not exactly sure why people think all of Christianity tries to convert everyone. and disrepects other religions. the real honoring of God/Christianity comes from obedience to their commands, not by changing others. Which I believe is the main principle in MANY religions.

however yes there are those that try to change everyone around them with no thought to their own feelings or journey... but what can I say? every group has it's ignorance people.

for me? I hope to be an example and to always be open to discussion and it is true I do hope they will want what I have and join me in my journey b/c clearly I believe it to be truth. but that is a FAR cry from those terrible missions everyone seems to have come to mind where people harass people into "becoming Christian". (I'm so sorry that those things exist at all! it's a mockery!) Religion is a very personal journey between God and His people. and I always try to encourage people to seek truth. but yes i would help people out REGARDLESS of their interest in my religious beliefs.

anyhow a bit of a tangent... but I felt it need better explained so my last comment made sense.

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#14 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 06:22 PM
 
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Is it still religious persecution when it's a theocratic government maintaining cultural integrity by minimizing opposing (and in their mind damaging) influences??

I'd have to ask, what do you mean by "minimizing"?

If it's a theocracy one would expect that laws and leadership would generally be pretty much under the particular belief set of said theocracy.

I would label it persecution if minority religions were not permitted to gather freely, to speak openly, or to practice their own worship privately.

For instance, were I living in a country who's laws included certain standards of dress in public (certain Islamic countries, for example), I wouldn't consider it persecution. I'd obey the law and dress appropriately. If the national holidays and national days of worship co-incided with the prevailing religions holidays, that wouldn't bug me. If school religion classes taught that prevailing religion, well, that would be expected. If certain materials were not allowed (porn, for example, or even Western movies), I'd find that a sad but to-be-expected part of living under a theocracy (ETA, not sad about banning porn but sad that information and education was restricted).

However, if I lived in that country and obeyed the laws to the best of my ability, but was subject to beatings, jail time, having my house trashed, having my place of worship burned to the ground, etc because my personal belief is not in line with the beliefs of the nation, then I would call that persecution. If it were probable that I would be harrassed by authorities for having a cross necklace or a cross in my home, that would be persectution. If I had to hide my minority religion in order to avoid physical abuse or death, that would be persecution.
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#15 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't believe that any theocracy is even a legitimate government.
I'm not sure I follow you on this? Could you explain?

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#16 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 06:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'd have to ask, what do you mean by "minimizing"?

If it's a theocracy one would expect that laws and leadership would generally be pretty much under the particular belief set of said theocracy.

I would label it persecution if minority religions were not permitted to gather freely, to speak openly, or to practice their own worship privately.

For instance, were I living in a country who's laws included certain standards of dress in public (certain Islamic countries, for example), I wouldn't consider it persecution. I'd obey the law and dress appropriately. If the national holidays and national days of worship co-incided with the prevailing religions holidays, that wouldn't bug me. If school religion classes taught that prevailing religion, well, that would be expected. If certain materials were not allowed (porn, for example, or even Western movies), I'd find that a sad but to-be-expected part of living under a theocracy (ETA, not sad about banning porn but sad that information and education was restricted).

However, if I lived in that country and obeyed the laws to the best of my ability, but was subject to beatings, jail time, having my house trashed, having my place of worship burned to the ground, etc because my personal belief is not in line with the beliefs of the nation, then I would call that persecution. If it were probable that I would be harrassed by authorities for having a cross necklace or a cross in my home, that would be persectution. If I had to hide my minority religion in order to avoid physical abuse or death, that would be persecution.
ITA that abusive behavior is unacceptable on a humanitarian level, regardless of the intent or purpose.

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A theocracy, by definition, is a form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state's supreme civil ruler, or in a broader sense, a form of government in which a state is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. For believers, theocracy is a form of government in which divine power governs an earthly human state, either in a personal incarnation or, more often, via religious institutional representatives (i.e., a church), replacing or dominating civil government.

So, is when does it cross into persecution? Abuse issues aside (which, like I said before, are unacceptable regardless of intent or reason), what would make it ok for a theocratic government to not allow other religious influences? If it's a true theocracy (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vatican City, Tibet) then by default doesn't the state maintain the right to not allow other religions out of state vested interest?

Oh...and by minimizing I mean discouraging or not allowing. I do NOT mean 'abusing those who disagree'.

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#17 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 06:41 PM
 
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Wouldn't discouraging or not allowing minority religions require abuse (as defined by jailing, punishing, or physically "discouraging" gatherings or the like) in order to actually work?
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#18 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 06:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was having the same thought.

So a theocracy has the right to dictate religious affiliation within its borders.

But how...without being abusive?


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#19 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 07:08 PM
 
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I'm not sure I follow you on this? Could you explain?

I believe that freedom of and from religion is so critical that any government that tries to establish a state religion in any way is an illegitimate government that should not be allowed to continue in its current form. I'm not advocating a violent revolution in any location. I just think the people of the world should be working towards the complete separation of church and state. Even the U.S. that supposedly sets a example on this issue has a long, long way to go towards actually becoming a truly secular government.

The only way a theocracy could be a legitimate government is if every single citizen agreed with the chosen religion supported by the theocracy. That is impossible since each day new people are born and there is simply no way that every single one of them will end up believing in the state sponsored religion.

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#20 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 07:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I believe that freedom of and from religion is so critical that any government that tries to establish a state religion in any way is an illegitimate government that should not be allowed to continue in its current form. I'm not advocating a violent revolution in any location. I just think the people of the world should be working towards the complete separation of church and state. Even the U.S. that supposedly sets a example on this issue has a long, long way to go towards actually becoming a truly secular government.

The only way a theocracy could be a legitimate government is if every single citizen agreed with the chosen religion supported by the theocracy. That is impossible since each day new people are born and there is simply no way that every single one of them will end up believing in the state sponsored religion.
Well, without playing semantics here, theocratic governments like Iran *are* legitimate governments. I realize your opinion is that they shouldn't exist...but they do....so there we are.

I guess the other side of it is that people who disagree w/the theocracy could live elsewhere?

FWIW I'm not saying I have even remotely close to 'the right' answer, I just thought this was a fascinating question to play around with.

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#21 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 08:07 PM
 
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I've often had a related question...if a country was set up that was to be a strict Christian theocracy, and your beliefs fit with the system, would you want to move there? I often hear people asking about a city, I believe, in Florida, that's supposed to be a traditional Catholic haven.
So, given a choice between being surrounded by people of your faith and living by laws and customs that come from your scriptures, or being out in the world, what would you choose and why?

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#22 of 54 Old 02-26-2009, 10:42 PM
 
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I've often had a related question...if a country was set up that was to be a strict Christian theocracy, and your beliefs fit with the system, would you want to move there? I often hear people asking about a city, I believe, in Florida, that's supposed to be a traditional Catholic haven.
So, given a choice between being surrounded by people of your faith and living by laws and customs that come from your scriptures, or being out in the world, what would you choose and why?

probably not b/c I don't believe government and religion should mix. (it's complicated, but that's the heart of the matter.)

I would however consider moving to a place where a general population was more of the type of religion I am. so my kids could be surrounded by that which I desire them to learn etc.

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#23 of 54 Old 02-28-2009, 12:27 PM
 
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It is interesting that you brought up Bhutan, since it is a Buddhist theocracy. Apparently it is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world (number 8 on the list, and the only poor nation in the top 20) but it also is consistently identified as being oppressive to other religions and persecuting Christians in particular. So how's that for a total mixed bag?
Yes, I find Bhutan to be a really fascinating place. And although I think that suppressing religious practice is ultimately a bad thing, I find I am somewhat sympathetic to their position. They have a small, very homogeneous population, and as you pointed out, a really happy one that has strong traditional values. They have been protected from the outside world because of geography.And I think those values are part of the reason they are so happy. So are they going to allow the values of all the unhappy, capitalist and materialistic nations of the world to come into their society and substitute their values? I think it is interesting to compare them with Nepal - all the junk and dead mountaineers covering Mt Everest. The people of Bhutan don't climb the mountains because they are sacred, and their mountains are pristine.

But I think in the end, it is really impossible to control other people's conscience, and oppressing religion seems a foolish endeavor in that case.

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#24 of 54 Old 02-28-2009, 01:16 PM
 
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I understand shutting out other cultures. I totally understand wanting to avoid Westernization.

But not oppressing spiritual beliefs. I honestly think the majority of new converts to Christianity outside the west are perfectly willing to maintain most cultural practices, since quite honestly most cultural practices don't directly violate Biblical principles--in our contact with Christians in India, for instance, we often see reference to arranged marriage, traditional family life arrangements (multigenerational living), traditional clothing, traditional gender roles, etc. In Ethiopia where dh is from, there is definitely a set of "old school" folks who mourn the Westernization of their young people and prefer to keep as much of their traditional culture as they can without violating the Bible.

It is unfortunate that Western missionaries in the past sought to Westernize other cultures. It was part of the awful, horrifying eugenic mindset of that era, which was not limited to Christianity but pretty much spanned all belief systems in the West among the upper classes. It was that "tame the savages" idea, and some sought to do it through eugenic breeding and sterilization while others sought to do it by "bringing God" to the masses--iow, both Christians and atheists belived it. : My dh's family experienced this first hand and he has "issues" with Western missionaries to this day because of it. OTOH, those same missionaries have been active in pointing out the problems with female genital mutilation and supporting native leaders who oppose it, because to this day the vast majority of females in Ethiopia are still cut, even in the "progressive" churches. Same with wife beating and abuse.

How would Bhutan be a less happy place if it allowed other religions to be practiced quietly within the culture, while not allowing massive cultural changes? What cultural things does it need to protect from other religions? And are the oppressed happy in Bhutan, or do they not really count when people are asking how happy the population is?

This is such an interesting conversation!
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#25 of 54 Old 02-28-2009, 02:46 PM
 
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Cappuccinosmom, I agree with you! I wish what you say could happen - societies retaining their cultural integrity while allowing all people to freely practice the spiritual tradition of their choice. But I think that in this big bad ol' world, it is very hard if not impossible for that to happen.

For one, there are many societies where core cultural practices are in violation of Biblical principles -- I am thinking of pretty much most of East Asia where ancestor worship is the norm. If you get rid of the family altar, you're not just rejecting some God or deity, you are rejecting your very own parents and grandparents. It shakes the very foundation of the family relationships. I just don't think you can separate out culture and religion like that.

The other issue is that, at its very core, Christianity is a missionary religion. Jesus himself told his disciples to go and teach all nations. Certainly there are some denominations that emphasize this more and others less, but how can a government like Bhutan's ensure that Christianity is practised "quietly" as opposed to proselytizing? Even today, missionaries routinely flout national laws to spread the word because they have been called to do so by a higher power than an earthly government. Think of the Bible smuggling programs, or the people that enter a country on a tourist visa with the goal of proselytizing as many people as possible? (I met several such "tourists" when I lived in Vietnam.) In a way, Vietnam is trying to do exactly what you say -- people are perfectly free to practice any religion they choose, as long as they do it in a state-sanctioned church (that presumably the government keeps an eye on to be sure they are not proselytizing or spreading any anti-government propaganda). In other words, as long as they practice "quietly". Naturally people see this as a violation of their freedom, and they set up unauthorized churches which ends up which them being jailed (Buddhists and Christians both).

So I just don't see how a country can possibly allow a foreign religion to "practice quietly, while not allowing massive cultural changes". It's a lovely idea, but it seems it never works out that way .

ETA: Of course one thing that hasn't been said is that Western commercialization is today a far more powerful force destroying traditional cultures than any religion. Honestly, I don't think traditional cultures stand a chance...
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#26 of 54 Old 02-28-2009, 04:25 PM
 
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the thing is though... cultures change through time. it's not as if Vietnam has been Vietnam forever. or that China has been China forever. I mean 70 years ago China's culture was completely different than it is now. Cultures change.

I'm not saying I don't sympathize with the desire to keep some of the old cultural ways - b/c I completely do. I can't stand the idea of even the thought, of everything changing when something new comes along. there is a part of us that is deeply rooted in tradition. HOWEVER, there is also the side... well that we are a moving and changing people. we evolve, for lack of a better word. There is no way a government can stop change completely. and when they try, ironically it usually changes for the worst. meaning it may not change into a different "religious culture" BUT it does change to a dictatorship style country. which brings with it it's own religious and cultural changes.

I would like my kids to carry on with their religious heritage. and I fully plan to raise them as such. but when they are adults... well I know if I try to control them- what they think, say, do, or even worship - then even if they were too scared of me to change, it wouldn't be from the heart. and b/c it wouldn't be from the heart they wouldn't be happy and they wouldn't be happy so neither would their kids and then their kids would say "we don't want that oppressive religion! let's change and be something else!" and to me... it's very much like that with a government which tries to control change and religion. it may hault change for a bit... but then it completely backfires pushing people into the very change they tried to avoid.

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#27 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 08:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Great post HP! It took me a bit to get back to this thread; I didn't want to just pop in and give a flip response...this has gotten SO interesting!

As far as Asia though, I think China is a good example of 'what's gone wrong' with allowing western influences into the country at the expense of dessicating the culture. Actually, Korea and Japan come to mind as well. While I clearly don't have experience with even a fraction of the population of these countries, DH is Korean and I've known several people from China and Japan, and this is an ongoing conversation. The running theme seems to be that in the quest for modernization, the 'old ways' have gone by the wayside. I think there is a tremendous amount of grief, and rightly so, for a culture that has survived for THOUSANDS of years and literally in a mere century is left gasping to retain its identity. All of this because it began 'allowing' the outside (political and religious) influences to permeate the region.

I'm not sure what the solution would be to prevent it, but I'm saying that I think places in the Middle East see what's happened in 'Asia proper' and inherently want to avoid that loss of historical identity...which is rooted in their religion because of the theocratic influences.

I'm not saying that persecution itself is acceptable, by any stretch of the imagination, I'm just saying that I can see the justification for closing themselves off to outside religious influences. Like a pp said, Christianity is a proselytizing religion AND it's heavily associated with Westernization. If a country wants to maintain theocratic integrity AND avoid the permeation of western culture, it would make sense to prohibit a religion that, by in large, seems to have the reputation for disregarding both issues.

FWIW, I'm not saying specific Christian people ALWAYS have this intention. There is a Lutheran church near our house that is very active in the missionary field, and I know they are opposed to proselytizing. But because of the reputation of Christianity, they have had problems with the work they do in Africa for the very reasons we are discussing here.

And, there was mention earlier of Buddhism and its missionary work earlier. I think the reason Buddhism is on the 'no list' for some countries is because of it's teachings of passive resistance, not because of the threat of proselytizing. Christianity and Islam are, in my understanding, the two major religions that adhere to proselytizing as a higher command.

Oh..there is a Christian People Only Welcome town in South Carolina. Our old boy scout leader and his family moved there and they were interviewed on CNN. But that's a whole 'nother thread, now aint it

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#28 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 08:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Coming back to add a thought...

If a government (w/theocratic beliefs or not) has laws against evangelism, shouldn't that be respected by people of other religions? I personally know a family who 'felt the call' to move to Spain and take up radio broadcasting that is targeting the Islamic population across the Strait into Morocco. When they are here (they come back every few years to talk about their 'calling') they bemoan the 'strict' laws of Morocco that mean every backpack is searched for bibles and tracts upon entry into the country, specifically from Spain as the missionaries have really set up camp there and actively work at proselytizing undercover. At the same time, there are blogs of people who happen to be Christian (or Jewish) in Morocco and don't have any problems, simply because they do not proselytize.

Morocco is an Islamic country. According to the 2004 International Religious Freedom report, the Moroccan Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice, but proselytizing is forbidden. According to Article 220 of the Moroccan Penal Code, "any attempt to stop one or more persons from the exercise of their religious beliefs or from attendance at religious services is unlawful and may be punished by 3-6 months' imprisonment and a fine". The article applies the same penalty to "anyone who employs incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion."

So, is this persecution? Doesn't the government have the right to make this distinction?

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#29 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 03:16 PM
 
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I think the question of when people have the "right" to break laws is a very delicate one, and larger than just laws about religion. When is it ok to break any law that seems wrong? (Slavery, votes for women, recreational drugs...) It comes up in democracies as well as other types of governments.

My inclination for being a practicing Christian in a country that prohibited making converts would be to follow the law, but be very aware of making a good impression to the people around as an individual and a church. But it would be hard, especially in direct dealings with people; how do you not talk about your religion if asked? The problem with flouting the law, to my mind, is that it would make it appear that Christians were trouble-makers, and I think a government might well use it that way.

I really don't think that suppressing other religions will preserve traditional values in a good way. In most cases I think many traditional values and practices could be maintained even with a change in religion. And change is not always bad. In a place like Bhutan, many of their traditional values are actually more in line, IMO, with Christianity than so-called Western values.

But there would be so much sensitivity required by missionaries to behave that way. Even ignoring what happened in the past, it seems like not all churches are very mindful in choosing who they send to represent them. I think they would have to go to learn at least as much as they went to teach.

What do people think about missionaries targeting people who are already Christians, from another denomination. It seems to me it is a problem that doesn't look good at all to outsiders.

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#30 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 03:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Theoretica View Post
Oh..there is a Christian People Only Welcome town in South Carolina. Our old boy scout leader and his family moved there and they were interviewed on CNN. But that's a whole 'nother thread, now aint it
wait a second... what? are you kidding me? where did you read that!? oh my gracious...


re: Christianity trying to westernize other cultures:

You know, I think most Christians don't give a lot of thought to the whole proselytizing thing. I mean to be honest YES, it is a command to go through all the nations and twach the gospel. And YES it's a higher command and we are to adhere by. HOWEVER, I do think that perhaps the modern day church at least forgets a few things... or rather perhaps hasn't thought of them:
  • westernizing doesn't equal christianity. two very different things!
  • sharing the gospel doesn't mean pushing the gospel. sharing implies it should be shared openly to anyone who desires to have/hear/talk about it.
  • Cultural differences in dress and ways of living aren't all "anti-christian"
  • we are called to share the gospel and serve. NOT to destroy and wreck other civilizations.
(oh I could write a long list, but i will stop there for now)

another thing I wanted to add that I think gets very lost outside of Christianity (and It's our fault for not taking it more seriously as a religion) is that not everyone who say "I am christian" is actually a religious and passionate Christian. meaning they may read the "commands" but not absorb. and they may say the prayers but not understand them. etc. and that is a great danger to any culture and religion. I am not a part of this "big church" mentality myself - but i grew up in it. it was "turn to God or burn in hell!" kinda teaching. and it's just so very wrong. it isn't like that at all - it doesn't express anything like that in the Bible. those are men; uneducated men, spouting off things. making checkmarks for everyone they scare right into heaven. But people aren't stupid. they don't want it! they recognize the ignorance and see it for what it is - just a scare tactic. (I'm not saying I don't believe in hell - that's a whole other post. but i don't believe in using it as a way to make people "saved")

When the Christian Bible talks about us being saved - it doesn't mean saved from burning in hell - it means saved from our sin and separation from god. BUT... we don't seem to be doing a very good job of expressing that. *sigh*

it depresses me to hear who other people view Christainity. and after hearing so many things on this list about how people have been approached by people trying to "convert" them in very odd and unchrist-like ways - well I don't blame people for getting irritated with it! I would too! Unfortunately the loudest members of a group tend to be the ones that make a name for themselves... and sadly this has happen. but I assure you we all don't have this weirdo idea or goal of westernizing all the people of the world. (in fact most of us dislike our western culture for many reasons!)

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