Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cultural Diversity Has Some Limits

As has been reported in certain science/religion journals, humans are prone to process things wholisically. (I really don't know how social scientists observe or measure such things) And, it seems that such is the case with the past 24-36 hours for me.

Sunday I read and blogged on my reading about 'the Dutch" and experiencing their culture through the eyes of an artistic Washington woman. She photographed and wrote and I resonated.

My pastor preached a sermon on the relationship of marriage and Monday I started to think again about civil unions, and Church and State issues.

Last night, being bored and alone, I watched a movie based on a factual case of teen pregnancy and its effect on a local high school. Even though the drama was a "little over the top", the message was how teen pregnancy is devastating to the whole community, as well as the teens involved. Abstenance is not realistic in an idealized and impulsive teen world that is bombarded by sexual messages wherever they turn.

And this morning it was reported that many European cultures are banning the "burka", a Muslim woman's head covering. This ban is only in public places and the reason was to protect Western culture.

What do all these experiences have in common? Culture, values, and impact on others.

Although I do resonate with Dutch culture because of their historicity and openness, I also resonate with the individualism in American culture. One must evaluate what makes for a culture and why. What is important to a culture and is that of primary importance for the whole to survive. That should be the question of what is of value to further and what is not.

This brings me to matters of dress, when it concerns certain religious garb. If there is a necessary covering because of a certain climate, which was most probably the case with the "burka", then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, when a religious tradition defines certain standards as mandantory because of the tradition's need to control the behavior of another human being, then I think it does not qualify to be upheld in a different culture. no matter the argument of "tolerance".

Religions have developed over the ages and those in power in these traditions had a vested interest in protecting their power. So, secularism would protect from a dominating religious tradition, which is necessary to remain a free society.

But, while religious traditions can protect their values for their own purposes, there are certain values that are necessary to protect for society's sake. Such is the issue of the family. Marriage is the foundation of society and it's future citizens. So, the family is certainly to be an important focus and interest for society at large. Since the family is so important many issues facing Western culture and it's families are necessary to challenge, study, and change.

The issue of teen pregnancy is of major concern and importance to society because it limits the teen's ability to further their future and it brings stress and pain on the teen's immediate family, as well as the reprecussions of the newborn's needs that might not be met by a teen mother's immature emotional responses/reactions.

Society finds itself "bringing up baby", but not in the sense of the past, when communities were close, life was slow and the child could find its place in the larger world without feeling "lost". Today social service agencies are stressed beyond measure and the Church shuns those whose behavior has not met their standard.

Conservatism wants to hold to past tradition for good reason. The family is the center of the child's identity and security. But, society has always brought challenges to past traditions and must address how to answer those challenges today. Abstinence is the "ideal", when it comes to teen sex, but the statistics do not bear out that Christian teens are any "better" at keeping their pledge of chasity than the larger teen population. This fact alone has bred many sectarian groups that try to protect their teens from such behavior. Though this is one response in our society, is this the only response the Church should sanction? Should society at large be of concern for the Church? And how is that challenge to be met?

Today's challenges reach beyond teen pregnancy, which has always challenged the mores of our society. Today the challenge to marriage and the family is homosexuality. Should homosexuals be alowed to express their innate desires within the boundaries of marriage? Or is marriage the tradition of the Church alone, and should never be condoned by the sanction of the insititution of marriage?

My pastor's sermon was about marriage and what makes a good marriage. Sex is not the recipe for a good marriage, but a relationship that is trustworthy and valued for its own sake. Children are a result of the physical intimacy of marriage, but should never be the purpose for marriage. Otherwise, many couples, whether older or barren, have no "right" to be married. We should think deeply about what our values are and why we have those values before we write off a challenge to tradition's "tradition".

Liberty of conscience was the value of our Founding Fathers. We must continue that tradition to continue the value they had of a "free society". A society that is free from domination of any kind, as tradition should not dominate a culture's values, at the expense of cultural needs for change.

At the same time, the Founder's knew that the value of tradition was the foundation of society's values, without them, society suffers superficiality and incongrence.

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