Resolved: Western Civilization is Morally Superior to Certain Other Cultures. Discuss.

Sir Charles Napier had it right: Change the culture!

Sir Charles Napier had it right: Change the culture!

One of my favorite lesbian clerics (yes, I have more than one such favorite), the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, has a post on her Episcopally renowned Telling Secrets blog about an op-ed last week in which an Anglican bishop in Uganda urged passage of…

… the proposed “new” law in Uganda which calls for capitol punishment for the “crime” of what they call “aggravated homosexuality.”

Translation: Anyone who is open and honest about being an LGBT person.

Digging into the original op-ed, I find that even though the bishop in question supports the comprehensive anti-gay legislation in question, he doesn’t actually WANT to kill gay people.  He wants scientists to cure them.  I suspect this qualifies him as a liberal by Ugandan standards.

Anyway, since most of you won’t actually click the link to Mother Elizabeth’s blog (I double-dare you!), I’m taking the liberty of reprinting here the comment I posted on her blog:

Kirk Petersen said…

Elizabeth, I agree that it’s about power. Power matters, and the culture of the power-holder matters.

Some cultures are morally superior to others. As tolerant people it makes us uncomfortable to hear that, but it’s been true for centuries.

In the 1840s, when India was a British colony and General Sir Charles Napier was its President, a group of Hindus complained to him about the prohibition of suttee — the practice of burning widows alive on their husband’s funeral pyre.

His reply? “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom. When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we shall follow ours.”

To stave off any tedious “Wikipedia is not authoritative” arguments, I tracked down a scholarly reference, one of many:

If you Google “Charles Napier ‘burn widows’” you’ll get 22,000 hits.

Yes, the British have to answer for some despicable actions over the centuries…. but they also seeded Western values around the world. Eventually those values may take hold in Uganda.

Long-time readers of All That Is Necessary may realize that this discussion has implications for Islamic Fascism.

If you’d like to argue the other side of the “resolution” in the headline, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  I will be at least as civil as you are.


4 thoughts on “Resolved: Western Civilization is Morally Superior to Certain Other Cultures. Discuss.

  1. Wow. Rob, I assumed you were pointing at one of the anti-gay passages. But when I looked it up, I found that you're dipping even further back into the benighted past:

    11) A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12) I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

    Paul's first letter to Timothy goes on to give some very confusing and self-contradicting rules for when a widow may and may not remarry (I Timothy 5:3-16), and then for good measure tells slaves to "regard their masters as worthy of all honor" (I Timothy 6:1).

    This is not the word of God, it's the word of Paul.

  2. Well, let's not dismiss Paul quite that easily. He was speaking to a particular audience at a particular time for a particular reason. Which is why he often contradicts himself.

    I would encourage our brother Rob to read the Letter of James 3.

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth, I knew you'd have a more theologically sound response.

    Since most web surfers don't even click links, let alone look up Bible verses, I thought I would post the relevant text here. I'm guessing you're referring to the first verse:

    1) Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

    It's not quite as pithy as Rob telling you to shut up and get back in the kitchen (I'm paraphrasing), but I like it.

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