What is Wrong with Our Culture?

Editorial in Star of the East, 1996

At the close of the Millennium, one realises with remorse that Christians have not always managed to be the light of the World or the Salt of the Earth, as our Lord wanted us to be. Especially in the last two or three centuries, when Western Civilisation with a supposedly Judaeo-Christian heritage, became the major shaping influence in the life of the human race; human culture has not only not become more Christ-like, but has in fact become increasingly more demonic and anti-human.

War not only persists in spite of talk about living in a global village. Local wars become more numerous and in some cases most inhumanly technological. Nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, made possible by our dramatic advances in science-technology, mock us by refusing to go away, even after the so called Cold War is supposedly over. The horrendous arms trade which feeds wars and helps the oppressors of humanity to exploit them as well, becomes the backbone of many economies.

The baleful cry of the victims of global and national injustice reached a crescendo in the Seventies, only soon to be stifled by other legitimate cries for human rights, for women’s rights and for a healthy life-environment. In the midst of this clash of cries, there descended upon humanity that appalling shroud of a “Single Market Global Economy”, taking away all hope from the oppressed and the poor, gripping them in the vicious iron-vise of near-permanent exploitation by the technologically and militarily more powerful sub-sections of the human race.

Our civilisation has gone sour. It breeds morbid death and mindless violence in such frightening measures. It destroys basic human relations, undermines trust and faith among humans. The family, the ground and matrix of all good human relations, gets increasingly abused, despised and rejected. Gratification, money and power become the most sought after values. Empty talk about “Value Education” and refurbishing old values gets us nowhere.

And Yet, we remain blind to what has really gone wrong. What is at the root of our civilisation is a fundamental denial of the Transcendent as the central element in Culture. In the 18th and 19th centuries Europe decided to throw God out of all that matters -- from education, from healing, from civil governance and from the communication media. Human autonomy, with unaided Human Reason as its principal instrument, was enthroned in place of the Transcendent. And we are reaping the harvest.

Some aspects of this issue are raised in the papers about Gospel and Culture. We hope it starts a discussion.