Civilization

An Essay By Julie // 3/14/2009

What are the foundations of a civilized society? Must it have a certain system of government? A predetermined level of technology? A written language? Advanced weapons?
The foundation of civilization is religion and morality. It may not have a Judeo-Christian background—although a majority of modern nations have—but human life must be esteemed and valued in all forms. Right and wrong are clearly defined. This doesn’t mean that everyone is perfect, but there shouldn’t be moral relativism. Morality should be the same for everyone, whether king, peasant, or elf. Those on the side of right need to be willing to unite and fight injustice in all of its forms.
The principle of morality leads to the pillar of chivalry. For most people, the term calls forth images of knights in armor and flashing swords. And that idea is not altogether without merit. For most soldiers these days, the enemy remains faceless and hidden. But real valor requires meeting an enemy face-to-face, staring into his eyes and hearing his last words. In such circumstances, it is impossible to think of them as vermin. Without that bond between men, war is far too likely to turn into a ruthless bloodbath. Yes, evil must be destroyed, but not at the cost of annihilating human dignity.
Another mark of civilization is the careful use of power. Whether a nation is run as a monarchy, a democracy, or a republic, those with authority over men must use it carefully. It should be neither an anarchy or a tyranny; for one puts too much hope in the goodness of men, and the other overestimates the evil of men. But no government will endure beyond the morality of its citizens or the trust placed in it.
A third pillar of civilization is respect for the past. Whether or not an alphabet exists, tales and legends of the past are handed down from one generation to the next, providing roots for growth. Heroes of the past are honored, not misjudged as “products of their times.” Land is neither venerated or wantonly destroyed; men behave as stewards of the earth, tending it wisely.
Economists talk about GDP and recessions, but a thriving economy is one where every interaction is undertaken with concern for both parties. People only purchase what they can afford, only borrowing in extremity.
On all fronts, America is failing. Our Founding Fathers are cast as oppressive, white, Protestant males, while minorities are viewed as downtrodden heroes. Concern for the earth has been twisted into a society where roads are rerouted for flies, while unborn babies are murdered as a matter of choice.
Politics has become more gruesome than war, for character and truth are slaughtered on the battlefield for positions of power that last less than a decade. The government is simultaneously cast as callous for ignoring civil war in Serbia and intrusive for disposing a dictator in Iraq. Like the false prophets in the days of Jeremiah, Jeremiah, people today rage against any war. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace…; but the peace they seek is the peace of weakness. It is the peace of ignoring evil because correcting it demands sacrifice.
People demand limitless freedom for the obscene while screaming “improper” at the slightest hint of Christianity. Divorce, gay marriage, drugs, alcohol, and abortion are cast as matters of choice and civil rights, while Bible reading and prayer are seen as violating the First Amendment.
All traditional standards have been obliterated, leaving in their wake “art” consisting of stacks of garbage, “music” composed of random noises, and PG-13 movies that would have been rated R less than fifty years ago.
The great American civilization has crumbled. Although we have advanced technology, skilled medicine, and great knowledge, we do not have the only thing that makes life worthwhile: a personal and intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savor and Lord of our lives.
Who is more civilized; Aragorn or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Galadriel or Al Gore? When a horseman of Rohan has a greater respect for life than a senator from Rhode Island, maybe we need to reconsider the meaning of “civilization.”

Comments

Chinese Civilisation

I think the Chinese civilisation is not given as much credit as it should - if we think about it, why is it the oldest-surviving civilisation? What has contributed to its longevity and influence? The Sumerian civilisation is older than the Chinese, and yet all we have left of them are cuneiform tablets and scholarly studies.

I am somewhat biased because I am Chinese, yet I was raised in a Westernised Asian city-state and given a Western classical education. I was almost totally ignorant of my ethnic heritage and culture until I was 17, when I started re-learning the Chinese language in earnest. It was then that my Euro-centric worldview turned east, to the land of my roots.

I submit that the Far East, without the influence of Judaism or Christianity, is far more civilised and at one with itself than Europe will ever be.

As a parting thought - most of the wars fought in Europe, or started by Europeans, used religion as an excuse. In the Far East, wars were fought when a dynasty had lost its Mandate of Heaven, or simply for power and wealth.

julesyim | Tue, 07/28/2009

Response

You bring up some interesting points, and it's true that Eastern civilizations are often overlooked in history classes. Howeve, I take exception with your statement,  most of the wars fought in Europe, or started by Europeans, used religion as an excuse. In the Far East, wars were fought when a dynasty had lost its Mandate of Heaven, or simply for power and wealth.

Unfortinitely, many religions were spread using the sword. However, the creation of the Catholic Church and its resulting entwinement with the Roman Empire beginning in the time of Constantine resulted in a complicated political situation. But if you are trying to imply that Christianity is a religion of warfare--and perhaps that is not your intent--Jesus himself said,  "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."(John 18:36) 

And he also said his followers would be persecuted

Matthew 24:9-14:Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Also, Asian civilizations, like most other ancient ones, practiced human sacrifice

 

Julie | Tue, 07/28/2009

Formerly Kestrel