Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Truth Telling & Multiculturalism

We have been assuming that moralists who may debate our conclusions at least start from an afterglow of Judeo-Christian ethics where lying (however defined) is bad and truth telling is good.

Now lets step into the real world! Our Western culture is increasingly being invaded by other world views. In some of these views truth telling is not valued, and lying is considered normal, even admirable .

In this post and the next I will talk about two of these invading influences. Multiculturalism today and the trickle-down effect of Nietzsche next time.

Multiculturalism has been the buzz-word in Australia for the last few decades. Now we are facing some serious unintended consequences.

1. “Multiculturalism” involved lies

Fault on both sides. On our side we have acted like over indulgent parents who never correct or discipline their children. The children grow up spoilt brats.

Our programs of “Multiculturalism” did not tell the truth. Not all the truth. We promoted acceptance and tolerance – which was good. We applauded diversity in minor cultural traits – dress codes, food and so forth – which was good. BUT we failed to say: “We have written and unwritten codes of conduct, and we have expectations of loyalty to your adopted nation – and these are not negotiable!” …. in short we lied to them!

We should have acted like good parents: our message should have been: “You are one of us now – and this is how we behave!” and enforced our social and moral values from the start.

On the other side some migrant groups have fully acted out the part of spoilt children. You might say they have lied to themselves, denying the inevitable social consequences of their behaviour.

The Bible says of us and God: “Or do you think lightly of his wealth of kindness, tolerance and patience, without recognizing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to a change of heart...” (Romans 2:4 NEB translation). Some communities of immigrants have – to their shame – failed to recognize that the wealth of tolerance and goodwill they have been shown was meant to win them over to the “Australian” way of behaving. The Moslem community and the recent outbreak of Islamist terror threats is a good example. Rather than Muslims being the most zealous to weed out terrorists from their midst, they complain publicly of discrimination whenever the police arrest a terror suspect or raid properties and seize weapons and terrorist propaganda.

I have no wish to see discrimination, let alone persecution anywhere! I am like a doctor trying to convince a diabetic patient that if they don't change their diet they will die. The doctor doesn't want the patient to die – I don't want racism to rear its ugly head. But I know human nature and I have been to countries where there is racial strife.

The text from Romans 2 continues “In the rigid obstinacy of your heart you are laying up for yourself a store of retribution for the day of retribution...” Like it not not, we do reap what we sow! We have been silly about multiculturalism and it is going to bite us. Moslem communities (for example) are acting like spoilt children and it will come back to bit them if they keep doing that. We need to acknowledge this fact ourselves and reflect the truth of it to others – it may just save them.

2. Other cultures view lying and truth telling differently.

Some cultures do not promote truth telling to everyone.

The recent calls by Islamic State fanatics for war against the world have opened our eyes to many things. One is that these people confine the duty of truth telling to their own group. For these Muslims to lie to an “unbeliever” is not considered wrong. This is a very sharp contrast to the Biblical ideal, where truth telling is an attempt as humans to be imitators of God – who is God of all the world, does not play favorites among nations and even "sends the rain on the just and the unjust alike". So it is wrong to make two groups: one to whom you must tell the truth (whether that be family, or comrades, or co-religionists) and another (the outsiders) to whom you may tell lies.

For the Christian, the obligation to tell the truth may not rule all situations (see last blog) but where it does it applies to all people.

I keep getting phone calls aimed at defrauding me. A very common one is this: “Hello, I am (insert Australian sounding name). I am from the technical department of Microsoft. There is a problem with your computer ...” I hang up about then, but more gullible people have given the caller their computer access codes and been robbed! The real Microsoft does not ring people! Always these would be thieves have foreign and I think “Indian sub-continent” accents. Of course there are many, many Australians who are lying thieves – but experiences such as these phone calls do suggest that in another culture the problem is even more endemic.

How do we deal with this? Jesus said: “be wise as serpents; but as innocent as doves.”

We must be alert to the fact that there are cultures where they believe there is nothing at all wrong about lying to us. Be cautious about believing what they say!

But we must still tell the truth to them – because that is who we are. More importantly that is like God, who we are trying to imitate!

Thirdly: we have to teach our standards of truth telling: because those standards are right!

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