I read a diverse perspective of sources, left, right, anarchist, biblical, political, cultural, artistic. I read because I want to understand, I want to grow and I want to learn. This week I ran across an intriguing quote/story in one of those sources that is often, to me, obtuse and needlessly critical. It is also a source that I find compelling only about half the time.
Nevertheless, this story is worth reading. It is anecedotal but powerful. It is short but hard hitting. It comes from website, “The American Vision” (https://americanvision.org/19628/more-anti-culture-war-comments-from-john-macarthur/) and relates an analysis of cultures based on and in a history of Judeo-Christian ethics over against all other cultures. Although I didn’t appreciate the “click bait” nature of the title, this excerpt is worth some thought:
Civilization was once identified with Christianity. Winston Churchill, for example, saw the Battle of Britain as a struggle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. “Upon this battle,” Churchill said on the 18th of June 1940, “depends the survival of Christian civilization.”3
In his book The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Vishal Mangalwadi shows how worldviews matter, and how it was the Christian worldview that created the idea of cultural exceptionalism. He begins his chapter on morality by describing a conversation he had with a Sikh gentleman in 1982 who was returning to England after visiting his parents in a Punjab village in northwest India.
He explained to Mangalwadi that doing business in England was easy and profitable. The man could not speak English very well, and yet he was a successful businessman. Mangalwadi wondered, “How could someone who spoke such poor English succeed as a businessman in England?” So I asked, “Tell me, sir, why is business so easy in England?” Without pausing, he answered, “Because everyone trusts you there.”
Later in the same chapter, Mangalwadi tells the story of the time that he and his Dutch host went to a dairy farm to get some milk. There was no one to greet them or take their money. He and his host opened the tap, filled the jug, put the money in a jar, and took their change. Here was Mangalwadi’s reaction:
I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Man,” I said, “if you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money!” [His host] laughed. But in that instant, I understood what the Sikh businessman had been trying to tell me.”
Mangalwadi goes on by telling how he shared “this story in a conference in Indonesia. An Egyptian participant laughed the most. As all eyes turned to him, he explained, ‘We Egyptians are cleverer than these Indians. If no one was watching, we would take the milk, the money, and the cows.’ The gentleman was too charitable toward us Indians.”4
(John) MacArthur and others forget that the Bible does not begin with Jesus. It begins with God creating the heavens and the earth. Jesus’ redemptive work as the second Adam is to restore everything of what was lost.
3 Quoted in John Baillie, What is Christian Civilization? (London: Oxford University Press, 1945), 5.
4 Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World, 249-251.
Vishal Mangalwadi is sometimes called India’s most prominent Christian intellectual. Sounds like a book worth reading.