Tuesday, September 16, 2008

When Deeply Cultural Convictions Rule the Day

There was a little noticed Associated Press article released last month entitled Pakastani Lawmaker Defends Honor Killings. The article was so stunning to me, so outrageous, so inhumane I continue to be shocked that not more has been said about these "honor" killings in the West.

The Associate Press reported that:

Five young women in Pakistan were buried alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands . . .

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who is a lawmaker in Pakastani Parliament and represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

What the Pakastani lawmaker calls "immoral" are young women having the gall to choose their husbands for themselves, rather than "submitting" to the will and authority of their fathers. My question is simple: Why do these fundamentalists feel compelled to call "immoral" violations of their cultural customs? Whose "honor" is at stake?

The Associated Press continued its report, detailing the deaths:

The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud, according media reports and human rights activists, who said their only "crime" was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing.

Zehri (said that) . . . tribal traditions helped stop obscenity and then asked fellow lawmakers not to make a big fuss about it.

In other words, "our customs keep our fellow Pakastanis 'pure,' and to put a stop to these 'cultural customs' will lead to further corruption." It sounds like the Pakastani culturalists are saying, "If we give an inch to these women, then we will wind up as a culture promoting other 'immoral' activies, including obscenity, sexual immorality, etc . . ." (sound familiar?)

How sad. How so very sad.

Unless people stand up and oppose those who seek to impose their "cultural customs" on society, then "lawmakers" like Zehri, who justify such "cultural demands" with appeals to "morality," will end up ruling everyone.



Anonymous said...

What a very sad and backward place.

Not all cultures are worthy of emulation. Some are in desperate need of change.


Bob Cleveland said...

I hope they don't take to throwing those young women under buses. In certain areas, even within the SBC, that seems to be an OK thing to do with young ladies.

(Irony, sarcasm and double entendre' all intentional.)

Anonymous said...

"If we give an inch to these women, then we will wind up as a culture promoting other 'immoral' activies, including obscenity, sexual immorality, etc . . ." (sound familiar?)

Sometime recently I was reading on the distinguishing marks of the Pharisees (I think it was D.A. Carson's commentary on John, but it could have been something else). They are known for their oral tradition, but the reason they created it was to build a "fence" around the OT law. Their thinking was that if they created rules more restrictive than the OT law, they would be less likely to violate the OT law itself. So, for example, by requiring hand washing they could make it less likely that they would inadvertently violate one of the hygiene laws.

A great deal of the fundamentalist rule-making we see in Baptist churches arises from this same impulse -- let's impose a more restrictive set of rules so we don't violate the "real thing". And yes, in principle it is sadly familiar to what these Pakistanis have done (though I don't know of any Baptists willing to murder their daughters for insubordination).

Anonymous said...

When a culture devalues ANYONE, there are always two victims:

First, the obvious one: the leper, the gay person, the woman who feels called to preach, the handicapped or retarded, the old, the person of color, the person who does not conform, those who refuse to be controlled: the list of those some devalue is seemingly endless.

Secondly, there is a HIDDEN victim: the one WHO PERSECUTES the victim. He is a victim of his own self-righteousness, his own conviction that he is a superior being who must exert judgment or control or harassment on another.

Each incident of persecution makes it that much easier for the perpetrator to attempt his next act of violation of another's person or spirit.

The very sad thing is that sometime we perpetrators justify our actions in the name of the Holy One, forgetting His command to "judge not" .

Alyce Faulkner said...

Religion always slanders and kills what they can't convert.

Anonymous said...

You are correct to approach this as a cultural issue or tradition. It is not a religious issue, that is, Islamic. Many of these traditions pre-date Islam and are tribal customs.

We need to be careful to understand the difference, in other cultures and our own.

Steve said...

As awash in firearms as that part of the world appears to be, I am a bit surpirised that we haven't heard of bullets flying in both directions in these conflicts.

May a Living religious faith take hold there to bring all parties to a true family with a loving and caring "Allah."

Mike said...

100 years from now might we be in similar anachronistic category of this Pakistani lawmaker when it comes to how we view and treat homosexuals...

I think we might.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting in the Fall of Eastern Orthodoxy, the fall came due to stagnation of the Eastern Orthoodox Church and the failure to be evanglical in the generations following the 13th century.

Anonymous said...

They do not think women are as good as men in that culture. They think women should be subordinate to men there, simply because they are women. They limit women in what they can do. Does that sound familiar?

There are people here who do not kill women for what they want to do. But it is a matter of degree, not kind, when women are treated as less than human. Women may leave the SBC to go where they can serve God as they are called. At least in this country they can do that. It is sad that that is their choice.

And it is possible that, in the case of women told to submit to abusive husbands, they might be killed. I guess the answer to that would be that God will reward them in heaven for being submissive unto death!

Whether they defend it in the name of religion or culture it is wrong. Women are human, made in the image of God. They should be treated as such.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Shot and then buried alive! And, yes, we are right to be terrible shocked and saddened but should we really act so surprised?

How dare those young women wish to choose! They had to be kept under control or the whole of their society would be threatened.

Their culture is not the only one that has problems with women making their own choices. It's just a matter of topic.

And, if you have opportunity to learn of the savagery experienced by women who end up in battered-women's shelters, you know that we cannot exactly throw stones.

In short, our own society has done its share to debase, degrade, abuse, under-pay for same work, devalue professionally, and devalue ecclesiastically some of our finest citizens.

Better to light a candle and clean up our own mess. Their culture is not the only one that needs changing.

Anonymous said...

To rmkton:

Imagine, if our country becomes a fundamentalist theocracy, 100 years from now; things might be unbelievably worse!

It might not even be 100 years from now: our country might experience a "hostile take-over" on the scale of what happened to the SBC!

Our economy is not stable. Our country is politically and culturally divided. Politicians in power are playing on our fears. The great bullies of history have come to power in similar circumstances. We tend to take our freedom for granted and right now is not the best of times for that.

Wayne Smith said...


Saudi man kills daughter for converting to Christianity
Riyadh: A Saudi man working with the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice recently killed his daughter for converting to Christianity.

According to sources close to the victim, the religious police member had cut the tongue of the girl and burned her to death following a heated debate on religion.

The death of the girl sent shockwaves and websites where the victim used to write with various nick names have allocated special space to mourn her, while some others closed temporarily in protest.

According to the Saudi Al Ukhdoud news website, the victim wrote an article on the blog of which she was a member under the nickname “Rania” a few days before her murder.

She wrote that her life became an ordeal after her family members grew suspicious about her after a religious discussion with them.
She said that her brother found some Christian articles written by her as well as a cross sign on her computer screen. Since then he started to insult her and blamed the internet for pushing her to change her religion.

The “Free Copts” website published a message which it received from a friend of the victim, revealing that the killer is in police custody and that he is being investigated for an honour related crime.

Saudi religious scholars have frequently warned against the dangers of Christian internet websites and satellite TV channels which attract Muslim youngsters to change their religion.

They decreed that watching these channels or browsing these websites which call for conversion to Christianity by various means is against the teachings of Islam.

Anonymous said...

This is very sad, and I too wonder where is the outrage. Perhaps we have all been desensitized to this type of thing, or perhaps since it is not taking place in America we don't care. God help us.

On the other hand, I think it is some leap to compare this action to the current situation in the SBC. I fail to see the correlation between limiting the office of pastor to men as qualified by Scripture, with the murder of innocent women. Personally, I have two daughters. I want the very best for my girls, and I want them to be happy. However, the Holy Scriptures are the only certain rule for faith and obedience. We must trust that God truly knows what is best for us.

Anonymous said...

Dear Joe,

And do you not think that a woman called by God does not trust Him, also?

It is said that when we find out the name that God calls us, we will know who we are.

The Holy One makes us in His image: He knows what we are and who we are.

Some women know who they are. If God's calling to serve is as strong and powerful as I believe that it must be; then 'even a woman' must answer it.

I wonder whose daughter will be called next?

Is her spirit then to be broken? Is this not also a sad and terrible type of destruction?

wadeburleson.org said...


It's not the office of pastor to which I refer.

It is the privilege of being a female Strategy Coordinator with the IMB.

It is the privilege of being a female and teaching Hebrew at SWBTS.

It is the privilege of being female and being a hospital or military chaplain.

It is the privilege of being female and being Vice-President of the IMB.

It is the privilege of being female and using your gifts in the SBC without culturalists saying, "If we give in to this area, females in the office of pastor is but one step away."



Anonymous said...


I understand where you are coming from, and I should have signified as much in my comment. My comments were meant to address some of the other comments made before me. Comments that are predicting "unbelievably worse" things than this for America. Especially... "if our country might experience a "hostile take-over" on the scale of what happened to the SBC!"

I believe this a giant leap. Do you believe that that United States would do "unbelievably worse" things to women if a Conservative Resurgance took place in our country? I don't.

wadeburleson.org said...

If conservativism is defined as a high view of the sufficiency and infallibility of God's inerrant Word, I agree with you.

If conservativism is defined as a cultural list of "do's and don'ts" that go beyond Scripture, then I would part ways with you.

And what I am seeing defined as "Conservative Resurgence" by some in SBC leadership has nothing to do with Scripture and everything to do with cultural convictions.

Wade Burleson

Mike said...

"If conservativism is defined as a high view of the sufficiency and infallibility of God's inerrant Word, I agree with you."

Interesting comment considering the extensive discussion to your last blog post that sparked the Calvinism-Arminian debate. We (Christians) can't all agree on what God's word says...and even if we did we would most likely disagree on how to implement it.

This is why "conservatism" scares me. It is someone's interpretation of what God's Word says and does not allow for a diversity of opinion. We are all convinced of our "rightness".

Anonymous said...

Brother Louis,

You said:
Not all cultures are worthy of emulation. Some are in desperate need of change.

May I suggest a slight re-wording:
Not all things within any given culture are worthy of emulation. All cultures are in need of God's redemption, which will affirm that which is beautiful and change that which is horrid.

My apologies for picking that out, but it is my experience that on any given side of the ocean, the media only shows the ugliest landscapes from the other side.

May His face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

Anonymous said...

To rmkton:

You said, "We are all convinced of our 'rightness'."

I can tell you that is not always true. God made us all different.

Point is, we SEE a scripture from different perspectives, so each of us will find meaning in it that is personal. I think this is a part of God's plan.

Nice if we could share our points of view, and so learn what someone else is seeing with the eyes that God gave them.

Also, sometimes we can come to a consensus about a teaching, but history has shown that is a rare, if beautiful, occurence.

Also, we encounter a scripture at different times in our lives. The scripture that has a certain meaning when we are twenty may be much expanded in meaning for us by the time we are eighty.

The scriptures are so rich; so layered with wisdom. The Holy Spirit reveals
more and more of this wisdom each time we read. The scripture that has spoken to you on one day may have a different message after the passing of a beloved parent or a child.

If another has seen something in a scripture that you have not seen, perhaps God has a reason for that.

In short, God knows that with the scriptures "one size fits all" wouldn't work because He chose not to make us all clones of each other.

In His wisdom and for purposes we may not understand, He certainly formed us individually.

Enter the culture wars. Mix them with politics. Add a little bias as to what "the Bible says". What do you get? I really don't think the Holy Scriptures were meant to waved around by partisans.

If you see MY point of view, you will understand that I believe that the Scriptures are meant to be approached with reverence and with prayer for understanding.

What is YOUR point of view? You are certainly entitled by the Father to have your own insight.

L's Gran.

Anonymous said...

L's Gran makes a good point about each of us seeing differently and that we should learn from each other.

My father once quoted to me the saying "Experience is the best teacher" then said "But it doesn't have to be your own experience."

We are different and God means from us to learn from each other - none of us has all the answers. Think about the story of the first two humans created. God made them both alike and different. Adam said Eve was part of him, "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh". Because they needed each other they were expected to adjust to each other, learn from each others' differences, yet recognize that they were more alike than different. Many seem to forget this today.

When we recognize our common humanity we can learn from the insights of others. When we are open to others we can learn, even from those who do not agree with us. Consider this: Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. (Of course, the problem there is knowing when!)

Thank you Wade for allowing such a free exchange of ideas here.


Mike said...

L's Gran

enjoyed reading your response to my comment..it was well written and gracious.

In response to your question..."What is YOUR point of view? You are certainly entitled by the Father to have your own insight."...I am afraid that my point of view on the scriptures would not be entirely welcome here...as some have commented. But since you asked...

I have trouble with the inerrancy issue because I don't think we would all agree on what that means...does it mean absolutely no errors? (this is hardly supportable e.g. Mk 16:9-20) does it mean in the original meaning there were no errors? (again, suspect e.g. I&II Tim, Titus) does it mean in the time and culture in which it was written it would have been clear to all (not sure that applies either e.g. slavery issue)

So do I believe the Bible in inerrant?...no I don't. Do I believe the Bible is mostly clear, understandable and inspired?...yes. I think it can tell us enough that we can know who God is in a very real sense that gives meaning to our lives. I think God accomodates us in our limitations.

And I can agree with your statement that "I believe that the Scriptures are meant to be approached with reverence and with prayer for understanding."

Anonymous said...

If you go to http://www.photogenx.net/publish_prayer.htm you will find an excellent 30 day prayer booklet on issues of gender injustice, including the honor killing issue. It is published by missionaries. The wife is a professional photographer.

This was even an issue in Britain this past year as people were debating whether muslim law should hold water within a muslim family. This isn't limited to places far away like Pakistan (not that that should matter).

Lin said...

Typical sbc hypocrisy:


This is considered a huge sin in the SBC...to the point Lifeway has to pull it from the shelves.... but coddling pedophile ministers and excusing sexual perverts is not that big of a deal to our leaders.

Anonymous said...


Where you see hypocrisy, I see consistency.

Lin said...


Where you see hypocrisy, I see consistency.

Sat Sep 20, 11:03:00 AM 2008

Yes, women preachers are so horrible. Even more horrible than the perverts in our pulpits.

But, are there any books by Beth Moore (big money maker for Lifeway), Joyce Meyer or Anne Graham at Lifeway?

Yes, I know you BI people split hairs over 'where' they teach/preach' but I don't have a Talmud for such things. :o)

Tom Parker said...

joe white:
What is the conservative resurgance?

Anonymous said...

To rmkton,

Thanks for responding. You mentioned the word "inerrancy" and I am not so familiar with this word.

As for searching the Scriptures for all the truth contained, I think you may be right about taking into account the culture of the time in which a scripture is written.

Recently, I learned something new about the Roman culture. I learned that, for a Roman soldier, it was considered improper to hit someone with the back of the hand. The soldier doing such a thing would disgrace himself.

When I look at how Jesus asks us to "turn the other cheek", I realize that the aggressor would then have to use the back of their hand to strike the victim. If someone turned the other cheek to a Roman soldier, the soldier would think twice about continuing the abuse.

Learning about the Roman culture has given the words of Christ, in this situation, an expanded meaning for me.

What does "inerrancy" mean? I don't understand it. My belief is that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired word of God as recorded by men. I think it was Lydia (not sure on this) who said she trusted the Bible but not the translators to be "inerrant". So I took the word "inerrant" to mean no mistakes. Is this a doctrine that could be mis-used in a church?

I can tell you that from my religious tradition and education, I do not take the Scriptures literally in the way of some Christians. In some respects, I see literal meaning where others do not. So, tell me what you know.
And thanks, again.

L's Gran

believer333 said...

This is truly sadly disgusting. But its not about religion or morality. It's about men who like to have ultimate control of women, keeping the other women under their thumb by terroristic acts. Its about devaluing the humanity of women.

Mike said...

L's Gran

I took this definition from Wiki but I think it does a good job of describing biblical inerrancy.

"Biblical inerrancy is the conservative evangelical doctrinal position[1] that in its original form, the Bible is totally without error, and free from all contradiction; "referring to the complete accuracy of Scripture, including the historical and scientific parts."[2] Inerrancy is distinguished from Biblical infallibility (or limited inerrancy), which holds that the Bible is inerrant on issues of faith and practice but not history or science"

I think your approach to scripture is similar to mine however I can tell you that many evangelicals take the approach defined above. I do believe that culture, language, and assumed understanding are important in the interpretation of the scriptures.

gillberk said...

The treasure of the Gospel has been entrusted to the earthen vessels of our humanity for the salvation of the world, not for the securing of partisan advantage.A logic that reasonable men and women can grasp by disciplined reflection on the dynamics of human action.