IN 1960 Mr. Roderick Meredith and I visited a mining compound in Kirwe, Northern Rhodesia — just a few minutes drive from the Congo. We were privileged to be shown through some native markets.
Mr. Meredith and I were appalled to learn that many of these natives can't afford even fly-covered dried fish. They commonly eat less expensive fare — worms! The heaps of worms we saw in more than one native market looked like common grubs.
Not Our Standards! The "civilized" world of today prides itself on its intelligence, its culture and its advancement in science, technology and philosophy.
The so-called modern, sophisticated, "civilized" person looks on pagans and their customs with disdain and repugnance. The aborigines of Australia, Africa, South America and other parts of the world are treated as backward and "uncivilized."
But are WE really as civilized and cultured as we have been deluded into believing?
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines the word "civilize" as: 'To cause to come out of a SAVAGE or BARBAROUS state; to INSTRUCT in the CUSTOMS of CIVILIZATION; EDUCATE; REFINE."
And what of the word "civilization" which we so pride ourselves in having achieved? "Civilization" is defined as:
"1. Advancement in SOCIAL CULTURE. 2. A state of social culture characterized by relative progress in the ARTS, SCIENCE and STATECRAFT."
Have we ever stopped to examine our own customs and practices to see if we are really cultured and civilized? In some parts of the Orient it is commonplace for a housewife to walk into a "meat-market" where a plentiful and diverse supply of snakes are caged. The Indian attendant reaches into a cage and pulls out a number of writhing snakes. The oriental housewife then selects the serpent of her fancy. The proprietor takes a knife, cuts all the way around its "neck," slits its skin from head to tail, removes it, and then passes the still-living writhing, skinned snake to the pleased customer, who puts it into her shopping-bag and makes her way home to prepare it for the family.
Our western world would call this barbarous!
But what about the Western or Occidental world? Are we very much more civilized than they? In most any city of any size in America, Britain, Canada or Australia one can go into a delicatessen and select from the shelves rattlesnake meat, canned worms, or many other "delicacies."
Good Eating? Now come with me into a modern, plush and very expensive restaurant in New York City. When one enters the restaurant, he is met by the smiling Head Waiter who ushers him and his party to their table. The furniture is very plush; the seats are covered in fine leather; light is mostly by the romantic flicker of candles; soft dinner music can be heard in the background; the waiters are dressed in tails and have thick foreign accents. The general decor and atmosphere make it truly a delightful place in which to have an enjoyable dinner.
A smiling waiter walks up to your table and puts artistically printed menus in front of you. On the menu (and included among the hors d'oeuvres) are listed such things as common earthworms and agave worms, fried ants or, if you prefer, chocolate-coated ants or bees, rattlesnake steaks, eels, snails, octopus, turtle soup, shrimp, crabs, oysters. You look at the menu half amused, half-nauseated at the thought.
As you look around, you see competent, civilized, intelligent-looking men who have been successful in the world. They can afford these "delicacies." Their female companions are usually elegantly dressed ladies wrapped in furs, decked with jewels.
But is this really "culture?"
You ask yourself how these successful men and women can possibly be so devoid of understanding as to pay so dearly for a dinner which usually includes at least some of these abhorrent creatures! Then you are reminded of the proverb: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12).
Now look at the food eaten by the average man-on-the-street.
The average American, Canadian, Australian or Briton exists on a "dietetic horror." Man takes the minerals, bran, the wheat germ and other precious food elements from the wheat. He feeds that to the pigs. Then he feeds his fellow man on the "refined" product. The iron and other vital elements are taken from sugar beets and sugar cane and we are then given the "refined" white sugar. Poisonous preservatives, bleaches, and other nocuous chemicals are added before ' reaching the consumer! Is it any wonder that many are anemic, constipated, diseased and just teetering on the brink of collapse?
Ridiculous Clothes Now look at the clothes worn by the so-called civilized world. We look with amused curiosity upon the garments of aboriginal tribes, Orientals or people of the Near East and then we smile to ourselves! The garbs of these people appear strange or perhaps ludicrous to us. But just how ridiculous are our customs?
Bikini bathing suits, plunging necklines, short and tight dresses, "short-shorts," skin-tight slacks — are these really any more modest than the dress of the non-western world?
Today on television human beings are turning more and more to nudity, while animals are being clothed! Perhaps one will, in the near future, behold the ridiculous spectacle of a near-nude human being riding on a fully-clothed horse, or leading a well-dressed dog! We surely live in a mixed-up, topsy-turvy world! Is this true civilization?
We look with amazement at heathen tribes who paint and powder themselves in what appears to us a ridiculous fashion. But doesn't our modern "civilized" woman also use lipstick, rouge, powder, mascara, hair dyes and other forms of "make-up?"
Many foreigners who visit our lands for the first time are amazed and shocked at what they see cultured westerners doing.
"The fantastic world of women's fashion has grown into one of the greatest con games ever devised... The tab for fuss and feathers [all types of women's make-up] is now close to 25 billion dollars a year...
"Every man should be able to enjoy looking at a womanly woman, but today's fashions do not permit it. The average female looks like a witch, with heavy-rimmed eyes, hair puffed out into a toadstool shape, and her shape below disguised as a lampshade, T-square or triangle..." So says Reader's Digest, October, 1962.
Concrete and Steel Jungles Now consider another aspect of life as found in the "civilized" world. Today it is common to find (in the larger cities of every nation) veritable concrete and steel "jungles." In these manmade jungles live scores of millions of human beings — cooped up like animals! Children born in such circumstances have no parks in which to play, and must often grow up like alley-cats or stray-dogs — running the streets!
"Civilized" peoples ridicule the superstitious practices of the aborigines and the ancient pagans. Yet many superstitions and fables are just as firmly rooted in so-called enlightened peoples. Some who ridicule the divine inspiration of the Bible, accept instead the theory of evolution — which is not only unproven, but unprovable. The modern belief that life originally sprang from ocean slime is actually an ancient pagan superstition.
How many people have you known personally who are fearful of certain "unlucky" numbers; who refuse to walk under a ladder because of superstitious fear; who wear a rabbit's foot, a crucifix or some charm or amulet around their necks?
You would be utterly appalled if you knew how many people base their lives on their personal horoscopes and plan their future "according to the stars." How many people do you know who believe in water-witching, crystal-ball gazing, palmistry, or who will use a plum-bob or some other instrument to reveal to them hidden knowledge. There are many modern forms of wizardry, witchcraft, horoscopy, and other forms of demon practices and superstitions which our people still cling to — practices which God condemns (Deut. 18: 10-12).
We in the "civilized" world ridicule the witch doctors and so-called "medicine" doctors of heathen lands. But many of the pills, drugs and other concoctions which are daily pumped, piped or pushed into the mouths or veins of human beings were formerly used by many "uncivilized" medicine men. It has been said by a noted English medical doctor that if all these medicines and drugs were dumped into the ocean, it would be much better for humanity and much worse for the fish!
Reports an editor in Maclean's magazine: "for the past several weeks I have been questioning physicians, pharmacologists, hospital clinicians, scientific researchers and others about the 'confusing, dangerous mess' in therapeutics. My own general conclusion is that, unless we quickly mend our ways, we are on our way to creating a nightmare of drug-induced heart and blood disease; damaged livers and kidneys; impaired hearing, sight and sexual powers; and the birth of an increasing number of severely deformed babies." (Maclean's Magazine, December 1, 1962)
In many remote areas in the Americas, the Middle East, Asia, and the Polynesian islands, there are people who are almost without drugs but have a more natural diet, and have healthy bodies that live to a great age. What is so "civilized" about the way we wreck our health?
Are we, then, as "civilized" as we would like to believe? Look at the way many people treat animals with great kindness and tenderness; and then compare this with the way they treat fellow human beings (made in the very image of God Almighty)!
Modern Art — Is It Civilized? Or consider the question of modern art. Surely the field of "modern art" reveals the mixed-up, weird, wacky and unbalanced tendencies of this generation as much as any other one thing.
Today it takes only a low intelligence — or no intelligence at all — to paint prize-winning modern "art!"
"Several artists angrily removed their paintings last night from an art show at South Gate, California, after one of the ten prizes was awarded to Miss Teresa Bates for a black and white abstract. They complained that the judges should have been informed that Miss Bates is only 22 months old.
"The judges stood by their decision. 'Many times children's art can be better than adult, art,' said one of the judges, Mr. Robert Chuey, an art teacher.
"He added: "Much adult art and many artists become tired and lacking in fresh viewpoints, whereas a child is untarnished, not yet corrupted.'" (Daily Telegraph, April 16, 1963)
And there is the instance of the painting which was hung upside down and still won a prize — nobody having realized that it was upside down! Also a prize-winning picture was painted by a chimpanzee, and an ass on one occasion painted an abstract, prize-winning painting — with the swishes of its tail!
And what about the musical arts? God intended music to be inspiring, soothing, uplifting.
But what is happening today? Not long ago B.B.C. music chief, Hans Keller, and pianist-composer Susan Bradshaw decided to play a joke on the British music critics — the intellectual snobs who feel they really know good music from bad!
"Now this is the sort of programme the [music] experts just can't resist tuning in to. And when the announcer introduced 'Piotr Zak, brilliant 22-year-old Polish composer, who is one of the most controversial figures in contemporary music,' they fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
"For a deliriously happy half-hour they (Mr. Keller and Miss Bradshaw) banged kettles, bashed drums, kicked chairs, and... (beat on) every noisy object in sight.
"The music experts listened in raptures of delight.
"'A new dimension in music,' they sighed, when the programme came to an end. 'Zak is better than Bach' " (Weekend, Sep. 19-23, 1962).
What they didn't know was that "zak" is Australian slang for a sixpence — that there was no Piotr Zak who ever wrote a line of music — that they had been completely fooled by Mr. Keller and Miss Bradshaw.
Need we be surprised to learn that the critics were duped by this "music," since it sounded so much like certain forms of modern music?
Wife-Swapping in the Modern World Compare "heathen" sex and marriage practices with those of "civilized" peoples!
It is common practice among Eskimos and some Arab tribes of Yemen for the head of the family to offer a male guest the embraces of his wife for the night.
But are we, in the so-called "civilized" world, any different? An interesting article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle of April 3, 1963, giving some shocking facts regarding the practice of "wife-swapping" in the United States.
"Wife-swapping — adultery by mutual agreement — is fast becoming a fad in the Bay Area. Hundreds of husbands and wives... are advertising their marital misery in coded 'classified' columns of a motley assortment of 'magazines' published for the purpose of putting sex deviates of one sort or another in touch with each other. They are getting together in groups of two or more couples in homes, hotels and motels to participate in 'switching-parties' that often take on the proportions of orgies...
"From the facts obtained throughout the weeks of investigation it appears WIFE-SWAPPING ACTIVITY is on the in-crease not only in the Bay Area, but THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE NATION... Only two weeks ago in Washington it was revealed for the first time that Post Office investigators are finding an 'outbreak' of postal law offences in which wife-swapping is involved. Chief Postal Inspector Henry B. Montague told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives that use of the U.S. mails to promote wife-swapping, in one way or another, is 'no longer limited to isolated instances.' "
This article also points out that most of those who indulge in wife-swapping had broken God's law (the seventh command — Ex. 20:14) by committing adultery BEFORE they began the vile practice of wife-swapping!
Even some psychiatrists and ministers indulge in this vile practice!
Although considered by many to be new, wife-swapping has long been practiced all over the United States.
Modern man is essentially no different from the heathen. That's why your Bible says: "Thus saith the Lord, LEARN NOT THE WAY OF THE HEATHEN... FOR THE CUSTOMS OF THE PEOPLE ARE VAIN..." (Jer. 10:2-3).
Christ said, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT, BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS WERE EVIL" (John 3:19). Perhaps some of you have unknowingly been guilty of the practices mentioned in this article. Are you going to be offended at the truth?
God indicts this world and its civilization. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).
But what can you do to overcome the ridiculous customs and practices of the world around you?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, voluntarily gave Himself to be sacrificed for our sins "that He might deliver us from THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD" (Gal. 1:4)!
This world is not Christ's world (John 18:36). It is not run according to God's ways or laws. The civilization (society or Gk. "cosmos") which rules this world during this age is not patterned after the right principles and laws of God!
The customs, traditions, fads and fancies of mankind are fickle and fluctuate from one generation to another. "But the Word [and ways] of the Lord endureth for ever" (I Peter 1:23, 25)
You Can Have a Sound Mind This present world has little balance, little soundness. Those who repent of their sins, who are baptized and imbued with God's Spirit, are the only ones who have truly "sound" minds!
Notice II Timothy 1:7. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND."
Today's world is a fearful, frustrated, deceived, mixed-up world. But those who have God's Spirit are not fearful or mixed-up. They have received God's sound, sane mind through receiving His Holy Spirit! The only real sanity in this world today is the sanity or soundness of mind which God imparts through His Spirit! Without the guidance of the Spirit of God, man is led into error, confusion and endless tangents; and gullibly believes and practices many senseless customs and ways of men!
The "civilized" world is not as civilized and cultured as it is deceived into believing! Its customs, practices, traditions and ways are steeped in paganism just as much as are the ways of the heathen in the remotest parts of Africa or Australia!
God Wishes You To Have "Fullness of Joy!" The reason God tells us not to love this world or this civilization which rules during this age, is that it is going headlong down the road of unhappiness, sickness and misery — toward total annihilation and ultimate death! God wants us to repent, and turn from our sins, so that we won't be destroyed with this present world and its wicked, forward ways.
Of course not everything in this present world is wrong. God requires or expects us to give up that which is bad for us — which is contrary to His Word, or His revealed laws.
God Almighty created the beauty that we see everywhere around us. He created the five senses, and through these senses He wants us to receive enjoyment and pleasure to the fullest, but only in a truly civilized manner. He wishes us to live an abundant life (John 10:10). We are told that "thy [God's] presence is FULLNESS OF JOY; at THY RIGHT HAND THERE ARE PLEASURES FOR EVERMORE" (Psa. 16:11).
And in I Timothy 6:17 we are informed that it is GOD "WHO GIVETH US RICHLY ALL THINGS TO ENJOY.''
Yes, God wants us to enjoy all things — but in a right way!
What, then, is true art, culture — civilization? It is God's WAY of life! God's Word gives the only true guide or yardstick by which we can know (Matt. 4:4)!
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPORT; if there be any VIRTUE, and if there be any PRAISE, THINK ON THESE THINGS" (Phil. 4:8).