In a previous post, I said that when moral values are able to permeate an entire culture, it will have the potential to effect positive changes within a culture and even within an entire nation. This theory stands true even if a culture’s sense of morality is not necessarily Christian. Yes, I am a social conservative but I do not think that Christianity has a monopoly on moral values, even though it has made tremendous worldwide contributions to freedom of religion, rule of law, and the free-market system. Sometimes, as Christians, we can too easily deny the legitimacy of other people’s religious-spiritual experiences, especially if they are different from that of our own; and of course, however, I must admit my personal bias and preference is toward Christianity. We all have our personal bias toward a certain type or style of religion/denomination. Despite our differences, all cultures are founded on personal and genuine religious experiences; and these religious experiences encountered by people of various religions are still genuine spiritual experiences. Out of these genuine personal experiences usually comes the knowledge of God, or at least a sense of a higher power.
Strong cultures, whether they are North American, European, South-East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern or African—have a type of “inner strength,” if I may call it this. What I mean by “inner strength” is when one sees or hears something that reminds one of a different foreign culture (a culture other than your own), one will get a strong sense of significant worth resident within that culture. I am not talking about ethnic cuisines or languages; these things may be significant differences and have value but they are really the externalities of a culture. Externalities do not influence the way a people make decisions or how an entire culture behaves. What I am talking about is much more important than the externalities. It is moral values that add significant worth and inner strength to a culture because moral values deeply influences the way people make decisions and behave—particularly value-based decisions and behaviors.
Two examples that have emerged as strong nations are South Korea and Japan. The basis of their moral values are both Christian and non-Christian. However, I must preface this by saying that to understand this theory, one must first hold off from making a value judgment on their basis of moral values. One culture’s basis of morality may differ from another culture’s; nevertheless, a pre-condition is that there must a strong sense of moral values present in the culture. These two Asian nations have somewhat similar cultural backgrounds—a blend of Confucianism and Buddhism, but South Korea is now 60% Christians, while Japan is 6% Christian and 90% Shintoism-Buddhism.
Even though these two nations have different religions, both nations have emerged with strong economies and significant social advancements. Why? These two nations are very religious and have built a foundation upon their religious beliefs and a respect for rule of law. Out of Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism came a strong sense of moral values within Korean culture—and Shintoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism within Japanese culture. Flowing out of their moral values came the establishment of civil law, and growing out of a respect for law was greater political stability. These two nations, amongst many other nations, have learned to value and apply the rule of law borrowed from the American model of government. This was a very significant turning point for Japan after WWII. Due to their political stability, South Korea and Japan have been able to prosper economically. Today, Japan has made very significant social advancements since coming out of WWII as one of the three Axis-powers. Japan has regularly received top ratings in the United Nation’s Human Development Index as one of the best 10 countries to live in the world. Within the last several decades, South Korea has risen out of economic poverty and has risen to the 28th spot in the world. The top five countries to live in, as rated by the United Nations in 2007, were Iceland, Norway, Australia, Canada, and Ireland. The United States dropped from number 8 to 12.
(Photo: A South Korean Christian woman prays during a service demanding the safe return of South Koreans kidnapped in Afghanistan at a church in Seoul Sunday, July 29, 2007. )