Defending Child-Killing in the Name of Cultural Relativism

In the jungles of Brazil, some tribes kill children who are disabled, who were born to single mothers, and who are twins.  The Brazilian legislature is considering a bill outlawing these practices.  But anthropologists and other postmodernists are opposing the bill on the grounds that child-killing is part of these tribes’ culture.

So reports the new Patheos blogger John Ehrett, who explores the conflict between human rights, as liberal democracies have understood them, and the new ideology of cultural relativism.  Throughout, he shows the necessity of an objective moral order, as given by Christianity.

You have GOT to read his post, Moloch in the Dock:

For the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this astonishing feature story in Foreign Policy magazine. The article explains that a number of indigenous tribes in Brazil still routinely kill disabled children who would (traditionally) be unable to survive under harsh jungle conditions. “Those targeted include the disabled, the children of single mothers, and twins — whom some tribes . . . see as bad omens.”

As someone previously under the impression that such practices were a vestige of the past, I find it stunning that such killings have gone on openly for decades. More shocking still, though, is the fact that a bill outlawing the practice is actually being met with opposition: “[W]hat may seem an overdue safeguard has drawn widespread condemnation from academics and indigenous rights groups in the country. . . . One anthropologist at Funai, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the foundation, argues that child killing among indigenous peoples must be understood in the context of the Amazon’s incredibly harsh environment.” The article goes on to explain that the bill “immediately created tensions between those who champion universal human rights, which prioritize the individual, and those who support cultural relativism, which favors the freedom of communities to organize themselves according to their own moral codes.”

First things first: I find it difficult to comprehend the degeneracy of those who would sanction such killings in the name of “preserving culture.” I have to wonder whether these anthropologists would hold that laws against murder are similarly unjustified in high-crime areas where violence is commonplace. After all, why infringe on those areas’ local norms? (And yes, I realize this is particularly low-hanging fruit, but I can’t help pointing out that such relativism is the logical terminus of any intellectually honest attempt to simultaneously secularize and privatize morality.)

Yet upon reflection, I’m also aware that my outrage is grounded in my own worldview—indeed, modern liberal “human rights” frameworks are predicated on deeply Christian assumptions about the dignity of the person.

[Keep reading. . .]

 

Illustration, Molech Worship, by Charles Foster (Rhymes with Right) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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