I watched part of a documentary recently, until my stomach turned, on Bronislaw Malinowski, one of the founders of Cultural Anthropology. The discussion of his book The Sexual Life of Savages, reminded me of my Cultural Anthropology professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. His favorite dismissal term was “puritanical”. No reasons needed trouble us wherever he applied that term. He claimed to want discussion, so every time the p-word, I raised my hand. “Surely the Puritans deserved a “value neutral” ethnography,” I argued, but that would have meant letting go a pet Social Science hypocrisy.
He grew weary of seeing my hand, but carried on unphased otherwise. (It was a time when I had done well to heed Paul’s advice to Titus of, “…once, maybe twice…”)
Malinowski illustrates the banality of the “culture” of social scientific rationality, its pretended moral neutrality, and its dogma of cultural relativism. Scott Peck was right in People of the Lie that one of evil’s main characteristics is its banality, especially in its first appearance.
The elderly Solomon was the first Cultural Anthropologist. He so successfully rationalized concession to idolatry that all but a few of his successors extended it in all of its social and moral implications. It seemed so civil and hospitable for Solomon to let his wives continue with the worship familiar to them and a social grace to join them.
Too bad God did not send an ethnographer to Lot instead of angels under orders. “Flee idolatry” remains to us word of life. (1 Cor. 10:14)