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The reliance on religion, family, and tradition in Middle Eastern culture reveals the ephemeral, individualistic entertainment culture of the United States for the Vanity Fair that it is.

Being on sabbatical in Jerusalem for two months has brought about two important perspectives shedding light on Middle Eastern culture and therefore on the culture in the West—especially the contemporary culture in the United States.

One of my past times in the afternoon, after a morning in the library, has been to wander around the Old City. I am staying with the French Dominicans at Ecole Biblique, the house of studies which is attached to the Convent of St. Stephen—built on the site of the martyrdom of Stephen—just outside the Damascus gate into the old city.

A five-minute walk takes me into the heart of the Muslim quarter where the narrow streets are crowded with market stalls and jammed with shoppers. There you can find most anything you need: pickled cauliflower and fresh pancakes off the griddle, fish on beds of crushed ice and carcasses of goats just slaughtered. Toys and tools, toiletries and trinkets. Gaudy decorations, holy land souvenirs of every sort: rosaries and mosaics, carvings and icons, oriental rugs and tapestries. The marvelous sights and mingled smells of coffee, incense, and Eastern spices are everywhere. The marvelous bazaar is just as amazing and bizarre as you could imagine or wish.

Part of the mix is the Muslim population crowding in to do their shopping. Here the women look like women. The men like men. Children call and run and play like children should. While I have little admiration for the Islamic religion, I have grown to admire the Muslim population and while I realize it is all too easy for a foreigner to generalize and even romanticize, it is easy to see that the novel religion of “woke” which has so dominated the conversation of late in America has not gained the slightest foothold here. If one tried to explain to the people in the Muslim market that some teenagers in America wish to change their sex by swallowing horrid chemicals and submitting their bodies to the Dr Frankensteins de nos jours— and that they are encouraged in their quest by parents, teachers and peers, the Muslims would be astonished and scandalized.

If one were to explain that homosexuality, divorce, remarriage and radical feminism are elevated as a kind of cause celebre they would be incredulous. I sense there would be the same reaction from the majority of the Jewish population here. Their natural acceptance of traditional gender roles makes our society seem insane, and it is no mistake that this instinctive conservatism is present in a city where religion cannot be ignored.

As one wanders in the Holy City one cannot ignore the fact that within a short walk one can pray at the holiest sites of the world’s three predominant religions. Here is the Western Wall crowned by the Dome of the Rock. There is an Armenian cathedral, countless churches and monasteries and Christianity’s Church of the Resurrection—the Holy Sepulchre.

It was while we were spending three days in Jordan that I observed another cultural marker. I noticed as we drove through the country that many homes were left unfinished. Concrete columns from the first level of the home were thrust upward indicating plans for an extra floor to be added.

“Did so many people run out of money before they finished building?” I asked.

Our guide explained, “When a young man gets engaged they build another level to the home so he can move home with his bride and they live there as an extended family. Then when the parents grow old their children and grandchildren are still there with them. Eventually the son inherits the property.”

I related this custom back to the words of Jesus in the fourteenth chapter of St John’s gospel: “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. I go to prepare a place for you and when I come again I will take you to be with me.” This is a reference to first-century Jewish wedding customs. Similar to Jordanian customs today, after the betrothal, the young man would return to his father’s house and build an extension for he and his bride to live in after the wedding. The interpretation of the famous passage therefore depends on an understanding of Christ as bridegroom.

Our guide then went on an extended explanation of the importance of tradition and family in Jordanian culture. The family contacts and friendships are all important. Local traditions are maintained. Family bonds are treasured. The elderly are respected—not abandoned and the shared belief system of their religion is the glue that holds it all together.

This reliance on religion, family, and tradition also revealed the ephemeral, individualistic entertainment culture of the United States for the Vanity Fair that it is.

On thinking further on these cultural traits: religion, traditional gender roles and the value of family bonds— one can’t help but conclude that the three are linked. As religious commitment dwindles and family bonds in the USA are increasingly dissolved through increased mobility, easy divorce and remarriage and individualistic sexual expression, it should not be surprising that there is confusion about sexual roles and gender identity.

It is through religion and within the family that sexual roles are affirmed and gender identity is strengthened. The present woke madness has not come out of nowhere. It is the result of decades of unbelief, sexual “liberation,” radical feminism and homosexualism, artificial contraception and abortion, pornography and self-pleasure.

No wonder so many are confused about their sexuality and personal identity. The bastions and bulwarks of our identity—the family, religion  and tradition—have been eroded, and a house that is built on sand must surely tumble in the tempest.

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The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay.

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