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«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»

-- [ Page 14 ] -- A Global Morality If we do live in a global village then David Shenk believes that the result is that we are all moved towards a “… universally relevant moral principle” (1995:63). He further contends that “Any commitment to global well-being gives a mandate to all religious and ideological communities: live in peace with one another.” (:55). What then does ‘live in peace’ mean for the Kazakhs? If it narrowly refers to the idea of physical non-aggression then most Kazakhs would buy into it. If it refers to an ideological compromise which results in changes to the belief system, then Kazakhs would be very uncomfortable and even resistant. Hans Kung argues that in an age of globalization all mankind must move towards a global ethic that “… is a basic consensus on binding values, irrevocable criteria and basic attitudes which are affirmed by all religions despite their dogmatic differences…” (2004:45). He goes on to

explain that this global ethic is based on two principles:

 Each person must be treated humanely.

 Do to others as you wish done to yourself.

Whereas it can be argued that these are clearly based on a Western worldview, nevertheless Kazakh religion would have little argument with either (Abai 1995: Word Fourteen). It is in the fleshing out of these that points of conflict arise such as with the tolerance for other ideologies and equal rights for women. Individualism Michael Kearney (1984:77) argues that if globalization causes individualism then cultures such as that of the Kazakhs, are in trouble. The close, mutually beneficial relationships of the group are replaced by an emphasis on self.29 Others then exist so that they can be used to better the individual’s life; and relationships become characterized by competition rather than co-operation. Kenzheaxmetuli (2004:92-200) describes how for the traditional Kazakh this emphasis on the individual is unacceptable and the ties to the family and ancestors remain strong. He shows how so many of the customs and traditions are based on the group, for example when a girl marries she becomes a kelin (daughter-in-law) and is under the authority of her mother-in-law from whom she needs permission and approval for various activities (:103). There is evidence to suggest that individualism is affecting modern Kazakhs, primarily where a number have let go of family and other ties to immigrate to other countries and start a new life. They may still have concern for and even send support to those in Kazakhstan, but their primary motive is for their own betterment.

University students are being exposed to influences outside of their traditional cultural upbringing and there are those who are thinking through the religious beliefs of their ancestors, attempting to arrive at their own conclusions as to what they believe (Laumulins, 2009:73). For some of them the idea of ‘us in the future’ has been replaced with ‘me, now’.

Support for this individualism rides on the wave of materialism that has washed over Kazakhstan.

Chris Hermans (2004:29) shows how individualism is fueled by cultures that are becoming more pluralistic, those where institutions have less of a hold on people, and the lessening of cultural traditions. In the Kazakh context the first two effects seem evident, whereas there seems to be a revival of Kazakh traditions that were suppressed under communism. Materialism A significant question to ask is whether the real god in Kazakhstan is money and hedonism?

It appears that what Abai (1995: Word Three and Five) describes is still true today, namely that enough money can buy anything including a person’s favor or loyalty, and who a person is, is judged by the size of their house and car. If this is true then the competitive environment that globalization brings causes alliances to be formed on the basis of economic benefit rather than political or cultural affinity. This also means that such alliances are fragile as they will change as the economic environment changes. With globalization comes exposure to more and more goods from around the world and many Kazakhs are swept up in the desire to possess these goods as soon as possible.

Increased materialism then seems to pose a challenge to the importance of the Kazakh Muslim faith. But, Graf (2002:68) argues that for the modern Muslim who is becoming fully involved in the pursuit of all that capitalism promises, their faith is the vital anchor that helps them stay grounded in a specific identity. Because the Kazakh faith is more tradition based than doctrine based, materialism is able over time to become part of that tradition, and this has serious implications for the growth of the Gospel of Christ. Many will argue that materialism has already become part of the Christian tradition in the West and even South Korea, yet it seems inconceivable that missionaries will need to be relatively wealthy and start churches that reflect a lifestyle of earthly riches. With the Bible as a guide this does not seem valid and so will the future Kazakh church need to become counter-cultural in its view of materialistic values?

Robert Schreiter (2002:29) observes that the increased secularization that has resulted from globalization and materialism has actually produced a renewed interest in religion all over the world. For the Kazakh church then this presents an opportunity in the midst of the perceived threat of globalization. If an over-emphasis on materialism eventually produces a spiritual hunger then the church must position itself to meet this need. Post-modernism As globalization has brought various cultures together it has promoted the post-modern worldview that accommodates differences in religious belief. Pocock, van Rheenen, and Mc Connell define those who buy into this worldview as follows: “ Postmodern people rely more on intuition, are more subjective in their judgments, do not trust systems and institutions, and treat most truth claims as personal or cultural” (2005:106). John Stott describes these post moderns as having three distinct needs: for transcendence (something beyond the material), for personal significance and for community (:116). This leaves Kazakh religion with both a threat and a promise. A threat in the sense that the Kazakh form of Islam does not allow a Kazakh to accommodate other major belief systems into their own; and so the post modern virtue of tolerance is rejected. Tolerance is only afforded those outside of the Muslim tradition who confine the practice of their specific religion to themselves. An interesting exception to this is the multi-religious center recently completed in the capital of Astana. The supposed brainchild of the president it is a formidable piece of architecture in the shape of a pyramid, situated directly behind the president’s official workplace. The idea is the people from such diverse faiths as Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism can come and worship in a spirit of harmony (Laumulins 2009:125). It remains to be seen whether it will be anything more than an empty museum with the only potential worshippers coming from those who seek hegemony with the president.

The promise of post modernism for Kazakh religion comes in meeting the post modern’s need for transcendence and community. The importance of kinship ties and the significance of the ancestor spirits provide the Kazakh religion with the opportunity to meet these needs. What of the Kazakh church? Westernization Ulf Hannerz (2004:110) contends that each culture is in the process of becoming a subculture of the developing world culture. This world culture provides a center surrounded by a periphery of independent cultures, each of which has different levels of connectedness to the center. For Kazakhs the level of connectedness will depend on their identity as Traditional, Modern or Russified. Most would agree that this world culture is Western dominated with television programming providing a good yardstick to measure this. John Sinclair, Elizabeth Jacka and Stuart Cunningham (2004:299) argue that local cultures are not highly impacted by Western television programs, but in the case of Kazakhstan a good argument can be made for the strong influence of Western media on the Kazakh culture (Arman 2009, pers. Interview, 5 May).

Another result of Westernization is the more prominent role of women outside of the home (Laumulins 2009:87). In Kazakhstan under the communist system, women were encouraged to take their place as active Soviet citizens and occupy various positions in factories and educational institutions. In fact, women were encouraged to study at a higher level than most men and thereby occupy many of the ‘white collar’ jobs, leaving the men to perform the more ‘blue collar’ jobs that required significant physical effort. Kazakh religion is willing to accept this situation of empowerment for women, as long as it is confined to areas outside of religion. Even modern Kazakhs would be uncomfortable with a woman playing a significant role in the more formal aspects of the faith. They are acceptable only in roles such as fortune-tellers and healers, removed from the formal authority structure.

Joseph Stiglitz (2003:247) in considering the westernizing effect of globalization on culture would propose that it represents a threat to traditional Kazakhs. Dale Eickelman and James Piscatori (1996:29) present an opposing argument suggesting that a modern, western worldview is able to stimulate cultural traditions. This seems a romantic notion in the Kazakh context where opposition rather than stimulation seems more likely. The Urbanizing of the Kazakhs.

Is a move towards the cities a move towards globalization? The answer to this depends on why people move to the cities, and the answer to that seems to hinge on the idea of opportunity. Cities hold out the promise of a better education, better social interaction and a better opportunity for employment; and therefore a better life. This is certainly the mindset in Kazakhstan although many have experienced disappointment and despair when they come to find that the promises are often empty (Nazpary 2002:51). Whilst it can be debated whether life is better in the cities, it is a fact that life is more modern and diverse. With life in the city then comes exposure to a wider worldview, one that is not confined to the internal cultures of Kazakhstan, but now also includes representation from all parts of the globe. An interesting measure of this is the use of English. In the village English has no use but in the city it has now become a means of making oneself more appealing to a potential employer (Arman 2009, pers. interview, 5 May). The demand for English lessons has seen a dramatic increase in recent years and because of its identification as a means of international communication, it is now officially taught in the schools.

Davey (2002:6) points out that the cities of today have evolved greatly from those of our ancestors with new patterns of community, communication, vocation, and recreation emerging. As he puts it “The contemporary city is a place where worlds meet” (:4). The Kazakhstan cities of Almaty and Astana certainly reflect this. A significant number of Kazakhs through employment end up away from their families in these and other major cities.

This offers great potential for believers to demonstrate a belonging to a family that has a strong spiritual tie rather than a blood one. Kazakh religion is likely to have two polar reactions to urbanization. In its formal expression it is likely to view large cities as positive in terms of creating a more mosque-based worship and the establishment of more madressehs.

In Almaty for example, there are grandiose plans to build a very large mosque and adjacent madresseh. Will the more traditional expression of Kazakh religion struggles with urbanization if it de-emphasizes the ancestral practices and traditions? Pan-Islamism Mustapha Pasha (2004:331) shows how there is no one Islamic response to globalization so that we cannot merely portray all responses as the same. As Pan-Islamism arose and withstood Western colonization, is it once again gaining importance as a guard against globalization? Lubeck argues that it has and purports that “Globalization has facilitated the interweaving of transnational Islamic networks within the new global transportation and communication infrastructure” (2002:79). Fred Halliday (2002:33) sees what he calls Islamism as a growing protest by Muslim cultures against external domination. Ironically, we see that where there used to be isolated communities of Muslims in various countries, they are now able to associate with the wider community of Muslims because of the opportunities that globalization brings. Globalization however does not leave the values and beliefs of these communities untouched as seen in the call for unity that Hala Mustafa suggests. In calling for coexistence between Islam and the West he says “The values of democracy and human rights should be persistently promoted worldwide….Political and cultural elites in Islamic countries should actively advocate the values of reason, tolerance, and freedom” (2002:107). Pocock, Van Rheenen, and McConnell (2005:94) argue strongly that Islam will be transformed from within as moderates such as Mustafa work to break down its rigidity and extremism.

Globalization’s effect will be to cause more and more Muslims to seek freedom from a radical form of religion that desires to control their thoughts and lives. Bassam Tibi (2004:336) contends that Islamic fundamentalist movements are not united in how to bring about an Islamic world order, but as each attempts its own strategy they are capable of creating levels of global disorder.

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