"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

China and India: God and Foreign Policy

What does God have to do with foreign policy?  Historically, countries influenced by Christianity or Islam have developed an impulse to spread their views and convert people to their faith. That missionary spirit is evident in the foreign policy of countries as diverse as Britain, the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.  In the case of Britain and the United States, perhaps because they have been so powerful, the Protestant sense of purpose at the core of their foreign policies has made a deep mark on global affairs. China, in contrast, may never require a similar sense of destiny.  Simply being China, and becoming a world power, in a sense fulfills its historical purpose.  It doesn't need to spread anything to anyone to vindicate itself.  So when Beijing seems bloodless in its stance on human rights, it is not simply that the regime is oppressive or takes a ruthlessly realpolitik view of its interests -- though that certainly plays a role.  The Chinese see these issues differently, not with a set of abstract rights and wrongs, but with a sense of the practical that serves as a guiding philosophy.   pg. 112

Hinduism is not really a "religion" in the Abrahamic sense of the word but a loose philosophy, one that has no answers but merely questions.  The only clear guiding principle is ambiguity.  If there is a central verse in Hinduism's most important text, the Rig Veda, it is the Creation Hymn. It reads, in part,

Who really know, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation's day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He do it?  Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.

Compare that with the certainties of the Book of Genesis. 

So what does this mean for the real world?  Hindus are deeply practical.  They can easily find an accommodation with the outside reality.  Indian businessmen -- who are still largely Hindu-- can thrive in almost any atmosphere that allows for trade and commerce.  Whether in America, Africa, or East Asia, Indian merchants have prospered in any country they live in.  As long as they can place a small idol somewhere in their home for worship or meditation, their own sense of Hinduism is fulfilled.   pg. 155-156

~ The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Just some stuff I found interesting!  Any thoughts, questions, observations?


sanil said...

Hinduism is not really a "religion" in the Abrahamic sense of the word but a loose philosophy, one that has no answers but merely questions.

Being nitpicky, but this bugged me. It's not an Abrahamic religion, but Abrahamic faiths also don't define religion for the rest of the world. Hinduism isn't less of a religion because it's not about absolute answers, and it's certainly not just a "loose philosophy." Hinduism has gods, Hindus have relationships with those gods. It also offers answers about the world, just not in the sense of causation and control, rather about meaning and human experience.

Also, not a problem with the writing, but just something that confused me because we just get bits and pieces here. What does the bit on Hinduism have to do with either God or foreign policy? I don't really get it.

Finally, not really related to much, but nice Krishna picture. I always thought pictures of the Hindu gods were pretty, and I like that you take the time to hunt down pictures for so many of your posts. :)

Susanne said...

Sanil, sorry that I often don't make the connections clearer. I have the benefit of having the book in front of me and wishing I could share much much more,but can't due to ... well, the fact I can't type the whole book here! :)

The author is talking about China in one chapter and India in the next. I think he's writing it with someone like me in mind so he uses contrasts/comparisons that would make sense to me. Like saying something is not a religion in the Abrahamic sense of the word. I don't think he means this as a slam against Hinduism,only that there are not the nice,"neat" (hahahaha) absolutes that you get in, say, the Ten Commandments and the Five Pillars of Islam. He does expound a bit more than what I shared and his point is that Indians are quite adaptable. (He is Indian himself.) He says they do fine in almost any country and is why you find them all over the world.

I especially enjoyed the part about China and how it's not under a philosophy of spreading itself so much although I wonder a bit about that since we feared the spread of Communism so much in the past. Maybe we thought China wanted to spread this to the world in the same way America wants to spread democracy (wink, wink).

I just thought the connection to some countries have spread this worldviews vs. other countries maybe not having so much of that was interesting.

I apologize for not making that more clear.

And I do enjoy your feedback very much! Thanks for taking time to write. I'm glad I can provide pictures from time to time. I have fun looking at the variety of things offered. I agree that the Krishna picture is pretty! I like that it's playful. :)

Susanne said...

"I just thought the connection to some countries have spread this worldviews vs. other countries maybe not having so much of that was interesting"

Um, that makes no sense. I think I meant the connection to some countries having a certain worldview based on their understanding of God and, thus, wanting to spread it (like US spreading democracy; Islamic countries spreading sharia) was interesting. Especially when he contrast it to other countries without that drive to spread. It's really bad when you aren't sure what you meant to say. sorry!!

sanil said...

Oh, that makes sense. Thank you! And yeah, I get that you can't put it all, and it's hard to know what to include since you know all the missing information. :D I guess the cure is, I should pick up these books myself! I should make a list. It is an interesting connection, now that I understand it. :)

Susanne said...

I really appreciate you asking so I could try to clarify. I always enjoy your feedback. Thank you! :)

Suroor said...

I would personally prefer the mystery of Hinduism than the solidness of Abrahamic *faiths* (sucking up to Sanil :)). I can't believe Abrahamic religions have all the answers and that too correct answers. That is what makes me so wary of organised religions. Hinduism has very strong philosophy actually. It is not so simple as some gods thrown into corners of a motel room. And I appreciate the fact that Hindus have never felt the need to pull down churches/mosques to build their temples. Their belief that heart is the first temple is so sweet!

Susanne said...

Thanks for sharing more on Hinduism. Obviously I know little about it and enjoyed learning these tidbits from you and Sanil. Thanks!

Daniel said...

What does God have to do with foreign policy?

Nothing. Government is the design of man, not God. If we all lived as we should, there would be no government.

Susanne said...

good point!