"Let’s look at an example from history. The ancient Sumerians and the Indus Valley civilizations had toilets that they flushed with water from about 2000 BC. It is common (i.e. natural) for many of the civilizations of mankind to have some sort of toilet system in place, and natural for mankind to fashion some manner of hygienically voiding their bowels."
"The Korowai still defecate in the woods," he explains. "If the majority of the world’s population uses some sort of toilet system, are the Korowai more 'natural' or less natural when compared to the rest of the societies of men?"
Instead, Johnson proposes two possible definitions for the "natural" life.
"If natural means basic and common to mankind, then the Korowai are not natural. They are an historical oddity. Such remote tribes are not the norm, for the norm is to advance and fashion new inventions. In fact, many such tribes once branched off from a stock which advanced technologically while their technological growth remained stunted, or even degraded. In the slow march forward these people have fallen out of the march and some have even wandered backwards."
"Or does natural mean more earthy and close to nature? And if this is so, then why is this a virtue," Johnson asks. "I would not praise my son for eating with his hands if I had forks and spoons for him to use. Simple is not necessarily more pure. The natural world is more simple, and yet brutishly cruel. The Korowai, lacking guns, murdered one another with alarming regularity for decades with arrows."
"While their architecture is impressive with their tall treehouses becoming an icon of remote Papua, let’s remember that the motivation for building these tall treehouses was borne out of a superstitious fear of witches," Johnson adds. "The same modern secularist world that disdains religion also admire these treehouses, yet these treehouses were borne of their religious/spiritual worldview."
"Let me challenge the reader," he states. "As of 2019, in contrast to this common trope of tribal peoples living in harmony with nature, let us observe that it is the industrial nations of the West who do the most for conservation. The Western nations are the most pristine and abundant in wildlife. They are the nations which pass regulations to limit pollution and carbon emissions. On the other hand, the Korowai seek out cheap rice and noodles and discard the plastic wrappers wherever it pleases them without a thought to littering."
Peoples such as the Korowai are not living an idyllic life in tune with nature, Johnson concluded. "They’ve just not succeeded in taking dominion over creation. They’ve been unsuccessful in the fight against their environment, so instead of shaping their external world into a place where creativity and health can flourish, they’ve had to be content with doing just enough to survive."
"If a tourist ever exalts a tribal culture because they are 'in harmony with nature' remember the high infant mortality, the propensity to violence, the low technology, the poor hygiene, and the poor status of women. And then please reason with them that they are just spewing a Western myth and the sad reality is much different than they've been taught."
For more information on the real work being done not only to reach people like the Korowai with the Gospel but to work to eradicate the problems that plague them, visit HeartCry Missionary Society.
Please continue to pray for missionaries like Trevor and his wife, and the people they serve. Learn more about their ministry to the Korowai in the video below:
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