Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Tower of Babel and Multiculturalism

Is cultural and language diversity a bad thing? No! Is multiculturalism, ie. the coming together of a variety of cultures, a bad thing? Despite the challenges this often brings to a community ... my answer is, "no"! Such challenges can actually grow the fabric of a community. Is migration a bad thing? No! Especially not in a world of such oppression, injustice and active prejudice against certain people groups. People movement is understandable and acceptable. This is not to in anyway condone the darkness that causes the need to flee. Maybe common sense, balance, adequate safeguards ... maybe. But never forget the Bible's major and central concern around the care of widows, orphans and foreigners (read refugees and asylum seekers). So then, to understand properly the somewhat problematical 'tower of Babel' passage in Genesis chapter 11, I think we need to start with two pieces of background info. Firstly, the Bible, that collection of Scriptures chosen to be included among our 66 books, is a book about mission, ie. God's mission to re-connect with and redeem the world - inclusive of all human beings particularly, and all creation generally. So, what does the 'tower of Babel' passage say about God's mission? There is here a refusal to do things God's way, namely, to fill the earth. Instead of going, they were staying - the opposite of mission. They resisted a 'scattering' (v 4). People thought they could do better, and thus usurped God's leadership. They egotistically believed in their own wisdom, rather than in God's will. This would never be any good for anyone. So rather than a voluntary scattering, there was a forced scattering - which actually endorses as being good ... the subsequent language and cultural diversity. Secondly, this record is likely written centuries later than its setting ... in hindsight, trying to explain the existing cultural diversity. Without cultural diversity there would have been a bland colourless world of similarity - this would have hardly represented the 'image' of such a multifaceted God who created planet earth with such seasonal diversity and broad landscape; resistance inevitably leading to a revolt through insular purposelessness. While explained as a punishment, in context, this would have been understood as an ultimate blessing, or at the very least, working in humankind's best interests; thus in effect ... redemptive love, because it redirected humanity to God's prior intentions. Cultural diversity and multicuturalism then, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, from the time of Pentecost, is the lifeblood of the 'Kingdom of God' and the 'Body of Christ', and also a foretaste of heaven. Such heaven on earth experiences are only available as we embrace and welcome different cultures into the life of our society.

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