A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Monday, July 26, 2010

God Talk: Neither Jew nor Greek

... for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [29] And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
(Galatians 3:26-29 ESV)
"Multiculturalism", "diversity" and "pluralism" are buzz words of the last four decades. They are powerful concepts from which governments and communities have rallied around in the hope that people of different ethnic and socio-political backgrounds will play together nicely and perhaps even learn the words to "Kumbaya", with the expectation that we will hum it in one accord.
All this assumes that like a game of World Cup soccer, for instance, we're all playing by the same rules.

Feel-good multiculturalism manifests in tangible ways like cuisine, lifestyle and a festive celebration of difference and plurality. The word "cultural" contained in this concept suggests that there are recognizable forms of cultural tokens that distinguish one group from another, whether it be art, fashion or religious traditions/rituals. However, the theory of multiculturalism is about transcending these differences. The key to this is tolerance. Tolerance is the bridge through which different cultures can co-exist peacefully. Tolerance, however, is meaningful only if all parties involved have enough shared values that can overcome potential conflict.

There is also another aspect to this... an ominous side... when multiculturalism is used as a political mechanism to enforce a kind of tentative unity. It's employed to justify restrictions on what is appropriate speech in the public square as well as to also rein in controversial ideas, lest offence be given to those who hold contrary/opposing views. Multiculturalism as a political mechanism becomes a selective form of censorship. This often allows governments, who are perceived to be the final authority in such a structure, to become arbiters of what is acceptable through the legislative process.

However, if under such a regime, contradictory ideas are determined to be equally valid, then it becomes difficult to make important moral distinctions and to argue that any position can be the "correct" one. Under such a system, there is no "correct" position. So groups must battle politically to have their ideas validated in the public square by gaining power over competing groups/ideas.
Therefore, truth or facts are not relevant in such a system but who has the ability to influence the political process.

Multiculturalism, as I have gradually come to understand the term, is a utopian vision and like all utopian visions, it is grounded in idealism rather than reality. The reality is that the human race is separated by deep divisions, divisions that aren't so easily overcome by simply saying that we agree to disagree. Some of these issues have far-reaching ramifications that deal with matters of human rights... and of life and death.
Proponents of multiculturalism skirts these issues by attempting to solve what is fundamentally a spiritual problem with an idealistic political solution, Through government regulating what kind of speech is appropriate in public or what is acceptable behaviour, proponents of this position believe that human beings can come together as equals. It is conformity at its most insidious because driving this is a belief that all of this is necessary for the common good.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.                                                                                             (Ephesians 2:13-16 ESV)
In George Orwell's Animal Farm, we see an allegory of what often occurs when the revolution is over. Human beings revert to their core selfish instincts. The elites change the rules to protect their interests and so "some animals are more equal than others". The revolution only changes the government, it does not and cannot change something far more visceral, the human heart.

Multiculturalism holds a certain attraction for many as it is an attempt to avert conflicts on a local as well as global level. It is perceived, in certain quarters, to be an antidote to war.

I'm less optimistic about multiculturalism these days because I don't have any great faith in human beings to broker "peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind". Having children certainly brings that into sharp focus every day. Furthermore, the news is rife with many instances men and women breaking every single one of the ten commandments on a daily basis. And far more importantly, I know me. I know my own heart all too well. I shudder to think what I would do if I had been left to my own devices.

But I haven't been... and neither has the rest of the human race.

The wonderful truth of the gospel is that God "interfered" in human history by sending his son, Jesus, Christ to be the Saviour of the world. He did not come as a political revolutionary, or an economist, or a scientist or a warrior in search of a battle. He came as a human being... to die.

First as a baby then grew up to be a carpenter aware of his ultimate mission but biding his time.
The problem, when one gets down to brass tacks, is sin... while hostility between nations, racism, xenophobia are just the symptoms of the same thing.
But the wages of sin is death.
Jesus, however, as the Creator of the universe, gave his life for his creation.  By doing that he offered salvation in equal measure to all the peoples of the world.
Grace is the equalizer. Undeserving creatures receiving salvation from the saviour who did not deserve to die. Hence, all this leaves no room for any of us to rest on our laurels, lest any should be tempted to boast. When we receive his grace, we all partake of his salvation... united by his death and his resurrection.
Equally praiseworthy, is the gift of the Holy Spirit, residing in every believer... He too, is our Comforter who is the deposit guaranteeing our salvation.

My own conclusion about multiculturalism is that it is a "secular" way of trying to achieve a Christian ideal. A means of trying to unite people from different ethnic backgrounds without recourse to the divine. As a result it is doomed to being a cosmetic solution for some deep seated divisions amongst the people of the earth that no amount of regulation by well-meaning governing bodies will ever solve.

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