Monday, July 11, 2016
True multiculturalism. . .
Multiculturalism is the modern mantra, the goal of every program and the measure of its success. From ethnicity to gender identity to age to preference we glory in a variety of tastes, images, and choices in everything from food to religion. It is all good. At least that is the official version of things. In reality it does not work quite that well. Our diversity creates a tension on our unity and our very identity as a nation. How can we respect differences which may challenge others? How far can the limits of toleration be stretched?
So often we bow to the altar of multiculturalism by showcasing differences on the stage together. So the politician is careful to show Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Women, GLBT, and every other kind of face in support of his candidacy. It is no different in the Church. We are tempted to show not only the diversity of faces and people but to include the music and ceremonial of many cultures on Sunday morning in the hopes of being judged faithful by the world around us. The Gospel has no culture of its own, we say, but takes on the culture of those who believe it. In time of national crisis or tragedy, the culture looks to churches to come together on the same platform, equal gods practicing the noble character of egalitarianism, wherein we each pray to our own deities while affirming that none of them is exclusive.
In reality this is not only a distortion of the Gospel, it is a false multiculturalism. Christians cannot allow the Gospel to be seen as merely one version of the truth. This is not born of some jealousy or pride but of the very nature of the Gospel itself. The Gospel of Christ incarnate, crucified, and risen is by its nature the most multicultural word spoken. It is one set of truths for all people -- the most profoundly multicultural expression that can be made. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. He did not choose a culture but created a new culture -- the culture of a God who becomes the Savior of the world, whose name if prayer for all languages and dialects, whose worship is not about personal preference or opinion but the divine revelation the broke through every barrier and division, and whose hope is for all caught in sin and death.
Modern multiculturalism bows at the Tower of Babel and glories in the differences and distinctions without assigning value to any of them. True multiculturalism is met in the undoing of Babel in the common language of the cross and empty tomb. On Pentecost we see this displayed not in the many languages but in the common content of all of them: everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Christ is not the Savior of the good or the few or those who look or sound the same. He is the one who brings together a people whose diversity has torn them apart and who find unity in their common need of a clear conscience and life stronger than death. This Christ does by standing in place of every sinner on the cross and rising to bestow life that death cannot overcome -- for all people everywhere.
Modern multiculturalism is happy before Babel and thinks the differences are the treasure. Christianity glories in the language of salvation for all people, everywhere and at all times. Our treasure is not what we bring to Christ but what Christ brings to all -- the same grace and mercy, the same favor and blessing. Christ does not pander to us by suggesting that we are good on our own and do not need Him very much at all; no, indeed, He does just the opposite. He confronts us with a common malady (sin) and our common destiny (death) and then puts Himself in our place for our good.
Christians cannot afford to allow the Gospel to become captive to any agenda -- not multiculturalism in all its diversified glory nor in the triumph of one culture over another. Christ has introduced a new culture -- of the Word that delivers what it says, of water that kills the already dead to make them alive again forevermore, and of bread and wine that gives to the earthly mortal heaven's grace and gift. We need to spend less time trying to make our churches appear more multicultural and diverse and proclaim the true multiculturalism of one truth for many, indeed, for all. For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have life everlasting.