The curse at the Tower of Babel was not the creation of cultures and races, but the segregation of them.
— Dr. Soong-Chan Rah
Cedarville University welcomed Dr. Soong-Chan Rah to campus this Thursday. Dr. Rah is one of the nation’s leading advocates and scholars of diversity in the Church.
Diversity of Peoples
The ideas he shared have been transforming my outlook on our world the last couple days. I was raised being taught that the curse placed upon the people of the world at the Tower of Babel was simply that there was a mixing of tongues and cultures. Though I am not a huge fan of what ifs, I would like to think that if the tower had never occurred, the creative God that we serve would have still caused diversity to happen. The curse, though, for their pride, was that these many peoples were segregated, not stirred, into all corners of the earth.
We, however, live in a very exciting time. The implications in passages such as Micah 4, Acts 2, and Revelation 7 are that God will restore His complete Image in humanity by re-uniting the diverse — bringing all peoples back together again. This is not just a hypothesis, but a reality. In the U.S. alone, for example, statisticians are predicting that by 2050, the Caucasian race, which was once a majority, will indeed become a minority.
Diversity in the Church
This concept must transcend into the Church, then, as well. Dr. Rah shared a very compelling image of the yet singular Gospel showed in humanity from a variety of viewpoints. Mankind was created in the Imago Dei (Image of God). It is like God created humanity as if He was looking at Himself in a mirror. However, when Adam sinned in the Garden, it is like that mirror fell and shattered into a broad array of tiny shards. As we interact with the diversity of the world today, to grasp a full concept of the Gospel, we must be willing to be cut by the shards of those different from us.
For the Christian to be an adequate and efficient carrier of the Gospel, it is an imperative for them to be culturally literate. For a white American couple to embark on a missions journey to some corner of Africa without having spent any time with the people of the culture, he proposed, are not evangelizing but rather colonizing. Preserving a conservative white American Christian sub-culture solely, even if not realized, is not evangelism, but rather what is necessary is carrying the fundamental principles of the Gospel solely with an open mind to the culture that we are in.
One of the practical applications that Dr. Rah proposed in our pursuit of this mindset is simply having a spiritual mentor of another race. A typical white American Christian has never been taught or mentored by someone of another race. This must change if we are to strive towards the diverse Kingdom of God that is forming.
Even as I write this, I am sitting in a small coffee shop in Yellow Springs, OH. In this one small packed out room, there is a great melting pot of different ideas and expressions enjoying the live jazz and fellowship. It is so neat to see the Image of God reflected in people of so many different types, but it is burdensome to know that so many of them do not realize the truth of the Gospel that they reflect for themselves.
As I leave at sun up tomorrow to head into a primarily Dominican and Puerto Rican neighborhood of Philadelphia for the next week, I am so excited to learn again about the cultural reflections of my God in this group of people who are so different from me.
God is far bigger than race. And if I do not grasp that, I cannot understand God, which would be a tragedy.