this past week andrew and i had the privilege of sitting in on a spiritual formation class at a higher education institution in portland, oregon.
our friend tony kriz, author of neighbors and wise men :: sacred encounters in a portland pub and other unexpected places had invited us to speak with his students about our own journeys in elevating the conversation with the gay community beyond the back-and-forth, right/wrong polarizing rhetoric that so often dominates these discussions.
during our time together, tony made an interesting observation as he supplemented a statement i had made concerning standing in solidarity with the Other – celebrating the diversity with which our humanity is expressed rather than demanding homogeneity in values, practice and belief.
he noted ::
one of the first times God gets very angry with and intervenes on behalf of humanity is at the tower of babel – when individuals came together to use the ‘same language‘ and the ‘same words‘ in order to make a name for themselves in the genesis narrative.
they feared being scattered abroad, and instead desired to create a world in which everyone looked like, spoke like, believed and behaved like each other.
there was no room for diversity of culture or belief.
they spoke with one voice.
but God had other plans.
the scriptures tell us that God purposefully intervened, confusing their language and scattering humanity in diversity ‘over the face of the whole earth.’
today, over 3,000 known languages and dialects exist throughout the world. the diversity of language and culture – even belief – are not something that is a mistake, nor something that needs to be corrected.
when we seek to come together with one voice and dictate one message and one perspective for all people, forcing homogeneity and undermining the beauty of diversity, we have traditionally landed ourselves in all kinds of trouble.
when one voice, message, perspective, group or belief rises as dominant – dictating the definition of cultural normalcy – and all others are deemed unacceptable or intolerable we historically alienate, marginalize, ostracize and dehumanize the Other.
that’s when genocide happens.
that’s when dictatorships take place.
that’s when horrific stories in human history are written – wars, crusades and crimes against humanity.
we don’t know a lot about heaven, but one picture we do have from the apostle john’s vision seems to suggest that this kingdom will be inhabited by a far more diverse definition of humanity than we often care to admit ::
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palm branches were in their hands and they cry out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’
And all the angles were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’
could it be that part of living into the peace of God is linked to allowing room for differences, rather than attempting to coerce one voice and dictate one message for all people?
what do you think?