|"I hear today for the first, the river in the tree." - Poet Emily Dickinson|
I am beginning a new section of inquiry which will be titled loosely under the themes of "pluralism, tolerance, and accommodation" and will intentionally cover the intersections of religious belief as it touches upon personal comportment and sociological behaviors and groupings. Usually this experience has resulted in the death, genocide, and enslavement of major minority people-groups as evidenced by ethnic Jews in Europe and Russia, the American Indians in America, the Russians, Chinese and SE Asian peoples under Communistic rule, ethnic African tribes in despotic African governments, the Indian cultures of Central and South America, and sadly, this list may go on and on in historical review. And yet these are the more recent historical occurrences either witnessed in our lifetimes or recently occurring in the near past resulting in dominating sociological cultures that have organized their societies around their own dominant ethics, laws and self-identities.
Curiously, one of the most recent major cultural clashes we are witnessing is that of Western civilizations adjusting and accommodating non-Western Islamic societies in a series of regional wars and conflicts, legal re-positionings and decrees, cultural adoptions and recognition. Each is separately stubborn in their own beliefs, religions, idealisms, goals and duties, while reluctantly recognizing the pluses and minuses of the other's systems and politics, economies and structures, strengths and weaknesses.
Positively, some assimilation and accommodation has begun to occur but not enough, and most probably never will, because the distinctions between both cultures are so wide and deep. Which presents the perplexing paradox to each culture as to how to co-exist one with the other in a non-interfering, "peaceable" stand-off while attempting to recognize the rights and liberties, or non-rights and non-liberties, of each culture's dominant belief systems. One side professes (however poorly) personal democratic liberties and freedoms, will the other professes (from this Westener's viewpoint, I admit) a more rigorous application of enforced religious law upon its masses creating sociological caste systems, poverty and gender-based personal inequalities under a dominating sectarian body administrating strict sectarian rule.
Consequently we have an uneasy tolerance between one culture with the other with the latter being more easily recognized by socialistic governments than by their democratic counterparts except for the alienating religious overtones that separates Islamic governments from usurping communistic regimes. Previously, Christian liberation theologies have been adopted by unempowered, undeserved, neglected, abused and misused, impoverished minorities to address many of the ills of majority rule, whether black vs. white in America and elsewhere, or ruling South American regimes over their less-empowered Catholic masses. But this biblical theme or principal does not apply to the current conversation between Christian and Islamic groups within their separate religious spheres of influence, each being the dominating and empowering people group within their own societies and from differing religious foundations.
Furthermore, religiously tolerant governments that are built upon the ideals of ethnic, cultural and gender equality (to name a few) can only be at best agnostic in their rulings, laws and ethics, and will require of its citizenry an "agnosticism" on their own part, so that, (i) a dissimilar minority group's religious beliefs and ethics are not denied, and, (ii) the majority group learns to welcome and not to alienate competing (or adoptive, or assimilated) newer religious and ethnic groups into their more tolerant and pluralistic forms of society. Usually these more urbane societies are organized around the centralizing themes of equality, liberty, freedom after being severely suppressed and discriminated against themselves and having experienced poverty, enslavement, loss of freedoms, rights, and hopelessness. Which, in the case of America, was true of many of its adoptive citizenry when immigrating from British colonial Europe (Scotland, Ireland, Wales); the Scandinavian countries; then Italy, Australia, Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe (WW1,2); the SE Asian countries of China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia under communism; the Mid-East Arabic countries from its turmoil and unrest; the Bosnians fleeing the deadly Serbian massacres of their former country in Yugoslavia; the suppressive and oppressive states of Mexico and Central America; and a plethora of displaced African tribes seeking refuge from gross feudalism and rampant tyranny. Each immigrating people group has brought its own tales of horror and woe, and each hunger for peace and freedom from oppression, violence, disharmony, hate and injustices.
In America we call this form of governmental agnosticism the "separation of Church and State" which is a poor descriptor to employ but a necessary and true conveyance of what must be a factual truth. To use the term "agnosticism" is not to imply the denial of our religious heritage so much as to imply that its citizenry expand their understanding of their religious heritage to cover all forms of faiths and beliefs within our Americanized system of juris prudence. Perhaps a better term can be found, but for the purposes of this document it is a good term to use describing the "neutrality" and "abeyance of suppressing indoctrinations" by a ruling majority people group.
And with every reception of a newer people group to the shores of democracy (regardless of country) comes the reciprocating power of dissolution of governance upon that country or fiefdom that is losing its fleeing masses; thus compounding that country's further loss and destabilization of power by want of exodus upon its masses still imprisoned within their own country. This has recently been witnessed in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The results can be seen plain enough in formerly Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan which have necessarily "democratized" their cultural institutions and adopted state policies of tolerance, freedom and liberty. And in the overthrows of dictatorships and unrest in countries without governing principles of democracy like Russia, China and the Middle East.
All this has been said to state that it is my conviction that a democracy cannot thoroughly succeed without having an "enjoined" (accepted, wanted, scrutinized) Christian foundation. And though non-Christian democracies may attempt this form of rule by its masses by copying varying forms of capitalism, it will ultimately fail (just as American governance can fail) should its citizenry no longer continue to assimilate and expand their Christian understanding of life, liberty and freedom gained from the Scriptures and through Christ. Consequently, democracies will always be faced with the fact of spiraling towards some form of socialism or towards dissolution and anarchy should they drift from the centralizing cornerstones found in Christianity. But to the degree that they do accomplish this through mass acceptance and inward social re-structuring then will those people groups succeed in the task of re-discovering, promoting and maintaining liberty for all peoples of all faiths, beliefs, cultures and heritages.
The basis for my assumption is that only in Christ, his cross and his resurrection, can be found the spiritual power for love and understanding, peace and tolerance, that can overrule our wicked and sinful hearts so soon to violence and destruction of others human beings rights and prerogatives. Moreover, it is in the hope and reality of God's coming kingdom and through the power of Christ's resurrection that any of this may be true and possible. And it is uniquely for us as Westernized Christians to learn to disseminate the Gospel of Christ to all the realms and nations of the world in a missiology that does not enforce westernization, nor promote westernizing culture, because the gospel belongs to every man, to every woman, and to every culture as much as it has belong to our own personal heritages. It must be discovered and adopted by another's inasmuch as it must be de-linked from our own cultural experiences. In Carl Raschke's words, "Christianity has no culture [to] itself but belongs to all cultures” (see GloboChrist review further below in this same section).
And though I could despair that this task might overwhelm the Christian church in schisms and fear, it is my hope that in this era of postmodernity - as evidenced by the newly arisen branch of "emergent" Christian churches - that it might be accomplished as we release our prejudices and biases, our hatreds and unloving acts and "steel ourselves" to the task of presenting Christ to the nations, his atonement, his love, his kingdom that will reach beyond all of men's kingdoms, to that of God's itself. Whose kingdom may be found enriched by all the historical diversity and pluralism that is found in man's life-and-death histories on this planet we call earth, which will someday be called a "New Earth" located in a "New Heavens" under God's Trinitarian and Holy rule of love and justice. Thus it can be said that the Kingdom of God is trans-formative, trans-national, trans-cultural and trans-temporal, making it an "eternal" kingdom. That, in Christ himself, has come the Savior of the world to live with us - his lost humanity and creation - to be re-claimed and resurrected by his holy personage, will and love.
It is to this rule that we wish to submit and to non-other as we try to interpolate God's will and holy law of love and re-create an equitable earthly rule for all mankind by whatever democratic or non-democratic governance that is operative. For the kingdoms of man must someday bow all knees, heads and hearts to a grander rulership, a more exquisite lordship, to that of our Creator God, our Sovereign, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus. It is to his reign of love that we must embrace and commit ourselves to with a servant's heart of humility, willful obedience and submission in a selfless, sacrificial service that only God's love can demand.
May 10, 2011