Monday, November 05, 2007

The Ethnic Divide

Sometimes my linguistic tendencies get the better of me. It's something I have to carefully monitor, because my appreciation for semantics can really offend some people. For instance, I might occasionally be heard identifying myself as a racist, not because I hold myself above other ethnic groups, but, if my understanding of taxonomy is intact, I could make the sweeping statement that I hold the entire human race above all other creatures on the planet. I guess the word that should be used in place of racist would be ethnist, if it is a word, which is not the common way to express the malicious connotation we all associate with the former. I digress.

The important reason that ushered me back to blogging so suddenly, is the combination of a few passages I've read this afternoon, which seem to point to God as being the cause of all human conflict, at least in the political sense. Here's where I could definitely use some enlightenment if I am indeed wrong, but that will have to come later through further study and prayer. Now then, the meat and potatoes.

Genesis 9: 6 "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

This immediately follows the great flood, during which God destroyed all living things but two of each creature and Noah's direct family. God then made a covenant with Noah (verses 9-17), contracting to never destroy the world again, and, quite poetically, God has adorned the clouds with rainbows to act as a constant reminder of this promise. So far, no problem.

Genesis 9: 18-19 "And the sons of Noah, that went forth from the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread."

Remember, since God has destroyed all other men and women, these men and their families are not only the last remaining links to the past, i.e. Adam and Eve and their descendants, but they will, between them, serve as ancestors to all men that would come henceforth. As an editor, I might think it an odd thing to mention one son in the same verse; in other words, what makes Canaan so significant that justifies putting the cart ahead of the horse in terms of eventually describing the lineage of the three brothers. The answer is a little more malicious than it is redundant. In verses 20-1, we see that Noah settles into something of a domestic lifestyle, or the then equivalent, as he becomes a husbandman and plants a vineyard. One day, he drinks himself into a sleep and collapses naked in his tent, only to be discovered by Ham, father of Canaan:

Genesis 9: 22 "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without."

Here's what they do about it:

Genesis 9: 23-5 "And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren."

Not only is Canaan not directly responsible for Ham's transgression, but it might be argued that Ham had no way of predicting his father's nakedness when he sought him out in his tent. It seems to me that he does the right thing by seeking his brothers' counsel, though Noah, the one man who retained God's grace when God was grieved at man's violent nature, doesn't perceive it that way. But this patriarchal feud has much stronger consequences, if my inferences about the following passages are correct:

Genesis 10: 6, 15-20 "And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan ... And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgashite, And the Hivite ... and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha."

I will be studying up on these places, and it could be that much hunch is wrong, but it seems that Canaanites would eventually form what my current knowledge base tells me are Muslim nations, but the only significance that I will fixate on now are the well-documented fates of some very familiar names in that descendance. This is all attributed to God's poster child of the age. I will certainly be approaching other, much more enlightened and informed Christians about this divide because of the profound significance it seems to have had over the past several thousand years. There's no question the Jewish people have always been a proud and sophisticated one, but their distate for other ethnicities, if it has arisen solely from Ham's transgression, is beyond absurd. Sadly, we aren't even done this thread of thinking, as God will soon intervene during the construction of Babel. Having recently cleansed the earth of its most vilest of men, God descends from Heaven and remarks that man, as one language and one nation, might actually accomplish ascent to Heaven without Him. Again, this seems foolish, but perhaps God is more interested in asserting His dominance than seeing His kingdom infiltrated:

Genesis 11: 4 "And [the men] said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth"

Genesis 11: 5-8 "And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth..."

What does this accomplish? As history shows us, it has complicated the matter of how men should judge men, as they can no longer communicate on a global scale. But, beyond that, it's almost as if God actually fears what men might accomplish with combined force. The motivation we see in verse 4 is phrased as if to challenge the heaven with monuments and architecture, but that is something that man would have likely failed at on his own. What I find shocking, then, is that God must be afraid of seeing man revert to the pre-flood state that inspired Him to cleanse the world, but, in spite of God's intervention, humanity has gotten just as vile. The difference is that, in light of God's intervention, humanity struggles with deeper issues such as nationality and ethnic divides. Why add these extra conflicts to the plate, especially when man was not like to rival God in any way?

Rest assured, as I said, I will be pursuing this one aggressively, but it sure seems demonic to me, at least in this particular moment. Very shortsighted. No essence of God in it, in spite of what the scripture says. Please, if you have any insight into this one, send it my may.

P.S. In case it's unclear, I don't hate anyone of other nationalities based solely on his or her nationality. I judge everyone based on character, as I mentioned in the gender post. However, it almost seems as if we've been directed into the cultural differences that we hold to so tightly, when culture is nothing more than expression and will fade with the dust after all has been said and done.

2 Comments:

Blogger Slave Morality said...

Tough one, it's a little strange because on the surface their project doesn't sound all that terrible and indeed the way it's written, God comes off as insecure. I guess the first question is what's so bad about this tower? The sin seems to be mankind's pursuit of accomplishments in their own name rather than focusing on God's will. His intervention in the situation, I can only assume, must have been for the greater good.

Your point about the ramifications of this outcome is interesting, but I think the important part to remember is that it's a situation brought about by man's sin, I'm not sure God is responsible for the outcome of situations we bring upon ourselves even if they may have negative side effects. Sin brings bad things upon us, pursing selfish desires would clearly fall into that category.

It's been a long time since I focused much in the Old Testament but I understand there are many passages portraying a vengeful and jealous God. It's very hard to comprehend especially given the contrast with Christ and the New Testament, but I guess we can't expect God to be exactly what *we* would like him to. He created paradise just for us and we threw it away. It correlates in many ways to the parent child relationship, we give and watch out for our children but disobedience results in punishment, it has to. God expects things of us and has our best interests at heart, but when rebellion takes place that relationship becomes extremely strained.

That's the best way I can make sense of the most difficult portions of the Old Testament. Good question, tough one, that's the best explanation I can come up with. Hope you follow up with whatever you discover in your search for an answer to this.

6/11/07 20:24  
Blogger James said...

I have to acknowledge a huge deal of hypocrisy on my part, as I really would like a Canadian justice system that's reminiscent of what we read in the Old Testament, if only to banish the culture of victimization that I see so often in the press. Even today, a Nova Scotian priest was handed a slap on the wrist, one-year sentence for molesting someone. Murderers have it just as easy.

My problem is much more subtle, though. I don't want to revert back to my degrees-of-sin mentality, but I don't think I question God's judgment as much as I see it as somewhat wasteful to kill sinners of lesser crimes when they might be ministered to and subsequently saved. As to building a tower, I don't see enough evidence in there to justify confusing all of civilization, as cultural divides have almost unanimously led to conflicts. Over time, we've resolved a lot of them, but I would think that nationality, period, is to the detriment of the gift God gave us, which is this planet. Why must we place picket fences everywhere when we should be combining talents on a global scale to combat issues like hunger and poverty?

6/11/07 22:42  

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