"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

God likes diversity not unity!

A few thoughts from Where God Was Born: A Journey By Land to the Roots of Religion by Bruce Feiler ...

Yair Zokovitch, dean of humanities at Hebrew University and a biographer of David to Bruce and his archaeologist friend Avner:

"Biblical historiography is unique in many ways because it goes from one character to another, presenting our history through people. And that history is the story of the failure of our leaders. God is our blessing; our leaders are our punishment." pg. 85

Do you reckon this applies to us as well?  

When visiting Iran and learning about Zoroastrianism:

"In the battle of good and evil, Zoroastrians view death as a temporary triumph of evil, so any contact with a dead object can taint the forces of good.  As a result, humans were not cremated, because burning the body would defile the fire.  Bodies were not buried, because they would defile the earth. Bodies were left exposed in the open air, where they could be decomposed by the sun and devoured by vultures. This public exposure had the added benefit of reinforcing the religion's egalitarian principles, as rich and poor were disposed of in the same manner." pg. 292

Guess that would put an end to the cremation vs. burial debate, huh?  


Bruce's thoughts after rereading this story while in Iraq amongst the ziggurats:

In the episode that precedes Babel, the Flood, God is so angry at humans' lawlessness that he opts to wipe out all of humanity, "to put an end to all the flesh."  Five chapters later, after humans build the Tower of Babel, God no longer seeks to annihilate humans; he merely scatters them over the face of the earth. His leniency is telling. God is not threatened by humans' industry; he is threatened by their unity. Specifically, he worries that if humans put aside their differences and act as one, they will think of themselves as more powerful than God. To reinforce his view, God's response to homogeneity is instructive: He re-creates humans in heterogeneous groups, forcing them to live as distinct cultures, speaking multiple languages.

The message here is unexpected but powerfully relevant today.  When humans try to create one language -- when one group of people tries to impose an artificial order on the world -- God views this as a hubristic attempt to usurp his powers and slaps down the arrogation.  God insists on diversity. He demands that humans accept their differences. In rejecting the Tower of Babel, God rejects fundamentalism, the idea that one way of speaking is the only way of speaking and can be imposed on others at will.

God's solution is a cacophony of voices, living side by side.
pg. 261

United we stand and become more like God, and divided we're scattered enough to never reach God's level?  Hmmm

Why do you think God scattered the people into the variety of cultures and languages? Do you like how Bruce applied the Tower of Babel story making it relevant for today?  I very much appreciate the thought of no one group imposing its will on everyone else. This is why I increasingly reject the United States having its hand in every world situation and on a more minor scale, why I think no one religious group should make the laws that apply to everyone living in a certain land.  I don't think most people want others to impose their interpretations of religion on everyone else. Thus why I hear talk of Americans who will fight militant Islam's global caliphate plans (if there truly are any...maybe this is just conspiracy talk.) 

Please share your thoughts on any of this!


Amber said...

I find the burial (or non-burial in this case) custom interesting. The thought that everything was too pure for the body to be put into it is just fascinating.

As for God liking variety, well. Duh. Look at the world He created.

Amber said...

Oops. Had a though after I hit the submit button.

I don't think it's that God doesn't like unity. He wants humanity to be united, under Him. But he doesn't want homogeneity. He did not create everything to be just the same and He doesn't want us to try to be clones of one perfect ideal. He wants us the way He made us.

sanil said...

Excarnation! :D I learned about that in history class once and thought it was brilliant. Recently I mentioned this to my sister, and told her I thought that was the best option and I wanted it done to me if it was legal...she thought I was being morbid and gross. Which I guess it is, but I like the idea that the body continues to be part of the earth's cycle, that other creatures benefit from it instead of just taking up space.

His analysis of Babel makes me cringe...mostly because it seems self-contradictory. First he points out that the unity makes people stronger, then he tries to make it about fundamentalism and says that one language was about forcing people into something and oppressing them. No. Like he said first, they were successful then. God imposed a language and way of living on the people, and forced them to separate. Different isn't inherently better or more free. Being accepting of differences may be better, but that's not what's happening here. Actually, if we accepted the differences, we could be united again and the languages wouldn't matter. People today do connect across cultures and languages, it's not impossible and it generally makes us more peaceful and productive.

I think Babel explains the inherent conflict between people and cultures. There's fear of the other, and that makes us dangerous to each other because we strike out and draw boundaries when we're afraid and don't understand something. But it's temporary, I do think that by being humble about it and trying to understand rather than control each other, coming together and working past those differences is possible and would make the world a better place.

Suroor said...

I think like what Amber said, God likes unity but perhaps not homogeneity.

Regarding the external burial practice. It is still practiced by the Parsis in India and Pakistan. In fact, the tragedy is currently that there was a shortage of vultures in India and Pakistan and hence many dead bodies were left uneaten by the scarce birds. This means the dead won't achieve Moksha so Indian biologists were forced to study why the vultures were dying. It was revealed that the two countries were using a new type of pesticide in their fertilizers. The cows that ate the grass and crops sprayed with this pesticide contained the poison in their bodies. When they died and the vultures feasted on them, they died from the pesticide's effect! India actually had import vultures for parts where Parsis are in greater numbers. Saw this all on a fascinating documentary. One of my very close friends is Parsi, btw.

Nocturnal Queen said...

I Corinthians 12:13, 20, 25 "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. ...
But now are they many members, yet but one body. ...
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another."

Ephesians 4:3 "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Philippians 3:16 "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing."

Lat said...

I'm back! I missed your posts so much and this one's very interesting!

"..God is our blessing; our leaders are our punishment.."

Yeah I think so but they are some exceptional leaders.

i've wondered why my Hindu friend said that a dead body is polluted,tainted like a menstruating woman.So one shouldn't hold celebrations,visit the temple etc.She couldn't give a satisfactory answer and I wonder if this Zoroastrian view of death play any part in it.But they burn dead bodies so obviously they have different views.I don't know if I want to expose my dead body to vultures.Like Suroor pointed out,I think I'll let vultures live and save them from extinction :)

And God likes diversity as seen thru' His Creative power and wants us to accept diversity in unity.We can be who we are and still be united.

Susanne said...

Amber, great point! I totally agree! :)

Sanil, I didn't know you had just learned about this practice and wanted it for yourself! :D I enjoyed your thoughts on Babel! Very good as always!

Suroor, woooooooooooooow! That is fascinating!! Thanks for sharing this about the vultures!

Niki, great verses - thank you for sharing! :)

Lat, I enjoyed your comment. Nice to hear from you again!

Thank you all for chiming in on this topic. Enjoyed all that you had to share!