Christianity and Multiculturalism
How does Christianity relate to the concept of multiculturalism? The answer to that depends in large part on one’s definition of multiculturalism and there are many definitions of it given as you see when you begin researching the topic. For the purpose of this article I will define it as the idea that all cultures are of equal value, none to be judged as superior to another, that society should be oriented around groups versus a common concept of a single united “we” working as a unit, that diversity is more important than unity. It is a desire not for assimilation and sameness but for difference. One site I looked at used the term “the politics of difference.” Often proponents of the concept argue that in democracies it is majority rule and thus minorities are held down and discriminated against. The desire is to withdraw from the majority culture. So what does the Bible have to say, if anything, on the topic?
1 Cor. 1:10 reads as follows: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (NKJV) Here we have a plea not for diversity but rather unity which brings up the question of whether or not Christianity is a multicultural religion. If it is then in what sense is it?
That the gospel should be taken into all the world and preached to every creature is clearly taught in the Great Commission. “And he (Jesus – DS) said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mark 16:15-16 NKJV) God is “the Savior of all men” (1 Tim. 4:10 NKJV), not just the Savior of one nationality, or one language, or one race of people. In this sense then certainly the gospel is multicultural. Where you live, what color your skin is, what language you speak, whether or not you are rich or poor, handsome or plain, educated or uneducated, young or old, the way you dress, or what you eat, or the kind of work you do, etc., has nothing at all to do with God’s desire to see you be saved. “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3-4 NKJV) Neither does any of that have anything at all to do with a true Christian’s love for you as a brother or sister in Christ or in his/her desire to see you have the opportunity to become a fellow Christian if you are not already one.
However, the word multiculturalism as it is being used often today in American society conveys the idea that every culture is to be embraced as it is and that all have equal value. Does the Bible teach this to be the truth? Can one become a Christian and then just go back and partake freely of whatever his society (culture) offers up?
When Paul came to Athens, in Acts 17:16, the Bible says, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.” (NKJV) Was Athenian culture to be embraced? In Ephesus their culture called for the worship of the goddess (idol) Diana (see Acts 19). Was this a culture Christians ought to value?
If every culture has value in its own right why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? If every culture is good why did God drive out the inhabitants of Canaan before the Israelites? If you do not know you can find out by reading Lev. 18 and Lev. 20. God in both chapters list a long list of sins and then says in Lev. 18:24-25, “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.” (NKJV) In the next verse he says of those sins, “You…shall not commit any of these abominations.” (Lev. 18:26 NKJV) Compare this with his statement in Lev. 20:23 of similar import after reading the sins listed in the earlier part of that chapter.
What were some of these sins? Here is a sample – burning to death with fire one’s children as a sacrifice to the idol God Molech (Lev. 18:21, Lev. 20:2-5), having sexual relations with animals (Lev. 18:23, Lev. 20:15-16), cursing one’s father or mother (Lev. 20:9), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13), and you can read the rest if you so desire to turn to those chapters and read them for yourself. Now here is the point – did God value these cultures he destroyed? Did he think one culture was as good as another?
Now do not get me wrong. Every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and there is no doubt the same can be said of nations sooner or later. None are perfect. But, are we to say because of that that all are equally good or equally bad? Whether we are talking about nations, cultures, or congregations some are better than others, at least at a given point in time, or if you want to put it another way some are not as bad as others. Read about the 7 churches of Asia in Rev. 2 and 3 and tell me all were equal in standing before God at that particular time in the sense that he was equally pleased with all of them. No man can read those 2 chapters and affirm that to be the truth.
Does one wish to value Nazi Germany and its culture back during the reign of the Nazis? How about Russia under Stalin? Does one really believe that sharia law is as good as democracy? What happens to Christianity if Islamic law ever becomes the law of the land? Are you women in democratic countries looking forward to that time with eager anticipation? Is one culture, one belief system, one ideology just as good as another? What if the other guy’s culture (say Iran’s for example) says you ought to be destroyed (in Iran’s case destroy Israel)? If one guy’s culture says it is a glorious thing to strap on an explosive device on your son or daughter and have them go off and kill themselves what difference does it make to you if you are a multiculturalist? If you are a true multiculturalist that values all cultures equally then what difference does it make to you for who are you to judge?
When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land the idea was not incorporating two cultures into one but destroying one – the one that for that moment was most evil. God was not a multiculturalist. It is utter folly to value equally every culture and to say no culture has claim to be superior to another. Some cultures need destroying, not embraced and built up – Nazi Germany, the Japanese culture of WWII days, the Khmer Rouge, and you can probably add to the list without any additional help from me.
By its very nature multiculturalism is antagonistic to Christianity for it puts sin and righteousness on an equal plain and basically says there is no sin for there can be no value judgment. One can say the Bible supports not being judgmental. Generally, Matt. 7:1 is quoted as a proof passage where Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (NKJV) This is one of the most abused and misrepresented passages in the Bible. Read in context one very quickly comes to verse 6 which says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” (Matt. 7:6 NKJV – Jesus speaking) Who is to judge who the dog is or who the swine is? You are the one who is to do it. You have to make that decision. The Bible does not, contrary to popular opinion, prohibit judging but only unjust judgment. “Judge with righteous judgment,” (John 7:24 NKJV) Jesus said.
To make no judgments at all, and yes I am speaking of value judgments, opposes everything taught in the New Testament and in life. The New Testament praises those who because of full age are able to absorb solid food, “that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14 NKJV) To discern is to judge. “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? … We shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor. 6:2-3 NKJV) Paul was being critical of the church at Corinth because they refused to judge? “I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?” (1 Cor. 6:5 NKJV)
In life in general do we desire that our children go out into the world unwilling or unable to make value judgments? Do we send them out without guidance or direction? Is it our desire that they place the same value on the culture of a gang in an urban area as they do on the culture of a Christian brotherhood of believers? We sometimes hear talk of the drug culture. Are all cultures of equal value? Should no judgments be made?
Christianity is multicultural in the sense that was earlier stated in this article in that it is a gospel made for all without restrictions based on race, sex, nationality, economic or social status, etc. However, once one becomes a Christian we are to become “one” people. “He himself is our peace, who has made both (a reference to Jew and Gentile of which all mankind is one or the other – DS) one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross.” (Eph. 2:14-16 NKJV) The end is not humanity divided as it once was between Jew and Gentile but now united as “one new man.” “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28 NKJV)
Jesus long prayer in John 17 includes this, “I do not pray for these alone but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one.” (John 17:20-21 NKJV) I would also recall to the reader’s memory the verse that began this article, 1 Cor. 1:10, were the plea was (should we say command?) “that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (NKJV)
Christianity does not do away with culture, not mine, not yours, not anyone’s. We all do not have to start eating the same foods, observe the same holidays, learn to speak the same language, wear the same style of clothes, etc. However, our allowance for diversity must end where the pages of the New Testament speak giving us law to abide by, the law of Christ.
Some might argue for multiculturalism in view of the fact that Christendom is divided into hundreds, if not even thousands, of denominations. It is a poor argument to make. Why? Because God condemned anything but unity and it is an utter failure in men and their character, or an acknowledgment of their ignorance of scripture, when they rejoice that every man has a church of his choice different from all others in items of faith and practice when Christ prayed for just the opposite. When men prefer division to unity the failure is in the men.
There are some multiculturalists who fear that to not accept multiculturalism will only lead to trouble, division, and possibly even to violence or war. The truth is just the opposite. People have not gone to war because they were united as one but because they were divided. Two people that agree and see eye to eye are not in danger of conflict with one another. The American Civil War did not start because of unity of belief and practice but because of disunity.
Neither America nor any other nation has anything to fear from within when all are in general agreement. We have been a strong country in a large part because every family that came to our borders came not to remain what they once were (you name the nationality or country) but because they wanted to be something new – an American. My family background is German. My family has not considered itself German for many generations. We are not Germans living in America, not German-Americans, we are Americans. I fear while hoping I am wrong that we are trying to promote in multiculturalism an ideology that will lead those living in our nation as immigrants to have first allegiance not to America but to the nation or culture from whence they came. What then? Trouble! Disunity! A warring among ourselves! That is certainly a possibility.
So it is in Christianity. When we become a Christian we are suppose to leave the old world and its ways from whence we came behind. We are to become a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15, Rom. 6:4). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV) One cannot be a new creation without being literally a new creation meaning he has to put off the old man and put on the new man (Eph. 4:21-24). The old life, the old way of thinking and doing as one pleased, of doing what everyone else around us was/is doing is over. The new life is one of faith and obedience to the word of God, to Jesus. In so far as Christians bring their lives into accordance with that standard of conduct there will be unity of faith and practice.
The goal of Christianity as it relates to culture is to make all people one, one in Christ. There is only one way to do that – teaching the gospel to those who are then given the option through free will of either the obedience of faith or a rejection of the faith. It is a personal choice that must come from the heart of the individual. There is no such thing as forced obedience to the gospel. Maybe the God (?) of Islam can accept converts at the point of a gun but the God of Christianity will not. The God of Christianity desires man’s love. Love cannot be forced. It comes through getting to know the one who will become through our learning of him the beloved. If a man sticks a gun in your back to convert you to his God you quickly learn what kind of God he worships – one who believes in bullets, blood, and guts.
Some (most) misunderstand Christianity thinking it has caused wars in the past (the Middle Ages). It is simply not true for Catholicism is a religion separate from Christianity that does not depend on the Bible for its existence. The Bible alone will never make one a Catholic, will never give you a Pope, will never allow you to pray to or worship the Virgin Mary, etc., etc., etc. They will readily admit it is the teaching of their church that has the primacy and that the New Testament alone is insufficient. Christianity is found in the pages of the New Testament, not outside it.
Protestantism is not Christianity. No man can take the New Testament and show where Jesus ever established a denomination (you can fill in any denominational name you want). Every one of them was established hundreds and hundreds of years after Christ built his church starting on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 thus they are not the church he established. Furthermore, it takes along with faith, repentance, and confession of Christ, baptism to make a Christian which virtually every denomination denies and rejects. Peter said baptism was for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), that it saves us (1 Peter 3:21), but they deny it making Peter out as one who despite being inspired had no idea what he was talking about. As for Ananias telling Paul to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16) he too was deluded according to denominational doctrine.
No, let the Catholics and Protestants war all they want back in the Middle Ages. It had nothing to do with Christianity. Christianity is a striving for one culture (one belief, one mind) but only through teaching and persuasion as a means of obtaining that. When you find the passage in the New Testament that shows a disciple taking up arms to promote the cause of Christ please write me and let me know where you find it. Jesus himself said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 NKJV) “The kingdom of God is within you.” (John 17:21 NKJV) It is found in the heart of the man who has become a true disciple of Jesus, who has become a Christian.
Christians love people of all other races, nationalities, and cultures. I write as an American Christian but Jesus was not an American. Does his race or nationality matter? Does any man’s race or nationality matter? No! Paul said, “We regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:16-17 NKJV) As Paul said, “we regard no one according to the flesh.”
One of the great experiences of my life was going to college and becoming acquainted with people of other races and from foreign lands and cultures. It greatly enriched my life, a country boy from rural white America. My personal doctor today, a man I really like and a wonderful doctor, is from India. You could not get me to change doctors. I am glad we have restaurants today specializing in food from almost every nation in the world. Cultural diversity is a wonderful thing in its place but we have to understand it has its place. There are limits to it. Go too far with it and it divides us into competing and warring factions and brings strife and trouble and sometimes even violence and war. God’s way is always best, “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10 NKJV) In doing so we will have peace and tranquility, be happy with one another, and at peace with God. Both as a nation and as Christians there is much truth in the adage that united we stand and divided we fall or at least fail to achieve what could have been achieved had we stood together as one united people.
About the Author
For preaching a little different than what you are use to hearing try the audio sermons of Waymon Swain.
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