Being born in America, especially as an African American after the 1960s, there is this inherent expectation of equality, fairness, and justice. We protest, we lobby, we work hard, we modify ourselves in the presence of white people, in the hope that we will be viewed as equals: not that we want to be viewed as white, but that our black existence be accepted for what it is, and valued equally to white existence. We hold the nation and its laws to the high standard printed on the coins of its money: God. It is not simply that we want equal rights. There is a subconscious emotionally need to be viewed as equally valuable. We seek integration. Why?
The nation has claimed to be godly, to be Christian, and yet has enslaved people, committed genocide, participated in segregation and discrimination, criminalized the poor, supported and rewarded the elite in their greed. When the poor and minorities read the Bible, however, they see Jesus as a man specifically of the poor people, the down trodden, the underclass and the marginalized. When they see Jesus with his disciples, they see that they are from the white-collar criminal class (Matthew), the terrorist class (Simon the Zealot), the gangster class (James and John, the sons of thunder), the prostitution/promiscuous class (Mary Magdalene?), the mentally ill and demons possessed class (Mary Magdalene), the single unwed mother class (Mary, Jesus' mother).
When the poor and minorities view Jesus' work, they see mass feeding, mass healing, mass teaching. They hear Jesus pronounce blessings on the poor, not the rich; on the sad, not the celebrating; the meek, not the pompous; those who make peace, not those clamoring for war; the pure in heart, not the criminal and duplicitous; the merciful, not the vengeful; those hungry for righteousness, not for capitalistic materialism; the persecuted and the reviled, not the persecutor and oppressor. They even read that there is a reward in heaven for those receiving such treatment.
The problem is this: with America's emphasis on being a Christian nation, and with the evangelical notion being we need to build the kingdom of God here and now, America becomes heaven in the minds of the masses. Thus, if one endures long enough, one should be rewarded here in America at some point with great reward for being what America has asked the poor and minorities to be: poor, sad, meek, merciful, hunger for holiness, pure in heart, peacemakers, joyful while being persecuted and reviled. If America is heaven on earth, then her citizens have every right to expect full integration, justice, equity, equality, and prosperity under the law. The presidency of Barak Obama was romantically viewed by many as the moment our nation had actually fulfilled it promise. The subsequent stonewalling, visible racial disrespect of him and his family, the vitriol we have had to watch him walk through with dignity, has revealed to us that America has not only reneged on its promise, but lacks the ability to keep it. The promise was a lie. What is the lie we have all believed? That it is possible for a fallen, earthly political entity to attain a integrated multicultural, inter-culturalism that is mutual, equal, equitable, and just: genuine integration. The lie is that this is God's ideal goal for a sinful, earthly government.
When I say integration what do I mean? I mean the mutual appreciation, valuing, resourcing, power sharing of the interconnected, interdependent, and yet independent and differentiated people, cultures, customs, etc. without assimilation or appropriation.
Let's consider this definition in relationship to society and social science. Interconnected means to be connected in such a way that separation is damaging and detrimental to the whole. Interdependent means that all other people in the system rely on each other, their customs, language, and culture to ensure that the system works effectively, efficiently, equally, and equitably for all. By independent and differentiated I mean that each ethnic, linguistic, or cultural grouping is not asked to give up their identity, which differentiates them from the other groups. This means that the cultures, language, and customs of the people can stand alone by themselves. The goal of any society, however, is to have a society which is heading in the same direction, toward the same goals, each group equally represented, empowered, and valued for their indispensable part to the whole. Without each group, the whole fails.
When I mediate on this idea, one paradigm I find symbolically helpful is the human body. In the human body you have many differentiated organs, systems, and functions. However, no human body is complete, effective, or efficient without them all. The body does not play favorites. Rest, nutrition, air and water are essential to every fiber and molecule of our being. The foot is not less valuable than the head. If there were no foot, the body is neither efficient nor effective in movement in relationship to its design or goals. If there were no bowels, the body could not effectively remove waste, resulting in septic poisoning. If there were no genitals, no offspring; no mouth, no eating; no digestion...you get the point. The human body works cohesively together as one to maintain health and homeostasis. And yet each system, each organ, is clearly differentiated from the others. The body is interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent, the components of which are independent and differentiated in identity and specific purpose, but are also integrated, depending on and need the other, all work together for the health and perfect functionality of the whole.
With this bodily analogy in mind, I would like to reflect with you on two positional points. My first position is this: in a sinful world, not only is a multicultural inter-culturalism (integration) not truly feasible, but segregation or assimilation are God's “ideals” for fallen people, fallen governments...except in the Christian church. My second position flows out of the first: that the church of Christ is the only entity in all of fallen humanity's history and the Bible where integration is not only possible, it is expected.
God, Humanity, and Segregation
When God exiled humanity from the Garden of Eden, they left with this promise: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15) There were to be two groups of people, who had a divine enmity placed between them: the children of the woman, one of whom would kill the serpent, and the children of the serpent. To this promise is added the promise to multiple children to the woman (the holy line): "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children..." (Gen. 3:16) We see God extend his personal promise of fruitfulness to the women and her seed. He will multiply her conception. It will be filled with sorrow, but God is determined to keep his promise to the serpent, and thus has chosen a side: God is for the woman, and will ensure her seed is numerous in order to keep his promise to the serpent. We see this fulfilled in Chapters 4 and 5: the line of Cain births minimally until polygamy (Genesis 4:17-19), while the line of Seth births multiples children each generation (Genesis 5). The divergent theology and lifestyles caused a natural separation of the children of Cain and the children of Seth:
"For some time the two classes remained separate. The race of Cain, spreading from the place of their first settlement, dispersed over the plains and valleys where the children of Seth had dwelt; and the latter, in order to escape from their contaminating influence, withdrew to the mountains, and there made their home. So long as this separation continued, they maintained the worship of God in its purity." (Patriarchs and Prophets, 81.2)
This self-imposed separation, however, would be undone in chapter 6 when:
"...it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose...There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:1-5)
Look narrowly at this verse: "...it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose..." That word "took", lâqach, can mean to seize, to buy, to marry, to win, to fetch, to carry away, to reserve, to send for, to reserve, to mingle to use. If Genesis 6 is correct, and the thoughts of the imaginations of men's heart is only evil continually, then any one of these definitions is available for application. So we have women sold into slavery and bought, we have women won as a trophy, we have women married legitimately, and we have women taken by force. So we have violence, slavery, polygamy, gambling...all of which is perpetuated by the sons of God, all of which devalues women. This was how they integrated with the Cainites. It was this integration despite opposing theological differences, which produce the great practical wickedness, where "...every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually". To integrate opposing theologies and worldviews there must be compromise, and theological justification by one or both parties for things they would have historically stood against. God destroyed that wicked race with the Flood.
The next time we see humanity coming together in such a momentous way is at the Tower of Babel. God again commanded humanity to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1). The expectation was not only the multiplication of offspring, and the spreading out over the whole earth, but...
"…the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they 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." (Gen 11:1-2, 4)
This building was designed to do to things 1) be taller that the tallest mountain, and thus be out of the reach another flood (Gen. 7:18-19) disbelieving the promise of God (Gen. 9:11), and 2) to keep them together as a united front, contrary to the command of God to spread out and multiply (Gen. 9:1,7).
Additionally, extra-Biblical sources reveal that those building the tower did not value the people building it. The book of Jasher states the builders sought to dominate other humans, and describes the people grieving for a brick when it fell off the tower, but not a person (Jasher 9:21,28). The same Jasher writes that the ancients would shoot arrows into the sky to war with God (Jasher 9:25-29). The Apocalypse of Baruch states that women were not even allowed to stop working in order to birth, but were rather expected to make the bricks and birth on site (Baruch 3:5-8) . The weak and sickly were not valued, only the tower mattered. Josephus reveals that not only did the people did not obey God in spreading out to populate the entire planet, but Nimrod was tyrannically steered the people toward contempt of God, determined to avenge himself on God for the destruction of their ancestors in the flood (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1 Chapter 4, para 2).
These references reveal that when fallen humanity integrates, in addition to it be contrary to God's command to be fruitful and multiple, and in addition to it being about faithlessness and rebellion, fallen integration is also about dominance and abuse of fellow human beings. This was how humanity integrated at Babel. So God confused their speech, they ceased building, they spread out over the entire earth, and the earth was divided among them.
When comparing these post-fall instances we see the following: rebellion against God and human abuse of fellow human. What we also have before the flood is God designating a time period for the pre-flood humanity continued existence: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years" (Genesis 6:3). We see God doing the same thing in Genesis 15:16: "But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." God had a place designated for his chosen people, but that placed was currently occupied by another group, the Amorite. Amorite time was not yet complete.
These 4 instances, the 120 pre-flood probation, the flood, the confusion of Babel and the spreading out over the land, and the designated time of the Amorite, demonstrate fully what Paul states in Act 17:26:
"(God) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation..."
God segregated humanity, since every time they come together they demonstrated rebellion against him and abuse against each other. The rest of the Bible (OT and NT) plays out this narrative: fallen societies either have a caste system with cultural appropriation, full-on cultural and ethnic assimilation, or genocide as seen as a direct judgment of God. There was never any true integration, and by integration I mean the mutual appreciation of others unlike myself, allowing them to and joining them in practicing their culture and customs equally alongside mine, as well as equal power sharing, valuing their cultural language and contributions as equally as I value my own
Case #1- Hierarchied or Caste System Integration with Cultural Appropriation: In the NT Paul is arrested and about to be beaten by the Romans to disturbing the peace. He asked the jailer “is it lawful for you to beat a Romans citizen”, at which question the jailer gets his centurion. The centurion says he obtained his citizenship through money, but Paul asserts he was born a citizen. Here we see the hierarchy between citizens: the naturally born versus the legally declared, with the later being lower. We're this is other stories in the OT: Joseph becomes 2nd in command, but is still under Pharoah; Esther becomes queen, but her people are still to be conquered and persecuted; Daniel and the 3 Hebrew men are high ranking in Babylon, yet they are still captives. No matter how high they get, there is still some captor over them.
Case #2- Cultural and Ethnic Assimilation: The Hebrew nation was willing to accept the foreigner in their midst. However, this foreigner didn't live contrary to the Hebrew belief system. Working on the Sabbath was prohibited, idolatry was prohibited, etc. One was expected to assimilate to Hebrew customs in Hebrew land. Rahab, the Gibeonites, Ruth, and Uriah come to mind. Each instance was demonstrative of complete assimilation to Hebrew way of life, to include marriage and the raising of children, within 1 generation. Instances of attempted integration by Hebrews are Solomon with his wives, and Jezebel with Ahab. They both ended in God's people rebelling against Him, as well has the abuse of humanity.
Case #3- Genocide: The OT is full of instances of God telling his people to wipe out entire people groups (See Genesis 15, the time of the Amorite, the books of Joshua and Judges). The idea behind this is that, in relationship to God these people have exhausted their allotted time of probation, met the criterion of absolute wicked rebelliousness, and thus must be served God's judgment. In the flood, at Babel, and at Sodom and Gomorrah, in Egypt we find God has exacted judgment personally. However, with the invasion of Canaan we find God using sinful humanity to judge wicked humanity. Wicked humanity is wiped off the map, and their place is left to the faithful, or at least less wicked. We even see God moving other nations, giving them their freedom:
"Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?" (Amos 9:7).
Here God declares not only has He "exodused" Israel from Egypt, but also the Ethiopians, the Syrians, and the Philistines. God sent Pharaoh to war with Assyria at Carchemish (2Chr. 35:20-21) God declares Israel is his battle axe (Jeremiah 51:23), Assyria is the rod of his anger (Isaiah 10:5) Cyrus is his shepherd and anointed one (Isaiah. 44:28; 45:1). While a rod is used to chastise, a battle ax is used to destroy. Israel clearly was used by God in the destruction of the Canaanites as judgment from God, while Assyria and Cyrus were used as rods of chastisement with Israel, with Cyrus being also God's shepherd. Clearly Israel's time was not up.
As it relates to boundaries, the Bible gives us something in nature to consider:
Job 38:8-11 "Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
Here we see that it is God who commanded the waters to stay in their locations, be they in the clouds, or in the depths. This staying of the water in its assigned location was symbolized by the rainbow in the cloud (Genesis 9:11-17). Thus, in describing the coming of the king of Assyria the bible says:
"Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son; Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel." Isa 8:6-8
And again of Assyria and Egypt:
"I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them. And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away." (Zec. 10:10-11)
The kingdoms of Assyria and Egypt are likened to rivers (Euphrates and Nile), with their invasion and armies being likened to those rivers' waters overflowing their boundaries. As mentioned above, at times differing nations were used by God to protect and guide other nations by being the shepherd and anointed one (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1), to punish other nations by being the rod (Isaiah 10:5), or bring about final judgment by being the battle axe (Jeremiah 5:23). This principle can be view in Deuteronomy 2:9-25, where the ancient races of giants are described as being genocided by other people groups, Bible saying that the land was given by God to the victors.
What we are seeing is this: while during the flood all of humanity was united in fellow-human abuse and rebellion against God, and such rebellion received judgment, after Babel and the diversifying of languages humanity could not unite, and thus each people group rebelled at different stages, locations, and times, resulting in divine judgments being handed out to individual groups and not humanity as a whole. This keeps God from wiping out humanity again before the incarnation of Jesus.
It is from this position that the following verses are valid and applicable:
"For he (the political ruler) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (See Romans 13:1-7)
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme…” (see 1 Peter 2:13-17)
The New Testement Jew would have read these in the context of the Old Testament precident. The idea behind these texts is similar to that of the OT "overflowing river", "rod", "battle axe", and "shepherd" statements: the kingdoms are used by God to punish ungodly peoples, or they are civilizations whose expansion is in direct rebellion to God, but their probationary "time of the Amorite" is not yet fulfilled. While God allows or uses these fallen evil nations to guide, protect, or punish other fallen evil nations, let us not think that the kings, kingdoms, and governments God chooses to use have any holiness to them. They simply are tools in the hands of a holy God when dealing with an evil world filled with evil people. That God would use an unholy kingdom to punish another more unholy kingdom can easily being found in the book of Habbakuk.
In any case, from a political standpoint we see no evidence of God organizing political and governmental integration as ideal for fallen humanity. We see God actually enjoining political segregation as ideal for fallen humans, with hierarchical cultural assimilation, diversity and inclusion, full on assimilation, or genocide as a judgment from God as the only options available. From God's perspective, it is either limited time and geography for rebellion and human abuse resulting is small scale judgment, or global rebellion and human abuse resulting in global judgment.
When it is all said and done, the world will soon once again be of one heart and one language.
"...and all the world wondered after the beast." Rev. 13:3b
They will globally begin to again globally abuse fellow humans.
"...and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Rev. 13:15b, 16-17
There will be global rebellion against God.
"...(and) causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed...and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." Rev. 13:12b, 15b
This time, with the price for sin having been paid, the holy line of demarcation will be clearly defined, the righteous and the wicked will choose sides.
"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receivehismark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev. 14:9-12
There will be no need for further segregation. All will have sealed their fate in their decision. God will come and judge humanity, and since Christ's mercy has either already been accepted or rejected, justice will be met out in full force.
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Rev. 20:11-15
Summary: Every time humanity comes together as one, it shows itself to be in rebellion to God, and abusive to fellow humans. So God has separated the human family, designating each section of the family to an area/geographical location (Genesis 10&11; Acts 17:26), and given each section of the human family a probationary time period (Genesis 15:16; Acts 17:16). These boundaries are at times described as rivers in scripture, with kings and kingdoms invading other places to be seen as the rivers overflowing the banks (Isaiah 8:6-8; Zec. 10:10-11). Movement outside of established boundaries was instigated by God himself (Amos 9:7; 2 Chr. 35:20-21). One either got the rod of chastisement, which may have resulted in being conquered (thus a caste system or assimilation), or one received the battle axe (resulting in genocide). However, integration, as is presented in western democracy, is found nowhere in scripture as a God-ordained political-governmental plan, because with sinners it does not work. Segregation, however, can be. God, to curtail a unified and global human oppression of humanity, as well as to post-pone as long as possible a unified human rebellion against himself (and thus the righteous judgment due such rebellious wickedness), chose to keep us politically separate and segregated.