Posts Tagged ‘racism’

There seems to be a significant amount of misunderstanding regarding where things stand and even the larger context regarding DVZ.  I was hoping to not have further blog conversation on this topic but really to work to build relationships behind the scenes. But I do feel the need to address some specific issues and questions that have arisen.

(1)    I have reviewed my posts and at no point do I ever call for the complete shutdown of the website.  As far as I can tell, I don’t know of anyone else that asked for the complete shutdown of the website.  I and many others have repeatedly stated that the subject matter was an important one. There was no statement opposing the blog, the community itself, or every single aspect of the book and website. The suggestion was to pull the offensive material and to drop the theme.  The decision to completely shut down the website and to pull the books was in the hands of the authors and the publishers. Asking the authors to drop the theme and shutting down the entire website are not equivalent.  I believe that there should have been enough content to continue the website without continuing the theme.  And I am praying that the authors will be able to bring back the content in a new and impactful way.

(2)    There was never a point where the word “racist” was used against the authors.  Phrases like, “cultural insensitivity” were being used.  The word “racist” is such a loaded word that anyone even evoking the term becomes a name caller and loses credibility.  What an incredible irony.

(3)    Please recognize that many were offended by the theme and found that it was harmful to the body of Christ.  Many felt that it hindered witness to the non-Christian Asian-American community.  The CONTENT of the book should not have been impacted by dropping the marketing theme.  The work of calling the church to Christian integrity could continue without an absolute reliance upon the theme.  There was never any call for Mike and Jud to stop their ministry.  In the same way that there was never any call for Zondervan to stop publishing books.  There was never any sense of concern beyond this immediate situation.  There has always been a high level of respect for their past ministry and a strong affirmation of their future ministry.

(4)    Some have asked about stereotypes in the secular media. These are also very harmful. However, these stereotypes and racial/cultural insensitivity are not being perpetuated by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  The secular media are not governed by Christian values, but the church should be governed by Christian values of respect for the other, an honoring of the image of God found in other cultures and a willingness to pursue God’s justice and righteousness.

I absolutely acknowledge that I made numerous mistakes throughout this process.  I extend both my public apologies as well as continue to offer apologies in private.  This ongoing process is a difficult one for all those involved, but we are choosing to stay engaged on this very difficult journey.  I have a deep sense of empathy for the strong feelings felt by many that something very significant was taken away.  Please understand that that is how many Asian-Americans felt when confronted with this material.  I don’t feel the need to re-hash why the marketing of this material was so harmful, but let us not forget that the need for a response was because there was an offense in the first place. I feel no sense of victory about the material being pulled.  If I had an agenda at all it was that this episode will call the church to a greater sense of understanding regarding matters of race, culture and the Christian faith.  We have a long way to go on this.  But I’m praying that for everyone involved, we can continue to move towards authentic reconciliation.

It was more than a week ago that four Asian-American leaders engaged in a conference call with executives from Zondervan, regarding their recently published book, Deadly Viper Character Assassin: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership. While the authors of the book have issued a public apology for the offense and harm their material has caused, we have yet to hear officially from Zondervan.  In that conference call, Zondervan promised to act upon the conversations with members of the Asian-American Christian community.  There is no reason to suspect that Zondervan will not act upon their promise. To some extent, it is understandable that they would take some time to deliberate their course of action.  However, we must continue to make our perspective clear to Zondervan.  As they are formulating their response, I would ask that they consider the following:

(1)    A very significant outcry from the Asian-American community (pastors, ministers, academics, lay leaders, etc.) has called for a public apology and the dropping of the entire theme of the book. If there is no or a limited response from Zondervan regarding this material, it would be a slap in the face of the Asian-American Christian community (and many others as well), who spoke in a very clear and unmistakable voice asking for the cessation of this theme.

(2)    Please do not look for the easy compromise. Changing a font here and a photo here would only be cosmetic change to something that was misguided from the onset.  We have already seen the evidence of where this theme leads. Some of the more egregious examples arose from what may have been good intentions at the beginning, but deteriorated into caricature and stereotype by the time many of us encountered this material.  In other words, simply excising the external product minimizes the immediate damage, but does not prevent future damage from occurring.  We have seen the fruit from the poisonous tree.  By allowing the tree to stand, we may see more damaged fruit from this venture.

(3)    Because of the book, there has already been significant damage to the credibility of Christian witness to non-Christian Asian-Americans.  On this blog, I have stopped a number of responses from non-Christian Asian-Americans who expressed through profanity, their perspective on the book.  Their ire was oftentimes directed towards Christians and towards Christianity.  A significant portion of the Asian-American community remains an unreached people group.  This book provides a significant barrier to the gospel for many unreached Asian-Americans. There are some who have asserted that there are many who are connecting to the material and that the martial arts theme is the only way to keep these individuals engaged in this important issue of Christian character.  I would challenge the creativity of the authors to come up with a way to continue to engage their target audience without denigrating and stereotyping the Asian-American community.  I would ask that the authors and Zondervan to consider whether it is justice to alienate and marginalize an unreached population for the purpose of titillating those who are interested in the marketing gimmick more than the issue of integrity and character.

To Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite, and the executives of Zondervan: “Do the RIGHT THING.”  Not the “financially expedient” thing.  Not the “minimizing the damage” thing.  Not the “we have to protect our interests” thing.  But as Christian leaders, do the right thing.

A range of voices from the academy continue to chime in on the issue.  Bo Lim, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Seattle Pacific University provides his perspective on the DVZ controversy.

Bo Lim

The authors of Deadly Viper and Zondervan have heard from Asian American Christians that the book is hurtful and have apologized, but they continue to sell the book.  By their actions it appears they do not believe that the book itself is harmful.  I believe the authors and Zondervan do not believe that the book is harmful because they do not understand that the U.S. is a racialized society and the how negative ethnic stereotypes function within such a culture.

The U.S. possesses a legacy of inequities based upon race.  In America black means something different than in Africa.  Yellow in the U.S. means something different than in Asia.  Because of this the authors cannot bypass the concerns of Asian Americans when they employ Asian stereotypes.  A recent event in Seattle demonstrates the harm in importing foreign cultural symbols without the consent of Americans of the same race.  The Seattle Zoo constructed an East African village within the zoo grounds complete with people from the Maasai culture.  The Maasai were proud to display their culture in the US, but it is African Americans who have had to deal with a history of being caricatured as primates.  It is African Americans who have to deal with comments like, “Your people are in a zoo?”  The use of Asian cultural symbols by the authors of Deadly Viper may possibly flatter Asians, but it may cause harm to the Asian American community because we are a racial minority in the U.S.

Certainly negative stereotypes are insulting, but are they actually harmful?   Yale historian Matthew Jacobsen observes that the phenomena of “pan-whiteness” which emerged in the 20th century is defined by the following two characteristics:  one had to shed ethnic identity markers that were traditionally not white; and one had to perpetuate acts of violence against non-whites.[1] I can attest to an example of this from my youth.  At the middle school I attended in San Francisco we had so many recent Chinese immigrants that Cantonese and Mandarin could regularly be heard in the school yard.  I recall when a white friend of mine grabbed a hold of a smaller student speaking in Chinese, slammed him against the wall, and screamed in his face, “This is America!  Speak English!”  I am ashamed to say that I laughed consentingly at his actions in my desire to be accepted by my white friend.

Will Deadly Viper encourage acts of violence against Asian Americans?  I should think not given its target audience.  But what it does do is objectify Asian Americans in the same demeaning manner as those who do engage in acts of violence against Asian Americans.  While not encouraging violence, Deadly Viper does support Jacobson’s definition of what it means to be white in America.  Viewed in this manner the book is harmful to not only Asian Americans, but also to white Americans since it reinforces a destructive identity of what it means to be white.

A couple of weeks ago while shopping at a Game Stop in a Seattle suburb I unintentionally annoyed another white patron.  He and I were both in search for good deals on used PS2 games and apparently he didn’t appreciate the fact that I was in competition with him.  He was there with his son and I was with my children.  He grew so angry that he openly began to boast of how he was going to beat me up, punch me out, and smack me down while his son giggled gleefully at the machismo displayed by his father.  Unsurprisingly, he referred to me as, “That damn Chinaman!”

The man did not assault me, but I do wonder if his son will grow to one day assault my children or another Asian American.  Unfortunately Asian Americans continue to be objectified as “damn Chinamen” or “Chicka Wah Wah” (see ch 5).  I am particularly troubled by the depiction of Asian women in the book.  They are stereotyped as the submissive and sexy Geisha girl, the martial arts mistress, or the dominating Dragon Lady.  They are exotic objects either to be feared or mastered by men.  While the authors and Zondervan are not responsible for causing injustices against minorities, they are responsible for how they respond to them.  If Christian discipleship involves seeking justice and righteousness (Amos 5:24), our responsibility is to fight against hurtful stereotypes in order to bring harmful acts to an end.

To my Asian American sisters and brothers I remind us that if we are going to claim that an injustice has taken place then we must advocate for others who are in similar need.  Otherwise we are merely engaging in identity politics and the accusation is true that we merely show the race card when it conveniences us.  To the authors and Zondervan, do not recall the book due to political pressure.  Recall it if you believe that is the just thing to do.  If you do recall the book please educate the masses of people who comprise your audience why you chose to do so lest blame fall on Asian Americans.


[1] Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color:  European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1998).  I am indebted to Jonathan Tran for introducing me to this work.

 

Kyle Small provides some insight from a different perspective on the DVZ issue.  Kyle addresses the question: Why I am not surprised at Zondervan’s Silence (and my complicity)?Kyle Small

Michael Emerson and Christian Smith conducted a study of evangelicals, namely white evangelicals, and the results sadly confirmed that only 4% of White Evangelicals considered race/ism an issue [Divided By Faith, 87]. I tend to agree that it is barely an issue for “us.”. I am a white male; I grew up in a white church, and served as pastor in four predominantly white communities, including two suburbs. I am currently co-pastor in a rural white community. Throughout most of my experiences race is not a problem….mostly. And if I choose to view my experiences by the nomenclature of most, I will be able to forget those few circumstances of racism in the church and forever propagate Emerson’s findings – racism is not an issue.

I am Zondervan’s target market. The churches I serve will buy their books, maybe even their recent Christian testimony about the recently divorced, high-celebrity couple, John and Kate Gosselin, Multiple Bles8ings. And when I buy their puritan evangelical literature I will hopefully dismiss Zondervan’s connections to Fox Media owner and adult industry govenor, Rupert Murdoch. All of this devilish content will fade under the publisher’s citations of Scripture and stories encouragement that nourish my suburban soul.

I am not too surprised at Zondervan’s silence to the accusations of racism. Very few in their market see a problem, and as long as this ignorance continues, why should Zondervan bother and offer any attention to questions about Deadly Viper?  The hermeneutics of racialization are absent from the marketing and profiting practices of the media giant.

Yet regardless, the whiteness of Zondervan is creating a hell that lacks cross, ecclesiality, and conscience. And the hell we (White Evangelicals) have created is continually foreign to our imaginations fed by the publishing cocoon Zondervan has created in protectionist response. It often appears that Zondervan publishes in order to cocoon their market and save us from the liberal and angry voices of outsiders, especially Angry Asians (who have graciously been adopted into dominant culture and how ungrateful some will be – satire). This cocoon eliminates entrance into the hell that we have created for marginalized others; it has saved us to believe in a resurrection “in a body not bearing the scars of its own crucifixion” (cross – Perkinson). The cocoon has eliminated any calling out (ecclesiality) but merely a calling within to be more white, more pure, more sectarian – more cocooned. And as long as Zondervan continues the cocooning of White Evangelicals, there will be no conscience to even conceive of the complaints lodged against them. When we are finally released from the cocoon we will hopefully emerge as big white butterflies who can fly from the suburbs into the heavens unaware of the divisive hell we propagated on earth.

I wish I was not one of Zondervan’s marketing groups; I wish I could find a quick and easy way out or even adopt myself into a marginal group (especially as justice for marginalized is a trendy topic in some sub-groups of evangelicalism), but I cannot. What remains is James W. Perkinson’s claim: “any talk of race by white folk must begin with lament, terror and rage.”  Zondervan is free to ignore the voices of the Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities – they believe that you don’t consume their stuff. But Zondervan cannot ignore the voices of their major marketing segment – White Evangelicals. Unfortunately, we remain all too silent, but now is the time to speak with and for Others and enter this hell of publisher’s racism with lament, terror, and rage, otherwise the words already spoken too easily fall on deaf ears.

See James W. Perkinson. White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.

Another important voice to hear on this topic: Jonathan Tran, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Religion at Baylor University.  Jon’s voice is important one we need to hear on a whole range of topics.  On this topic of DVZ, Jon weighs in from the perspective of theological ethics.

Jon Tran

I’m assuming that Zondervan vets potential projects or ad campaigns that would be offensive to the general public or detrimental to Zondervan’s Christian mission. In other words, it would not knowingly publish materials that, for example, makes racially belittling jokes or openly promotes racism. Either the editorial staff allowed one to slip by, or (more frighteningly) simply does not consider Asians and Asian Americans worthy of such protections, since Zondervan recently published the book Deadly Vipers with a book cover and advertising materials that were offensive, belittling, and unhelpful.

As a theologian, I teach Christian Ethics and have often applauded the way Zondervan takes seriously its role in shaping Christian minds and bodies for the betterment of the church and the church’s place in the world. Several of my colleagues at Baylor publish with Zondervan because of its fine intellectual and Christian commitments, so I am no stranger to its strong history. This book and its promotions undercut those noble purposes. Publishing this cover is similar to publicizing the claim, “Gangsta Rap = African American culture” as if the richness of all that is African American culture and the incredible history of the African American church could be reduced to a few asinine media perceptions.

Asians and Asian Americans already have to deal with the tired “Asian = Martial Arts” stereotype and the racist slurs that come with it; Deadly Vipers does not help their cause. One may defend the book cover by claiming that its racial stereotyping is so over the top as to not warrant serious consideration, that somehow we should learn to laugh at such things. I for one believe with certainty that laughter, the right kind, is an indication that God is with us and hence we can live in faith not fear. However, since sin and error always creep near, right laughter can quickly mutate into wrong laughter when some become the butt of others’ purportedly innocuous jokes.

As an Asian American, I like many of my Asian American Christian brothers and sisters have had to bear the burden of these belittling stereotypes for many, many years. Now witnessing Christians publish these kinds of hurtful materials wounds deeply since it is only within Christianity that I have found affirmation of an ethnic identity that feels constantly under attack within the wider culture. So while the fact that the ad campaign is so over the top is laughable, the ways those jokes translate into discrimination, racial slurs, and stereotypes is not laughable at all.

Now I realize that Asians and Asian Americans do not often warrant political and ethical considerations in this country, but perhaps we as Christians might do better, not least because Asian Americans comprise part of the diverse body of Christ we rightly publicize to the world. The sacramental shape of Christian existence between baptism and the Lord’s Supper introduces and instantiates into the world a diverse community called church by which Christians of every tongue, tribe, and nation share a common life within God’s infinite generosity and eternal accommodation. Since God is eternal, there is space within God’s life for all these. As the Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson says, “God can, if he chooses, accommodate other persons in his life without distorting that life. God, to state it as boldly as possible, is roomy…” All the nations, including all the nations of America, share in the cosmic transformation of God’s salvation and in the immanent material performances of that salvation. This means this common sharing is no flaccid multiculturalism, which cordons in zoo-like conditions difference for the sake of difference. Rather, this common sharing is a genuine sharing, a true commonweal as St. Augustine says. The baptized are initiated into the same body to be the same body; they drink the same blood from the same cup. Hence the theologian Emmanuel Katongole describes worship as “wild space” of gathered difference. Sharing God’s body renders us, as God’s body, the visible image of God in the world while simultaneously making visible our particularities that reflect God’s created donum Dei of difference (God’s gift of difference); the one body of Christ makes visible this one body in all its parts. There is no body without its parts. Unlike what has become the case in market economies, these body parts do not compete with one another but are each the conditions of the others’ health and wholeness; the wounds of some in the body are the wounds of everyone in the body. As Paul quips, feet and hands and ears and eyes are not at cross-purposes with one another: “You are the body and individually members of it,” Paul writes (1 Cor. 12).

We are each Christian and individually Christians. We are each Christian and individually Mexican American or Asian immigrant, so on and so forth. As Father Katongole intones, “If we can begin to see each other not as strangers in competition for limited resources, but as gifts of a gracious God, then we will already have discovered ourselves within a new imagination, on the road to a new and revolutionary future, which worship both signals and embodies.” In other words, the church’s cultural and ethnic diversity is, for Christians, worship as it celebrates what God has created and what God is reconciling. Zondervan has been on the forefront of articulating the good news of this gathered body for many years. As a theologian who is first and foremost a congregant in a local church, I have benefited from Zondervan’s many contributions to these efforts. It is with these rich contributions in mind that I now beseech you to not let this silly cover and this silly ad campaign undermine your great efforts.

Andrew Lee is part of the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity (ISAAC).  ISAAC provides educational resources and builds organizational capacity for engaging Asian Pacific North American Christian communities. ISAAC provides valuable resources for those interested in learning about the Asian American community. Andrew’s essay was originally posted on ISAAC’s blog.

While many blogs, opinions, and letters have been aimed toward the authors of Deadly Viper, the number of comments directed toward the role of the publisher, Zondervan, pales in comparison.  The publication of this book is an indication that Zondervan and its editorial board deemed its content appropriate.  And while the authors, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, have taken responsibility and issued personal apologies, two weeks have passed and Zondervan has yet to take an official stand.  Why the delay in acknowledging and rectifying the wrongs, however unintentional, which have occurred?

In his blog, Professor Rah references Said’s Orientalism, explaining how the West describes, dominates and rules.  Asian culture plays an unflattering second fiddle to western primacy. Numerous examples have already been cited by others regarding the errors in the representation of Asian culture in Deadly Viper.  Suggestions have been offered for editorial changes that would not alter the essential content of the book but would remove offending aspects of its presentation.  Sadly, if corrective actions are not taken to make major changes to the book, this will be yet another example of modern day colonialism. The cultures of the marginalized will again be referenced and exploited for economic gain by the corporate empire.

If colonialism in its current incarnation is defined as the acceptance of cultural, political and economic marginality, then these conditions will clearly be present should the book be allowed to remain in its existing format:

  1. Cultural exploitation, i.e., hegemony—The dissemination of this publication with its flawed portrayal of Asian culture will only serve to reinforce the stereotypes that currently exist and led to their usage in this work in the first place.  The purchasing of Deadly Viper by Asian Christians underscores its cultural captivity to Western evangelicalism.  Accepting this book serves to reify Western dominance.
  2. Political exploitation, i.e., dominance—The inability and unwillingness of the Asian Christian community to galvanize and garner enough support to compel changes to be made by the publisher signifies its continuing political impotence.  Asian Christians do not constitute a powerful bloc unlike the African American community.  While the presence of the Asian Christian community is vital to the survival of many evangelical seminaries, its lack of political power is a sad reflection of its unwitting assent to white privilege.
  3. Economic exploitation, i.e., marginality—The loss of profit from making editorial changes and republishing the book would be more important to Zondervan than its image in the eyes of Asian believers.  Public perception would not be as critical as corporate earnings.  Control of the means of production for economic gain is yet another reflection of the power of the empire.

On the Deadly Viper website, the book is self-described as being concerned with the issue of “radical integrity” and the development of “leaders who will have intentional, transparent, and honest conversations about key character issues.”  What better way for Zondervan to present itself as being allied with similar values than through recognition of the voice of the Asian Christian community?  While the protests that have been raised against caricatures of its culture have resulted in apologies from the authors, the cycle will not be complete without remedial action on the part of the publisher.  While we are one in Christ, cultural diversity and how such distinctions are perceived and presented are highly significant.  Honoring one another, rather than demeaning one another, clearly takes precedence over economic gain.

This blog post will be first in a series of posts from different academics that I’ve asked to reflect on the Deadly Vipers / Zondervan controversy. They are scholars from different fields that will be drawing from their research to speak to the church on issues of culture, race, gender, justice, etc. I hope that the blog posts will provide a resource to discuss these very important issues from a biblical/theological framework. Many have asked important and legitimate questions regarding the DVZ issue and I hope this series of posts will provide some context and content for our ongoing discussion.

Our first post is from my good friend, Randy Woodley (see his previous post on Native American Christianity). Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley is a Keetoowah Cherokee Indian teacher, lecturer, poet, activist, pastor and historian. Randy is an adjunct professor at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and is the co-founder of Eagle’s Wings Ministries.  He is the author of three books and the blog post is taken from his book published by IVP, Living in Color.

Randy WoodleyRandy teaching

(Excerpted from Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity by Randy Woodley, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2004) Posted by Randy Woodley

Diversity from the Beginning

The tool of ethnic and cultural homogenization has been used throughout the centuries to protect what is valued in one’s own culture. Usually this ethnocentrism stems from fear that differences will pollute the old way of life and the familiar standards of the culture.

On the one hand, the philosophy of homogenization makes perfect sense. Human beings naturally desire stability in life. Standards give us something to hold onto; they link us with the past. But God Himself wants to be the standard by which we measure everything in society. The difference seems indistinguishable unless we have a sound biblical and theological foundation that reflects God’s true heart on any given matter.

To get a glimpse of the heart of God concerning diversity, let’s consider the first example of diversified cultures presented in Scripture and see where God was heading at a time when everyone on earth had a common language and culture.

They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.  Genesis 11:4–9

Although the Bible provides no physical descriptions telling us how one group of people differed from another, we can suppose that the seed for all the races were in Adam and Eve, and that people were, at least in some ways, different from each other. There seems to have been no inherent evil in having a culture of common language; rather, the people used this powerful communication tool in an evil way.

What was evil about this situation? The people’s disobedience to God’s commands. The people at Babel had one overriding motivation: to make a name for themselves. Their corporate self-admiration stood in direct contrast to the natural revelation of Himself that God had planted in their hearts, and it violated what would later be known as the first commandment. Think of what a tremendous ego boost it would be if everyone else were just like us! But trying to remake society in our own image would mean that society could not reflect God’s image, for His image is reflected in the unity of our being like Him while at the same time being unique in ourselves.

The people’s disobedience also stemmed from their resolve to remain in one geographical area. God’s injunction from the beginning had been that people be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. But the earth could not be filled when the people of the earth refused to leave its only city. God’s command had never been withdrawn—it still has not, to my knowledge—and the people of Babel were in direct violation of it.

But let’s think about God’s strategy. Why would the Creator want them to occupy the ends of the earth, anyway? Didn’t He realize that once they became separated by various geographical barriers, communication would be disrupted? Over time all languages naturally change. And people would eventually develop different physical characteristics according to the laws of genetics. Did God know what He was doing?

He did, indeed—and that is why acting in disobedience to His plan is just plain stupidity. God has planned since the beginning of time to cultivate diversity among human beings. When people tried to circumvent His plan, God intervened by creating many languages. Distinctions would have developed naturally over time, and changes would undoubtedly have taken place anyway if the people had spread out and obeyed God. His intervention merely sped up the process of developing the various ethnic groups that brought about His intended diversity.

The Scriptures do not say that the people of Babel looked much different from each other, but the laws of human genetics show that after many generations, distinct physical genetic traits begin to repeat themselves in the same families. Nor would it have been beyond God’s capability or design to have given certain families with genetic similarities the same languages when He separated them (for example, Oriental genetics and languages in contrast to Caucasian).

The Scripture notes that after God intervened, the people were scattered across the face of the earth and the city was never completed. This was a decided disciplinary action taken by the Creator to fulfill His original plan, but I would not call it a curse, as some have. It was a self-inflicted curse brought on by their stopping to build the tower, but out of God’s discipline a great blessing was to be found in their inhabiting the whole earth.

God’s plan of ethnic diversity is at least as old as the earth’s first habitation. But regardless of human diversity, God always expects a unity of belief and obedience to Himself. Can you imagine why the Creator intended such a wide diversity in people’s cultures from the very beginning? Or why God’s heart is turned toward our living in a multicultural world?

As I ponder these questions, I cannot help but realize that He is a God of innovation and extravagance, diversity and lavishness. God is the artist who formed the planet Saturn and its beautiful surrounding rings. He is the humorist who formed the giraffe and the narwhale, the armadillo and the platypus. God is the designer who set the constellations in place, who causes roses to bloom and who enables bees to make honey. We are not threatened by the stars that tower overhead or by a blooming rose or by the taste of honey in our tea. Should we be so surprised to find that God also created such diversity in human beings—all distinct and all equal—or that He insists that every culture be unique in its own right?