If we are Christian, one thing we can agree on is the restoration of all things, which Jesus initiated when he restored humankind to God. As humans, we all are a product of Babel and Cain and Abel. As those who have given ourselves to Christ, we are called to live in the reversal of Babel in the continuous, living experience of Pentecost. Whether we answer the call or not is another matter.
There is nothing that in my life that has put my race so in my face, as “living in Africa” has done. There is my perceived privilege, my actual privilege. Expectations. Demands. Internal. External. The experiences have often simply happened. They are shocking and disconcerting and flabbergasting all at once. Then on top of all that confusion is the lack of words to describe the dynamics. Doing the work of racial healing, has given me the beginning of a language with which to describe some of those dynamics.
We are all called to live in the experience of Pentecost. Sometimes it happens like it did in the upper room, while praying with other believers. Tongues of fire fell and everyone understood each other even though they were speaking their native tongue. Notice how in this moment nobody spoke a new language or the majority language. Notice how this moment in believer history is sudden and miraculous. It is a mystical moment out of the blue. But we can’t always stay in a room for days on end and seek the same miracle, sometimes we have to do the hard work of talking and confessing and search our internal self in order to experience Pentecost in a different way.
Before racial constructs took global prominence, tribal/cultural divisions dominated social order. The third world is still dominated by those constructs, although globalization and modernization have superimposed over these concepts, the language of race. Race and racialized histories have blended some former tribes into new identity pools into something appearing like a grand social experiment. When the author of Caste went to India and recognized and classified the various castes simply based on observing people’s behavior, he saw nothing more than age old universal behavior. In Africa, tribes wrestle each other for the upper hand and sometimes kill each other for the same. To see color is to be human. To assign physical features and family names along with its prejudices to a tribe is to be human. But the sin comes when we make this distinction between ourselves and instead of celebrating our uniquenesses, we gouge the other and we use the other for personal, financial or cultural gain. This is what Nazi occupation was about. This is what the transatlantic slave trade did. Apartheid. Genocide. Over and over again.
How do we turn the tide of our own history? To ignore our own history, is to live like a blind person, walking, acting out on the puppet strings of our histories. To investigate and to understand how we fit into the grand narrative is to begin to see how we can enter into a modern-day Pentecost or not. Some boldly declare, “there is nothing to be done.” Conquest after conquest has been the pattern of all history! Perhaps, politically this is all we can muster. But as a believer and as a faithful follower of Christ, is this our narrative, our testimony?