“Well, our church is trilingual,” said Kenneth, “English, Spanish, and Eritrean. And the Eritreans found us.” The church? “West End Presbyterian in Manhattan.”
They were naturally attracted to the Multicultural Church Dinner held on Wednesday evening June 25 during the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The dinner was sponsored by the National Presbyterian Multicultural Network [www.presbyterianmulticulturalchurch.net/] and the General Assembly Council Office of Multicultural Ministries [www.pcusa.org/multicultural]. The Rev. Tom Taylor, deputy executive director for mission of the General Assembly Council, was the main speaker.
Taylor talked about the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11 and the Pentecost story in Acts 2. He maintained that the presumptuous tower builders in Genesis were not punished by having their languages confounded. The creation of new tongues saved the people from themselves. “The lesson of Genesis 11,” said Taylor, “is that when we want everyone to talk and think like us, act and look like us, we are at our worst.” We are at our best when we live with our differences ˜ linguistically, theologically, culturally, and genetically.
Taylor said that the miracle of Pentecost does not reverse the Babel story, as often claimed. All those people from different places did not hear God’s word in one language. They heard in their many, varied languages.
“When a culture is monolithic and defensive, it remains closed into itself, and bad things happen,” Taylor said. “When a culture is broken open, it is able to receive the Spirit, and able to receive other cultures, too. That’s when good things happen.”