Churches are divided by doctrine – Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, and Pentecostal – and by ethnicity – African, Korean, Chinese, Greek, and Ukrainian. We choose to segregate by age, by social status, and by politics. Enter a church, and chances are that a majority of members look alike, behave alike, think alike, and vote alike. Even when a church does enjoy diverse membership, young people may attend the contemporary hour while older members wait for the traditional service. We may claim to welcome everyone with open arms, but our actions speak louder than our words. The uncomfortable reality is that we embrace those who are like us and shun those who are different – singing songs from our favorite radio station, sharing polite conversations with friends, and frowning upon dissenting opinions. By taking the path of least resistance, we have splintered Christ’s church.
In Singlish, Jiak Kantang literally means to eat potato. It is, however, a less than flattering way of referring to Chinese Singaporeans who aspire to be more Western than Asian. For those proud of Chinese culture and history, the motives of those ‘guilty’ of Jiak Kantang may be questioned and their words, opinions, and faith rejected on that basis alone. In the words of Kong Hee, pastor of City Harvest Church in Singapore, “when we [Chinese] become Christians, somehow we are made to feel like we have forsaken our Chinese roots, that we have abandoned our Chinese heritage and culture.” Western churches and missions have, for centuries, remained faithful to Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations; however, by allowing culture, patriotism, and politics to infiltrate our faith, we are in danger of being perceived as purveyors of Western culture and not sharers of the gospel message.
When visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, I was struck by a small, plain plaque hanging on an otherwise bare wall. On it were written these words: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” They were all the more powerful because of the poverty and ordinariness of the surroundings. God, the magnificent creative genius behind our universe, chose to visit our insignificant planet as a frail human being.
Through the years, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of traveling to many different places – and some of the sights I’ve seen created a lasting impression. Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, for example, literally took my breath away, as did the powerful rush of water hurtling over the Niagara Falls. The grandeur of Yosemite; the lushness of the Amazon jungle; the translucent waters of Antigua; the majesty of Table Mountain and the unexpectedness of Sugar Loaf Mountain; the contrasts of Iceland; the serenity of Lake Victoria; the intensity of sunsets at Goa; and the ruggedness of Celtic cliffs: All reveal beauty that the creator wished us to find and enjoy.
Krista and Tatiana Hogan exhibit craniopagus; they are joined at the head. In the womb, their brains fused in such a way that the twins appear to be able to share sensations and thoughts. Each girl has a unique personality, yet each refers to themselves as “I” and not as “we.” In their brains, one has a larger left hemisphere, and the other has a larger right hemisphere, which may work together for the benefit of both. Their doctor claims “it’s like they are one and two people at the same time.” They are both singular and plural.
The book of Genesis records a very ancient story that briefly explains why mankind speaks hundreds of very different languages. While the true context and meaning of the narrative may be lost, its essence is revealed in Josephus’ epic work The Antiquities of the Jews. He writes that “the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God.” To curtail their prideful ambitions, God caused confusion through the proliferation of languages. The immediate effect that this might have had is pictured in CS Lewis’ entertaining science fiction novel That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, Book 3).
According to modern physics, the most fundamental constituent of matter is the quark. Quarks combine to form particles with which we’re more familiar, such as protons and neutrons. What’s interesting about quarks is that they cannot exist alone. Whereas they have individual properties and come in six different types (up and down, top and bottom, charm and strange), their true identity and purpose come to light only when the combine.