Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tower of Babel and Immigrants

I am currently reading Making Wise the Simple where Van Wijk-Bos explicates the passage about the Tower of Babel. According to her the passage does not primarily concentrate on human hubris but its desire to congregate in one place. The building of the tower of Babel shows solitariness and resonates oppression of Israelites in Egypt. I am immediately reminded of immigrant congregations that build separate community even denomination, hoping for increase in financial revenues without the burden of membership fees.

Van Wijk-Bos argues that these people were involved in human activity such as "making" and "baking bricks" and "building." These verbs when used in conjunction with bricks, stone, and mortar are found only in Exodus where tyrannic Pharoah established his city using foreign labor. What lies behind the meaning of these key words is oppression of people. In Egypt Israelites were oppressed by Pharoah's people. Israelites were treated as slaves; they were "demoralized and abused." So using my imagination to comprehend the story that may be composed of myths in combination with some facts, I add to her arguments the question of oppression before or during the establishment of the city in Genesis. Although there is no historical support to my question, I would like to pose the concept of abuse, neglect, and demoralization of human beings which often lead to hubris.

I know this is quite a stretch. On the other hand, I would like to point out the connection with immigrant churches (such as the previous issue with Fil-Am Christian Fellowship, based in San Jose, Ca) that want to establish its own organization to attain financial freedom from their denomination (gud ol' Assemblies of God). While the idea of free membership sounds liberating to some pastors who do not have enough members to support them financially to pay for their household bills let alone additional monthly fees charged by their denomination, where would immigrant churches get the money for conventional expenses and such? Would it mean that pastors would still have to pay fees but only detours to the new superiors of the new organization? The implication of this is that the new superiors do not want to be submissive under their old denomination, which clearly describes hubris of human beings. If my argument is right, then the oppressive nature of their old denomination is a catalyst for hubris among immigrant pastors, which leads to the building of a separate denomination.

Having taken so many courses in Racism and Christianity and Multiculturalism in North American churches, I am not calling myself an expert on the issue of immigration and dominant culture but someone with adequate knowledge. Why do immigrant churches isolate themselves from the dominant culture? One reason is the difficulty of immigrants to assimilate to the dominant culture; thus finding ways to adopt in a new land that is foreign to them in ways of building a place for survival. Second is their desire to promote their culture and country by way of expressing 'cultural pride.' Immigrant communities want to familiarize the dominant culture with different people who live around them. While the effort to promote cultural pride breaks racial profiling and discrimination, often immigrant communities are misinterpreted as isolated unit existent within the macroculture.

In light of immigrants in North America, I do not fully agree with Van Wijk-Bos. Often it is necessary even primal for immigrants to create an isolated community in a discriminatory world. It is a way of survival. It is a way of fellowship with people who accepts them for who they are. Immigrant communities do not feel oppressed by the dominant culture when they are together with people who look like them. They do not have domineering denomination that exemplifies Mr. Grinch taking all their money leaving immigrants helpless and isolated.

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