How often have you watched movies and American television and noticed Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayals of other cultures and language groups? As part of the storyline tension, there will be a tribe or nationality in opposition to Americans. The original Americans, or ‘Indians’ as they were mistakenly first called are at war with the cowboys. The prevailing threat to Americanism is vilified in each generation —Nazi Germans, Gypsies, Mexicans, Russians, Arabs… We love stories where the bad guys have an accent different from our own. In the fear of difference, we find the roots of racial arrogance and bigotry.
Even within their own culture Americans create villains from street culture, southern states and the extremely rich and powerful. A distinctive difference or accent is enough to create a mix of fear and dismissal.
What about Canadians? That’s easy! We get to blame it all on the Americans because everyone knows how different they are from us.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many languages, countries, cultures and differences amongst the peoples of the world? How is it that you can go places in your city and not understand a word that people are saying? You can find people who look, smell and act different from you. It is a strange experience to try and communicate with someone who doesn’t share your language.
To communicate clearly with another is based on using the right words, gestures and clearly hearing what the other is saying. Often, communication breaks down. We misinterpret the verbal instructions we’ve been given. We misread the emails and forget the sermons.
We try to say something and find others having difficulty understanding our meaning. What is at the heart of our failure to communicate? I wonder what God thinks of our biases? As the Creator of all nations and author of diversity, does he chuckle along with our dumb jokes or call us to a new understanding and relationship with the world?
In the book of Genesis we read consequential stories about humanity’s defiance of God. In the Garden of Eden, disobedience leads to broken fellowship with God and enmity between previously peace-loving human beings.
Then, the great flood came as a destructive act of God against self-seeking, God-defying humanity. Noah and his family were spared and humanity had a fresh start through his descendants. But eventually the darkness of sin spread into new ways of arrogantly challenging the Creator. The sin virus does not appear to skip generations.