Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up?
For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
Deuteronomy 32:3-6; 28-31

The more Christianity moves towards an importation of identity politics as a sort of addendum to the gospel, the more likely we are to end up with a Mishnah on cultural difference, which really is no gospel at all. The assumptions of ‘marginality’ as being essentially and unequivocally synonymous with racial ‘oppression’, belies the reality that not all cultures view themselves through such absolutist frameworks. It seems that the goal of kingdom citizenship is something entirely opposite to our earthly notions of ‘cultural citizenship’, that strives towards a simulacrum of gospel unity. This sort of striving, represented in the works-based righteousness that inspired the building of the tower of babel, remains a stark reminder of the limitations of the work of our own hands in contrast to the supernatural constitution of God’s kingdom―every tribe, tongue, and nation (see Joel 2:28-29; Zephaniah 3:8-13; the day of Pentecost Acts 2:1-13; 17:16-34, Revelation 7:9-17). “For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3). As for Christian building, Paul reminds us of our frame:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.

10According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

16Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:9-16)

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-21)

Cultural relativism has used this deceit to gain power. The absolute relativists want to assert their sincere desire for dialogue UNTIL they become a majority. Then they often want to settle issues by either exclusion or coercion. They first argue for democratic fairness, but when they acquire their majority, they are tempted to turn immediately to a triumphalism that assumes that liberal justice has triumphed. From then on, dialogue about truth is forbidden, and about absolute truth is absolutely forbidden.―Thomas C. Oden

In the Church which was founded at Corinth, St. Paul had special difficulties of the kind I have mentioned. In that flourishing commercial city, which through its shipping and situation, maintained a vital connexion between East and West, numerous crowds of people flocked together from all quarters, different in speech and in culture. As they mingled with the inhabitants, they produced, by contacts and contrasts, new and ever new differences. Even in the Church, this differentiation endeavored to make itself felt in sects and parties; and a kind of pagan wisdom made a special attempt to force itself forward as a teacher of truth. In his first letter to this church, from which the text I read is taken, St. Paul strongly combats this tendency.”—Sermon from Upbuilding Discourses, Soren Kierkegaard (see 1 Corinthian 1:10-19)

Jesus has gathered not merely Romans and Greeks and Jews, but the descendants of those barbarous people who lived in the white-cliffed island beyond Gaul which men called Britain! He has gathered those savage people unto Him! And now how pleasing to see the Red Indian bowing with the pale-face at Jesus’ name—to see China, once hermetically sealed, now open to the Gospel, and Japan inviting our missionaries to instruct her! Also to see the dwellers in the South Seas and the black races of Africa stretching out their hands to God! Strange and uncouth in appearance and in tongue are many of the tribes of mankind, but they shall be gathered as surely as the more civilized! There scarcely remains any nation out of which the Lord has not gathered some to His Church and our faith is that before long the Gospel shall be preached throughout all lands!

It has not come yet. We heard the other night of nations which have never yet received a Christian minister. There is Tibet, for instance, lying with its millions without a word of Christ ever having been spoken among them! To millions upon millions of people, the name of Jesus is as yet an unknown sound—yet they shall be gathered out of all nations, kindred, peoples, tongues and shall unite in one great family! The Gospel of Jesus is cosmopolitan. It suits so well with our own latitude that one would think that our Lord was born an Englishman—but the same is true in reference to every land! His name was fitly mentioned by the Jordan, but it loses none of its music by the Thames, the Ganges, or the Orinoco!

Jesus belongs to all lands, whether they are scorched by tropical suns or frozen by the long winters of the poles. Jesus is a Man and a man is a noble name, nobler than Jew, or Briton, or Roman! He is “the Man,” the Man of men, man’s Man, the Man for men! Let all men worship Him, for He is the Hope of our race, the Restorer of our ruin, the Gatherer of the new people and He shall gather others beside those that have been gathered unto Him. “God has made of one blood all nations of men that dwell upon the face of the earth” and that one blood also has, at the back of it, another blood still more precious by which one blood He has redeemed from among men a multitude which no man can number!”—Charles H. Spurgeon (Sermon: “Others to be Gathered”)

The beauty of salvation in Jesus Christ [alone], is that it makes redundant the claim that my freedom or liberation is derived from human effort, whatever form that may be. The notion that by virtue of my ‘blackness’, I seek to be ‘included’ into a kingdom that has been freely given to me as a gift of grace, is deeply condescending and incommensurable with the gospel message of freedom from the bondage of sin. No human can consign freedom to another. Have you not heard, have you not seen — who the Son sets free, is free indeed! Thanks be to God, I don’t have to fight or beg to be ‘included’ into the kingdom of God, it is my inheritance.

The myopia of some western thinkers such as Hegel, who held the view that Africa is no historical part of the world, indeed, exemplify the pernicious ideological construct of primitivism, that continue to inform contemporary formations of racism and ant-black racism. Nevertheless, as Spurgeon demonstrates in his sermon Others to be Gathered In, assumptions about paganism are never a culturally specific phenomenon, but rather universally diverse in all of their particular geographical expressions. Under the banner of Christendom and the expansionist excesses of colonialism, various forms of [Western] cultural imperialism, amplified the ethnic and racial specificity of the pagan ‘other’, while surreptitiously masking the paganism of its own. However, Yahweh, since the time of our father Abraham until this present day, is calling a people of every tribe, tongue, and nation out of national and familial attachments to paganism. Transcendent to the deities by whom nations are being held culturally captive—the gods of nationalism, racism, tribalism, and identitarianism—God, is also calling his people out from thraldoms of cultural Christianity, in which these schisms have been instantiated.



—-
Choruses from “The Rock”

You, have you built well, have you forgotten the cornerstone?
Talking of right relations of men, but not of relations of men to GOD .
” Our citizenship is in Heaven”; yes, but that is the model and type for your citizenship upon earth.
When your fathers fixed the place of GOD ,
And settled all the inconvenient saints,
Apostles, martyrs, in a kind of Whipsnade,
Then they could set about imperial expansion
Accompanied by industrial development.
Exporting iron, coal and cotton goods
And intellectual enlightenment
And everything, including capital
And several versions of the Word of GOD :
The British race assured of a mission
Performed it, but left much at home unsure.

Of all that was done in the past, you eat the fruit, either rotten or ripe.
And the Church must be forever building, and always decaying, and always being restored.

For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence:
For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of GOD ,
For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.

And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance.
For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he stands alone on the other side of death,
But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that was done by those who have gone before you.
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers;
And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying within and attacked from without;
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while there is time of prosperity
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity they will decry it.

What life have you if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD .
Even the anchorite who meditates alone,
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD ,
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour
Unless his neighbour makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
Nor does the family even move about together,
But every son would have his motor cycle,
And daughters ride away on casual pillions.

Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore;
Let the work not delay, time and the arm not waste;
Let the clay be dug from the pit, let the saw cut the stone,
Let the fire not be quenched in the forge.

III

The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men,
O wretched generation of enlightened men,
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship,
I have given you speech, for endless palaver,
I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions,
I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments,
I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.
I have given you power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.

Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,
Many desire to see their names in print,
Many read nothing but the race reports.
Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD ,
Much is your building, but not the House of GOD .
Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing,
To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers?


[….]

CHORUS :

We build in vain unless the LORD build with us.
Can you keep the City that the LORD keeps not with you?
A thousand policemen directing the traffic
Cannot tell you why you come or where you go.
A colony of cavies or a horde of active marmots
Build better than they that build without the LORD .
Shall we lift up our feet among perpetual ruins?
I have loved the beauty of Thy House, the peace of Thy sanctuary
I have swept the floors and garnished the altars.
Where there is no temple there shall be no homes,
Though you have shelters and institutions,
Precarious lodgings while the rent is paid,
Subsiding basements where the rat breeds
Or sanitary dwellings with numbered doors
Or a house a little better than your neighbour’s;
When the Stranger says: ” What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? ” We all dwell together
To make money from each other”? or ” This is a community”?
And the Stranger will depart and return to the desert.

O my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger,
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

O weariness of men who turn from GOD
To the grandeur of your mind and the glory of your action,
To arts and inventions and daring enterprises,
To schemes of human greatness thoroughly discredited,
Binding the earth and the water to your service,
Exploiting the seas and developing the mountains,
Dividing the stars into common and preferred,
Engaged in devising the perfect refrigerator,
Engaged in working out a rational morality,
Engaged in printing as many books as possible,
Plotting of happiness and flinging empty bottles,
Turning from your vacancy to fevered enthusiasm
For nation or race or what you call humanity;
Though you forget the way to the Temple,
There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.

IV

There are those who would build the Temple,
And those who prefer that the Temple should not be built.
In the days of Nehemiah the Prophet
There was no exception to the general rule.
In Shushan the palace, in the month Nisan,
He served the wine to the king Artaxerxes,
And he grieved for the broken city, Jerusalem;
And the King gave him leave to depart
That he might rebuild the city.
So he went, with a few, to Jerusalem,
And there, by the dragon’s well, by the dung gate,
By the fountain gate, by the king’s pool,
Jerusalem lay waste, consumed with fire;
No place for a beast to pass.
There were enemies without to destroy him,
And spies and self-seekers within,
When he and his men laid their hands to rebuilding the wall
So they built as men must build
With the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.

[….]

V

O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arabian: were doubtless men of public spirit and zeal.
Preserve me from the enemy who has something to gain: and from the friend who has something to lose.

Remembering the words of Nehemiah the Prophet: ” The trowel in hand, and the gun rather loose in the holster.”

Those who sit in a house of which the use is forgotten: are like snakes that lie on mouldering stairs, content in the sun light.
And the others run about like dogs, full of enterprise, sniffing and barking: they say, ” This house is a nest of serpents, let us destroy it,
And have done with these abominations, the turpitudes of the Christians.” And these are not justified, nor the others.

And they write innumerable books; being too vain and distracted for silence: seeking every one after his own elevation, and dodging his emptiness.
If humility and purity be not in the heart, they are not in the home: and if they are not in the home, they are not in the City.

The man who has builded during the day would return to his hearth at nightfall: to be blessed with the gift of silence, and doze before he sleeps.
But we are encompassed with snakes and dogs: therefore some must labour, and others must hold the spears.

VI

It is hard for those who have never known persecution,
And who have never known a Christian,
To believe these tales of Christian persecution.
It is hard for those who live near a Bank
To doubt the security of their money.
It is hard for those who live near a Police Station
To believe in the triumph of violence.
Do you think that the Faith has conquered the World
And that lions no longer need keepers?
Do you need to be told that whatever has been, can still be?
Do you need to be told that even such modest attainments
As you can boast in the way of polite society
Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?
Men! polish your teeth on rising and retiring;
Women! polish your fingernails:
You polish the tooth of the dog and the talon of the cat.
Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is will shadow
The man that pretends to be.
And the Son of Man was not crucified once for all,
The blood of the martyrs not shed once for all,
The lives of the Saints not given once for all:
But the Son of Man is crucified always
And there shall be Martyrs and Saints.
And if blood of Martyrs is to flow on the steps
We must first build the steps;
And if the Temple is to be cast down
We must first build the Temple.

Artwork: Tower of Babel, which is attributed to Pieter Bruegel