PENTECOST, PRONOUNS, AND BABEL REDUX

[This post is edited from my post of June, 2022.]

Today the Christians of the Western Rite celebrate the Day of Pentecost, or Whitsunday among many in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. The celebration marks the transition from the Easter season to Ordinary Time of as many of us still name it, Pentecost. Fifty days (hence the name pente-kostos) after the Feast of the Resurrection. Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised His disciples (St. John 14 – 16), and calling the Church into being as the body of Christ. The first reading for the day from Acts Chapter 2 follows in part:

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Simon Peter explained to the gathering that the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh as the Prophet Joel foretold. And the event signifies the salvation of “whosoever calls upon the Name of the Lord.”

The event and its primary miracle of one tongue heard in many languages have fostered a number of questionable interpretations. The two most prominent have to do with the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11:1-9. The first has to do with all humanity sharing a common language banding together against the Creator (Elohim) in an action likely to perpetuate their rebellion. The Elohim thwarted the rebellion by ‘confusing’ the one language into many, rendering the commonality of rebellious purpose across cultures unlikely. The miracle of tongues at Pentecost is then said to undo the confusions of Babel and testify to the oneness of humanity accepted in Christ, no matter their spoken language or particularities of culture. 

The second involves and intrudes notions of slavery necessitating the employment of a common language to enforce that Tower-building slavery, etc., etc., quite clearly eisegeted or read into the Babel narrative. Then the Pentecostal tongue heard in many languages is made to support current ideologies concerning “cultural diversity”. And we know all too well how and where that goes. No matter that there is not a scintilla in the text about one group forcing another to build the tower and using a single language as a tool to effect and maintain their bondage.

The Babel narrative is about idolatrous intentions and how the Elohim confused a common language spoken by the whole earth to thwart the rebellious intentions of humanity and their potential to propagate that rebellion.

PRONOUNS AND BABEL REDUX

The Pentecost miracle of tongues does indeed testify to a commonality of language, as one language was heard in many. We also recognize from the Babel story that common texts are essential to the communication of the Gospel in any language. That is why the classical Scriptural and liturgical texts are preserved in Greek and Latin, foundation and anchor for translators as these no longer change with usage. The Scriptures have been translated into many tongues, as only one example of linguistic bedrock nonetheless heard by the many.

We seem to have disregarded that bedrock. It has been decades by now since Leftist Christendom began playing with Scriptural and liturgical texts to suit ideological preferences. This distortion of language occurs under the smokescreen of “Language changes”. Language is dormant until it is used in speech and in writing. Language does not change in and by itself. People change language for a variety of reasons, from the more casual and unintended colloquialisms and slang to the brute force of sectarian politics imposing such changes in language.

The current pronoun issue is the beginning of a Babel redux…

We may, of course, toss that off as comic relief as did the Babylon Bee of May 18 [2021] lampooned this nonsense with a piece about a Navy F-18 fighter jet shooting down a UFO for failing to identify itself as the crew refused to provide its preferred pronouns.

But is the contemporary ‘pronoun preferences’ issue merely nonsensical when one realizes that the current confusion of tongues is man-made (excuse me, person-made)? In my May 15 [2021] post concerned with the ELCA’s transgender bishop, I pointedly ridiculed his/her pronoun preference, namely they/their/them or some similar distortion of reality and of the language that we speak in this particular country, which distortion the churches ought to denounce. For underlying the preposterous self-centeredness of the pronoun issue is the sin of self-righteousness that underlies imposed ideologies.

Suppose that St. Matthew 12:21 is to be translated as, “In their name shall the cultures trust… “ And if Jesus had pronoun issues…? I mockingly assert in misrendering St. John 14:6, “They are the way the truth and the life, no person comes to the Householder but by them” just doesn’t fly, for me or for anyone of any culture or of sound mind. Enough bytes wasted on that.

The miracle of Pentecost is clearly to reveal a oneness in the risen Christ, among every tribe of every nation of every language, who receive the Gospel in their own tongue. There is no more right or obligation to confound the tongue of a particular nation or religion than there is to distort the Gospel witnessed in one language heard by the many so long ago on the Day of Pentecost.

Father David+.

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