Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Melting Pot

Salman Rushdie once characterized his homeland of India as a crowd, and he explained that “a crowd is by its very nature superabundant, heterogeneous, many things at once” (Greenblatt, p. 2813-2814).  A Melting Pot, in contradistinction, is a crucible where a whole crowd might be drowned and made simply abundant and homogeneous.  The idea that America is that crucible—making a whole man from many members—is probably more hyperbole than reality and her fractured history has proven this time and again.  Taking its cue from Christian theology and sentiment might have so arrayed separate but distinct ideas and cultures and peoples in such a fashion as to think there might be a democratic oneness available, but alas, if true Christians can hardly agree, a nation can hardly agree.  The caste system in Rushdie’s India is hardly better than the end result of American freedom if success continues to be measured by erroneous standards; indeed, “superabundant” and “heterogeneous” is much more realistic, and forgoes the heat and suffering elements required to make America simply “abundant” and “homogeneous.”  Rugged individualists can band like brothers with urbanites, whites with blacks, women with men, and each keep their own separate flavors within their own separate pots and pans upon the stovetop of American nationalism.  Now, only a warming up to each other is needed, rather than the fiery hell of coalescing ethnicities and cultures; a heterogeneous coalition rather than an unrealistic homogeneous similarity.
The Melting Pot of America has too long been an unrealistic and unrealized phenomenon because it is rooted in the ideal instead of the real condition of people and their inclinations.  To smelt heterogeneous alloy and expect to skim the gold of a homogeneous society has proven as fruitless as those men of lore that kept trying to make gold out of lead.  Unity in a diverse society is even more problematic than achieving it within the four walls of a church.  A set of rigid and unimpeachable laws are needed to curb many citizens’ behaviors and harmony is illusive and disingenuous when it is imposed by force.  In the twentieth century, when John F. Kennedy (JFK) appealed to the American people about doing for their country instead of asking the country to do for them, there were many that would not, or could not, make themselves live sacrificially and unselfishly.  “The Greatest Generation,” by Brokaw, highlighted the generation just before the one that JFK preached to; they were those that had endured the Great Depression and had valiantly fought and defeated—against great odds—Japan, Germany and many forces contrary to the ideals of freedom.  Likewise, the great losses and hardships that purged our nation of much evil during the Civil War also ushered in a time of greatness for our nation.  It seems that—unfortunately—prosperity and even heterogeneous unity cannot long endure without an occasional war, conflict or economic crises.  Mankind’s nature is simply selfish and only when the pot is on the lit burner is there any hope of boiling the impurities out.  Utopian ideals are, and always were, unrealistic on this side of heaven. 
This does not mean that we must resign ourselves to utter chaos, but that compromises must be made within the fallen world of American politics and society to accomplish any semblance of order.  A too Christian and puritanical approach will always be rebuffed by the unregenerate and lawless, and the godless approach always rebuffed by Christians and those of principal.  The melting pot of disparate natures cannot but pollute the entire mixture, but the salt of Christianity ought to save the day.  Since God is about saving from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” a multitude to worship and adore His son, and America has historically opened its arms to the oppressed masses and embraced all that desire her Christian-based liberty, it would be wise of secularists to not forget this critical element within every strata of America’s heterogeneous makeup (Revelation 7:9, partial, KJV). 
In the end, the Melting Pot was designed to make out of many cultures a distinctive singularity of culture; to take the diverse natural elements of various cultures and allow them to coalesce into an even stronger synthetic and compound culture.  The one nation under God that allowed human freedom of thought and expression without governmental interference or suppression; the one nation that had already congregated under God and was a beacon of Christian light and a bastion of refuge for all the oppressed and displaced peoples of the world.  Alas, this is changing as this portion of an article from the website so eloquently explains:  
Whatever our opinion on the subject, we must acknowledge that, in fundamental ways, the American identity has broken loose from its historical moorings. In its infancy, the national identity included a specific religious-moral belief system and a particular political ideology. Its central elements included, in the words of Samuel P. Huntington in his book Who Are We?, “the Christian religion, Protestant values and moralism, a work ethic, the English language, British traditions of law, justice and the limits of government power, and a legacy of European art, literature, philosophy and music.”

The homogeneous dream has long dissipated (and the heterogeneous reality seems to be fading too) just as the article above—written in 2005—has indicated, but another reformation and religious awakening might yet lay bare an already well laid foundation (only forgotten under all the mud that has been slung upon it).  Maybe a clear conscience and a clean bedrock will reveal to us just how far off center we have drifted and how broken down and divided our house has become.  Maybe then we will beat our plowshares into enough needles to suture our divided nation and then corporately—upon the shoulders of all—we can recenter our house upon its original and perfect foundation.

Ed. Greenblatt, S., et. al.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 8th Edition.
  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. 
Philadelphia Church of God website.  The Trouble With Immigration: Cultural Impact
(Part 3).  Article written and first published October 27, 2005 but retrieved
 February 28, 2009 from