Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “School Daze”
This episode (and Season Eight as a whole for MLP:FIM) introduced an important series of topics that had either been sparsely touched on or stepped around on the show until now: multiculturalism. By introducing the School of Friendship and opening it intentionally to both pony races and non-pony races, Twilight Sparkle introduced the opportunity to create a common ground for a variety of races to not only interact but to share their ways of life with one another. In doing so, both this episode and much of the season focused on how an individual’s culture shapes their identity and what happens when that same identity is exposed to a culture (or variety of cultures, in this case). And I think it did a pretty good job of it.
Of course, this episode also introduced the more “negative” response to multiculturalism that also appears frequently in modern society. Namely, by showing even in a “friendship-loving” country such as Equestria there are still individuals who treat other kinds of creatures with racism and prejudice, and who view opportunities to exchange culture as simply exposing vulnerabilities or a chance to tout their own culture (and even species) as above others. It also showed the most extreme example of this: enforcement of prejudice by legal policy. By refusing to give the School of Friendship EEA approval, Chancellor Neighsay essentially was saying the school had to be Equestrians-only or it wouldn’t be legally considered a “real” school.
Multiculturalism is (to me) a surprisingly touchy subject in the modern world. I mostly blame political rhetoric for why it’s so controversial, although there is some justification behind why it’s not more readily promoted. As part of my own verdict, I think human society is at the point where there is no way we can’t advance some form of multiculturalism and expect to still coexist or functional peacefully. The world is only getting “smaller”. People are more connected every day and working with more diverse groups every day. To make the best living for everyone, we have to acknowledge one another and respect one another. The only way you’re going to escape multiculturalism is if you invoke some sort of draconian measures like some countries are desperately doing and cutting off Internet and media access and/or sentencing anyone who tries to report the news to torture and imprisonment–as if you were trying to make-believe you were somehow the only country/culture/people on Earth.
Yet that doesn’t change one simple fact: everyone tends to think their own culture is best. When two different cultures come into a conflict on an issue, it’s likely whoever is the proponent for their own culture will say the way things should be is with their own way of thinking. Moreover, if one tries to change things to be more in line with something that is against their culture (even if it’s something so “obvious” to one culture versus another, like giving a woman an equal inheritance as a man or saying signs should be printed in Spanish as well as English), it can lead to anger and outrage at trying to impose a different culture’s views on their own; leading to the same draconian measures I stated earlier in an attempt to “protect” one’s culture by essentially banning a different one or forcing them to assimilate.
And, sadly, considering the fact that there is a great deal of conflict in the world still driven by clashes of ethnicity, some of this discriminatory persecution has a reason behind it that’s not simply hate and distrust. (It’s not a good thing, but it would be sticking one’s head in the sand to pretend it isn’t there.) The truth of the matter is even in a society that embraces multiculturalism, eventually the society will say some cultures have to either restrict themselves or won’t be allowed in. (At the bare minimum, a multicultural society isn’t going to tolerate a culture that says there shouldn’t be multicultural societies.)
That brings us to Christianity and, for the most part, all religions and faiths in the world. One of the main criticisms, and more justifiable ones, about Christianity and religion in general is that it is, inherently, anti-multicultural.
Even from its inception, the ultimate goal and destiny of Christianity was not to be confined to one people but to incorporate all peoples, nations, and races. All Christians are committed to the idea that the future Kingdom of God will put an end to international and intranational conflict and war. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'” (Revelation 7: 9-10). “he says: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6). “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28: 18-20).
However, that doesn’t change the fact that the ultimate desire in this case would be for everyone to become Christians. What does that mean for countries and peoples who have part of their cultural identity be their own faiths, whether they be Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or even old ethnic religions? Would converting to Christianity in that case mean abandoning part of their identity? Historically, for many Christian missionaries, mission work didn’t mean simply sharing faith in Jesus Christ with other people but in using it as a means to control, conform, or even ethnically cleanse other groups. One needs to only look at the history of Europe displacing the natives in the New World for that. Yet even if there is no malicious or ulterior motive behind it, promoting any religion means, implicitly, that you believe that one religion is superior to all others and worth following more than any other, and there aren’t many religions in the world that allow you to follow more than one at the same time.
To single-out Christianity, does that ultimately mean that Christians, by definition, should be against multiculturalism?
Well, from a personal standpoint, here’s the way I see it. I’m for eating a good diet and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I’m going to push for legislation to make it a crime to be at an unhealthy weight or try and ban sugar.
While there are some important details that need to be taken into consideration for a multicultural society, as a Christian I feel both I and other Christians, even if our ultimate goal is to bring as many souls to Christ as possible, need to endorse one as part of that. Whenever legal coercion or societal pressure becomes part of an attempt to influence someone to join Christianity, Christianity is no longer something “genuine”. It’s a response to a worldly threat. What more, I see it as an act of cowardice. When looking over the situations in various countries in the world where Christianity is oppressed, I see a normal checklist of common themes: proselytizing is made illegal, “apostasy” is made illegal, people of this one religion get more legal benefits than others, religious literature that is not for one religion in particular gets banned, non-mainstream religion has to be done behind closed doors, etc.
Exactly how great, profound, and true is your religion if you have to take extreme measures to keep anyone from even knowing another religion exists for fear they will immediately abandon yours for that one? How secure is your faith if you’re terrified it will get cast aside if someone breathes a word of alternative? Frankly, how much of a coward does that make you or how flimsy does that make your faith?
All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, both legal and societal, are ultimately nothing more than expressions of fear. To me, to subscribe to them means to live in an attitude of fear. And how can we claim to live in Christ’s love if we’re letting our fears rule our society? Or how can we claim to be changed and emboldened by faith in God if we look on this, that, or the other group as individuals to be controlled or constrained by laws and government?
At the bare minimum, all Christians would like the opportunity to be able to witness and proclaim the Gospel without the threat of legal reprisal, so my own feelings are that we should, to be fair, advocate for a society where all religions including our own are free to do so. Only then can we claim that we have the Truth and not merely whatever is popular in our corner of the world. Doing so, of course, means that Christians will have to show a bit more clearly how our faith changes our lives and inspires us to be better people so that people will know that Jesus does change lives and does give us life “more abundantly”, but, in all honesty, that should have been clear all along…and if it isn’t then perhaps the issue isn’t a matter of multiculturalism at all.
Twilight and her friends in this episode introduced their values of friendship to their students by sharing, teaching, and demonstrating it in their own lives rather than coercion or forcing conformity. Maybe Christians should do the same when sharing the Gospel.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that, with you, “here is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Grant that I may see all in the world the same way you see them: creations so loved by God that he gave his Only Son to die for them on Calvary. And if there is any hate or fear in my heart keeping me from even seeing another person or people that way, much less from reaching out to them and loving them, please confront me with it and please forgive me as I repent of it. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”