Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Why Laura and I voted AGAINST (and why we think you should too).
When we were reading the biblical Book of Esther this fall, Laura and I were both struck by the same detail:
In Esther 8, the official pronouncement from the hostile Persian government--the pronouncement that was effected by Queen Esther’s bold support of God’s people, this godly but governmental pronouncement of deliverance --was to be written to
“the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language.”
Hundreds of years later on the day of Pentecost, which many Christians call the birthday of the Church, people from multiple nations gathered to worship in Jerusalem. On that day the Holy Spirit Himself chose to speak in multiple languages in order to accomplish godly purposes:
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! Acts 2:5-11
So there’s this amendment to the city charter proposed in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. Laura and I voted early, but the official voting day is tomorrow, Thursday, January 22.The primary amendment states:
Official actions which bind or commit the government shall be taken only in the English language, and all official government communications and publications shall be in English. No person shall have a right to government services in any other language. All meetings of the Metro Council, Boards, and Commissions of the Metropolitan Government shall be conducted in English. The Metro Council may make specific exceptions to protect public health and safety. Nothing in this measure shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law.
I’ve listened to the arguments on both sides of the issue, and both sides agree on a staggering number of points.
1. Both sides agree that official business in Nashville should be conducted in English.
2. Both sides agree that official business IS and always has been conducted only in English.
3. Neither side can point to any past or present (or future) legal challenges to the conducting of official business in English.
4. Both sides agree that, should this amendment pass, it would change very little in actual conduct in Nashville/Davidson County government.
So with all this agreement, why do we even have this vote? It comes down to two more points of agreement!
First, both sides say that the devil is in the details. And they both try to make the point that their side will save money for the city and county. One side might be right, but truthfully neither side really knows the details. No-one knows what detail-ly things will happen if the amendments pass or if they don’t.
So that leads to the final point of agreement:
Both sides agree that if this amendment passes it will discourage people who don’t already speak English from locating to Nashville.
Let’s pause a moment to savor that prospect.
Proponents of the amendment believe this prospect would be good for Nashville. Opponents consider that attitude inhospitable. And some of us opponents consider it downright unChristian.
In fact, I challenge any Christian in Nashville to offer biblical or theological justification for support of this amendment. Laura and I stand with the Esther edict and the heart of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Christian Church.