Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Friday, August 05, 2005

Race in the Emerging Church

It was from the most unlikely individual that the Nashville Emergent Cohort heard from yesterday about race in our current context. Before discussing race and race relations in our quaint setting at the Flying Saucer, we watched Dave Chappell and his interpretation of President Bush. The 5-minute clip was not only boisterous but also hilarious. Beyond the fact that Chappell was cracking us up, he was opening our worldview to seeing race in a whole new way. As ridiculous as Black Bush seemed to us white folks, it made us imagine how ridiculous White Bush is to many black folks.

From there we spoke mainly about church matters when it comes to this delicate issue. Many weighed in their thoughts, opinions, and convictions on the matter, most of which were helpful for me. Basically we started by asking the question, “What is our current context within our churches, lives, occupation, etc?” I must add that we didn’t focus just on the issue of black and white or Hispanic and white, but of overall class and socioeconomic boundaries that exclude and are neglected by the majority. By understanding our context, we can then ask ourselves if our communities are diverse or homogeneous.

First I think it’s important to distinguish what diverse means regarding the church context. It’s easy to announce to the body, “We need to be more diverse.” If one is involved with an all white or all black or all whatever congregation, hopefully they already are diverse. Sure the people might look the same color, but I’m willing to bet you have people that scatter the diverse economic scale of society. Regardless, if our community (not churches) is a colorful patchwork quilt, then one wonders why churches can’t be the same. We can all shop at the same mall, buy gas at the same station, and eat at the same restaurants, so why can’t this sociological fact be a reality in churches. Back to our meaning of diversity: While we recognize that diversity lies beyond the color realm, we can also say that just having different shades of people in one room isn’t true diversity. Saying you want to be diverse and include other races in church can be like saying, “We can all be diverse and unified enough to sit on the same toilet, but we will still worship or do things the Westernized Anglo way.” Is that true diversity? How can we celebrate our different histories, traditions, rituals, and cultural understandings if we are “doing church” in the colonized-Western style led by a baby booming white staff? What gifts from other races, classes, etc. can we include in our understanding of being church? What are we willing to give up in response to embracing some of these gifts? So you have a Hispanic minister or Inner-City minister on staff. Is that true diversity? Isn’t that just reaching a certain demographic that we white folks are too afraid to venture out among? And isn’t that certain demographic excluded from the main body?

Please read this coming through the eyes of a middle class Southern Protestant young white kid (such a hybrid are we all). I assume, like others said yesterday, the posture we must take is that of a servant. Jesus was a pretty good model, I’d say (understatement). We must reinforce that even though our “neighbor” (not geographical mind you) might not be inside our walls on Sunday, we should still be good servants to them and their communities.