Saturday, January 10, 2009

What's The Point?

In light of Adam's recent posts about diversity I think about church trends. My critique of all things emerging/Emergent is these churches tend to be white, suburban, young, educated, middle/upper class yuppies. An appropriate blog entry for Stuff White People Like would be the emerging/Emergent church. I say this in jest but there is truth in the criticism. How many African Americans, Hispanics, or Asians in the United States are involved in the emerging/Emergent discussion? Not many.

On Thursday I was talking to my professor about this and poking fun because he is involved in one of these communities. He acknowledged the critique and expanded the conversation to include many Chicago-suburban churches as well. He than posed a question around the topic of economic sharing and poverty. He asked, "Why should people in the suburbs partner with an African American church in the South Side?"

Now, he knows why. He knows the mandate to be a unified body, to work together, to help out our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. But this question pertain to diversity as well. I ask, "Why should people in the predominatelet white sburubs partner with African American churches?"

At my alma-mater, Bluffton the student body was about 90 percent white. But the leaflets and photographs had a fair balance of white, black, etc. It was an image that tried to capture an idea of diversity. So should white churches just aim to get "token" minorities for the sake of saying they are diverse? Is this actually part of our call as the body of Christ? What is our definition of diversity?

I am asking more questions than answering questions. I will suggest this; for us to move forward we need a Biblical understanding and a God-centered focus on the diversity of the Trinity.


John Lynch said...

That's such a great point fellas. I remember thinking about this in conversation with Edward back at Northern.

My thoughts... There are a number of cultural factors unique to the African American worshiping community that prevent postmodern thinking. Family ties, interconnected communities, bold authority structures (the clergy) through which communities and families are tied together, etc. Leaving the institutional church (or even questioning it, in some cases) means leaving family, friends, history, etc.

It's one of the characteristics of being a more collectivistic culture versus individualistic. Gert Hofstede talks extensively about it in his book Culture's Consequences. That one cultural factor (not to mention others that also strongly contribute) is shared by the Latino and Asian communities (especially first and, to a lesser extent, second generation immigrants).

Postmodernism, the cultural fuel for Emergent Church thinking in the present day, depends largely on an individualistic world view. That's why continents like Africa, South & Central America, Asia, & Asia Minor are neither postmodern nor Emergent. It's a uniquely western phenomenon that seems to spread to other groups with technology... the world-flattening force that can thrust options, consumerism, and ultimately individualism into a person's cultural paradigm.

By the way, while in many ways those other cultures have stronger communal ties that westerners lack (to our deficit), they are also normally shame-based cultures, and as such, restrictive of fully honest relational interactions, critical thinking, authentic conversations, emotionally vulnerable relationships, etc. As always. there's good and bad on both sides of the cultural fence.

Ultimately, the world's individualism and collectivism both stray from Christ's kingdom... which stands in beautiful contrast to humanity's generally broken cultural distortions of natural living.

John Lynch said...

BTW - Here's a summery link of Hofstede's concepts:

Adam said...

I think we have to consider, too, the diversity of the surrounding area. I think a church in general will reflect the degree of diversity within the community it's part of. To expect otherwise simply doesn't make much sense.

But if a local church's diversity doesn't reflect the community's, that's a problem. I think it would be valuable insight for any church to do a demographic comparison between the two.

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