As a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and an ethnic minority in the States, I highly advocate for the multicultural/multiracial churches to continue to grow.
Following the recent controversy over Rick Warren’s Facebook post (click here to view a related article) and the Asian American church leaders raising up their voice in taking a step further into racial reconciliation (click here to view “An Open Letter from the Asian American Community to the Evangelical Church“), I find myself in much gratitude, in knowing that we are stepping forward in bringing racial reconciliation in today’s church. We have a long way to go. More conversations need to be done and our individual stories must be shared in bringing unity in the church.
These are some of the main questions that often times came about when I had the chance to talk about race, ethnicity, culture, and diversity with other Christians. Here are some of my personal opinions and answers I gathered.
Brothers and sisters, I hope you find them helpful.
1. Why are we making a big deal out of this?
Perhaps you don’t see this as a big issue and you feel tired of only some people mentioning about it all the time. This might be because we have not made intentional choices to mingle with different people and listen. How many times this week did you have a meal with someone different from your race, culture, or ethnicity? How many times have you visited an ethnic church or a church from a different domination than yours? Or sometimes we just don’t talk about race and culture even when we are with people who are different from us because nothing is going wrong and we feel like we are already treating each other equally. Does something really need to go wrong in order for the conversation to begin? The “you are just like me” attitude, in other words, “color-blindness,” is not right when we all are different inside and out. We miss out on getting to know each other and to love each other if we don’t talk about it now. Plus, after all, you are reading my article. Meaning, you do care about this issue, right? Then let’s not ignore it. Let’s talk more about it.
2. Why do I have to feel guilty about this issue when I didn’t do anything wrong?
There is a difference between feeling guilty and feeling uncomfortable. We live in a broken world under a broken system where injustice is inevitable. Conversations about race and culture are hard and should make us feel uncomfortable because they bring us closer to observing the brokenness that relate so deep into our identity. They open our eyes to see some painful things about others and ourselves that we didn’t notice before. Guilt doesn’t make us go anywhere, but responsibility to act righteously does. God is opening our eyes to see the beauty in how he has designed each and every one of us. Take heart.
3. Don’t ethnic churches segregate the church more than they bring unity?
Shouldn’t we look beyond race since we are one in Christ? Is race-specific ministry biblical? Well, did you know that Christ led a group of 12 Jewish men? Confession: I did not want to join the Asian and Asian American fellowship on campus the first time I came to college. I thought I had it all. However, I realized that I was letting a part of myself be lost when I was ignoring my fellow Asian students. My ethnic and cultural identity were found when I had the space to identify my similarities with others in community and when I was able to share that with people outside of fellowship. The minority groups are needed on college campuses because they provide foundational cultural contexts to allow our diversity to be lived out. Similarly, ethnic churches around the States provide a worshipful setting for those familiar with their own cultural worship styles to encounter God through ways they were designed by Him. According to Revelations 7:9,they are pleasing to God’s eyes: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
4. How do I engage in the conversation when I feel like I have nothing to contribute?
Some people told me that it should be easier for me to be involved in the conversation because I come from a unique background. When I was back in Korea and was considered one of the majorities, my background was everyone else’s background. In such setting, I did not recognize that I was exchanging my culture with one another in my interactions because we all shared the same culture. Yet, this does not mean that my Korean culture is any less in Korea than it is in the States. Likewise, my culture is not any more in the States than it is in Korea. Saying that one background is more interesting than another in itself reflects our tendency to “box people.” Each and every culture is present, not absent. You do have something to contribute. Use the conversations to allow yourself to better see and articulate who you are. You are made in His image – don’t forget that.
5. How do I go about asking the right questions when I don’t want to offend people?
Before you ask, ask yourself why you want to ask the question. If your reasoning behind asking the question is simply because you are curious or you want your expectations and prior-knowledge to be justified, your question is more likely to offend the other person. However, if you want to ask the question because you deeply care to know more about the other person, ask away. Asking genuine questions can be hard because it puts us into the posture of humility. We can ask the “right questions” only when we know that we don’t know. As long as your intentions are straight, the other person should understand. In a worst-case scenario, the other person will misunderstand you. But if you really are putting the other person before you, his or her misunderstanding shouldn’t come before judging the merit of the question you asked. Saying sorry—I mean an honest apology—is also an option. But you can always open up by saying “This might be a dumb question…” – it’s okay. You won’t regret it.
photo courtesy: Relevant megazine (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/we-dont-use-r-word)