Responding to Some Sojo Love

My post Asian≠White was cross-posted at Sojourners recently, and there have been some interesting comments that have popped up.

I’m really quite new to this blogging-for-an-audience-of-more-than-20 thing, so I’m learning on the fly about comments, author engagement and such. In the meantime, I decided to keep responses here on my site so as not to confuse myself.

So, in response to some of the comments on Sojourners:

Thank you all for reading. I’ve been reading Sojourners magazine off and on for a few years, ever since my then-supervisor decided he was going to rattle his entire staff team’s faith and understanding of the gospel. Thanks, Big Guns!

@ BlueDeacon – The separation between Asian and American is one of both culture and race/ethnicity. My parents see it from language and culture, but my father often reminds me that I am not American either.

@pcnot4me – You wonder if liberals ever just enjoy life. Hmmm. I guess you’d have to ask one. My liberal friends would say I’m too conservative. My conservative friends would say I’m too liberal. All of my friends would say I do enjoy life. I have a wonderful and complicated life. I have my moments, like when squirrels took over my attic or when my child was near death. Those moments are hard to enjoy.

@facebook-1363553490 – I wonder with you. I have no idea what the question about liberals just enjoying life and the thread that followed had anything to do with my original post. However, if any of the liberals reading the post feel like they should give more to charity, please contact me. I am still raising ministry support.

@NC77 – I do not know what % of AA are Christians. According to the US Census, about 5% of the national population is AA.

@Ballfour – You had several questions. I cut and pasted your comment so readers here will know what I’m talking about.

I have a few specific questions that come to mind from your article. I was hoping you could answer these:
1. What precisely is your “ideal” when it comes down to racial integration in churches?
2. Why would that make the church “better”? (Please don’t answer “because it would be multi-cultural” as that only begs the question as to why multi-culturalism in a church setting would be better).
3. Is there any reason you did not site the thousands of Korean-Christian and/or Chinese-Christian churches in the country that perform services in their native languages and reflective of their cultures? Do you expect them to adapt to hiring “whites” and adopting more “white culture”?

Honestly, I don’t have an “ideal” in mind. My point was to ask why is 20% the threshold and how does a number translate into cultural change. There is a great follow-up interview with David Van Biema, Time magazine’s religion writer and the author of the original magazine article I was reacting to, on explaining a little more about the numbers and why Willow Creek’s numbers are getting the love and attention of Time magazine.

I have lots of feelings all over the map about multiculturalism and how that can and should look in various contexts. I am the product of the immigrant church where there was little to no multiethnicity (except for the occasional Moody Bible student who was hired to teach Sunday School. I do not expect all churches to pursue numeric multiethnicity but at some point in a church’s life I do believe issues of multiethnicty, race and a holistic understanding of justice needs to be addressed.

I did not write about those immigrant or 1st generation churches because that is not what the article is about. I was simply responding to the attention focused on megachurches. I do not expect those 1st generation churches to hire “white” or adopt more White majority culture because to some degree they already do having established themselves here in America. Anyone who has grown up in a 1st generation church will tell you that issues of culture and ethnicity come up because the children growing up in the those churches will face those issues – the classic generational culture gap, if you will.

But if a church publicly states its intentions to pursue multiethnicity, which is what Bill Hybels and WC has done, I do expect them to address not just attendance and membership numbers. I would argue that the culture has to shift, as sociologists would agree, and that the leadership has to shift. It isn’t enough to say that the congregation looks different if we agree that isn’t what we are talking about when we say “multicultural” or “multiethnicity”. Are there songs sung in different styles and languages and the gifts of those cultures and nuances of language addressed? Is communion always wafers and grape juice when rice cakes and tea could also help connect and express the connection between host and blood? Is it always a drum set or can there be a djembe or janggu? Can liturgical dance also draw from 1st Nations’ and folk dancing? We learn so much from one another, and that is why diversity is better. No one culture paints the whole complete picture of God’s kingdom and I am blessed through the diversity of God’s kingdom and creation.


  1. t-hype January 11, 2010

    Posted here and on Sojouners…

    I went to an EveryNation Church in Nashville for several years and despite many of the issues the church had, I stayed so long because I had never been (and haven’t since) been to a church that had so many ethnicities and multi-racial families represented.

    On Sunday, barring language differences, everyone worships together. (And they were working on some sort of multi-language translation solution to resolve language issues.) But there were also several smaller informal groups, Bible studies, etc. broken off by ethnicity/language. The church sponsors community cultural festivals every other month or so and worked with immigrant groups in town.

    When I visited this summer, the praise team sang a little Fred Hammond (gospel) and some Chris Tomlin (typical CCM). Can’t remember if they did any Spanish songs or not (but they sometimes do).

    Contrast this with the last church I attended in the same area, that was white in membership, music, and culture. God told me to stay there so I did even though it was pretty uncomfortable at times. In part because of the mono-cultural atmosphere (I don’t like going to all black churches either) and in part because of some of my Christian brothers and sisters’ blindness to their own ethnocentricity.

    The first church (EveryNation) made a concerted effort to have highly-visible leaders of different ethnicities. The pastor publicly stated that he had prayed that God would bring somone Asian on their leadership team and during the time I regularly attended, a Japanese American woman was added from one of their sister churches.

    All that is to say, I’ll answer Bellfour:
    1.) Ideal: please see EveryNation church described above.
    2.) Importance: please see the book of Revelation here and here. His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
    3.) I’m going to throw some sticks into the fire:

    Mono-ethnic churches generally give people a break from all the stress of dealing with otherness in their daily lives. Either they’re made to feel “other” or they’re tired of “the others” cramping their style. (I’m not saying that’s the primary reason most churches remain mono-cultural but if more people were honest, they’d admit it’s a desireable side-effect.)

    Let’s keep it real:
    Most 1st generation Americans need a break from “the whiteness” and a comfortable place to speak their mother tongue, why not church? I’m a migrant worker in South Korea at the moment. I likewise choose to take a break from “the Koreanness” to attend a church with an American pastor where all services/meetings are conducted in English. I could (should?) be more courageous like a friend of mine, and regularly attend a local Korean church despite the difference in language/culture…or should I? [ Actually, God gave me permission to stay where I am so you don’t have to answer that. lol! 😉 ]

  2. pops January 13, 2010

    My market researcher husband who deals with surveys a lot suggested that asians were clumped together with whites because what the (rather incompetent) surveyor(?) was actually doing was using race as a substitute for socio-economic status. He says that’s done a lot in that field.

    I’m an international and I too go to a very racially diverse church here in the midwest. It’s hard for me to imagine what it’s like to be in a church with only 20% ‘minorities’. I’ve been to other churches in my city and most of those I’ve been to probably has more than 20% minorities as well. Maybe it’s a megachurch thing because I haven’t been to a lot of those.

    Thanks for commenting on this. I remember reading that time magazine article and being disturbed but not being quite able to put my finger on why.


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