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post-tsunami order, asians in the library, and the multicultural church

there’s been more than one story talking about the calm and order in post-tsunami japan.  columnists are pointing out the lack of looting and lawlessness; kristof even prophesied the strength of japanese society when the earthquake hit.  the unspoken comparison, of course, is what happened five and half years ago in new orleans.  but the most memorable post-katrina quote, courtesy of kanye west, helps us understand why the social fabric of japan is woven differently:  “george bush hates black people.”

japan thrives because of its homogeneity.  and they’re not the only nations.  when the annual list of best nations is published, invariably, homogenous nations like denmark top the list.  and the challenge of the “other” has reached its breaking point all over western europe.  the leaders of germany, france, italy, and the united kingdom have all declared that multiculturalism has failed and is unwanted.

but america clings to the idea that our society is stronger because  of the melting pot salad bowl, or at least we say we do.  until the “other” starts to irritate us… like those asians in the library.

and are things really different in the church?  rebecca kim chronicles how campus fellowships experienced their own white flight when asians started outnumbering them in her book, god’s whiz kids.  church growth experts have consistently warned that the pursuit of diversity compromises growing numbers.  even the utopian church of acts 2 devolved into alarming ethnic strife by acts 6.

but the Bible (well, it’s mostly the new testament) stubbornly clings to this idea that the church should be comprised of all people—gender, race, culture, sexuality, and class.  it would be easier to be monocultural, but the apostles’ solution was not to divide into a jewish and gentile church, nor was it to force gentiles to adopt jewish practices.  if we could just ignore those that don’t look or think like us, it certainly would be more efficient and effective.  but our crucified and resurrected LORD rarely seems to take that route.


4 responses to “post-tsunami order, asians in the library, and the multicultural church

  1. jadanzzy

    lemme ask a provocative question.

    it’s definitely one thing to espouse that all nations, tribes, and tongues are a part of the church family equally and without equivocation. but what about in a civic society? all immigrants before us have assimilated and succeeded. but if we espouse multiculturalism while not taking into account that assimilation benefits the operative order of a civic society, what is the posture of the church?

  2. brilliant post, danny.

    being entrenched with a multi-ethnic scenario (although i confess, it’s more like tri-ethnic) in my church community, i’m very much feeling the pain, frustration and discomfort of what you’re writing about here. my only consolation comes from acts and revelation, but it is very, very difficult. even though i consider my own marriage a bi-cultural one, it pales in comparison to trying to get diverse peoples on the same page in church. unlike a marriage, everyone can opt out at any level, and there are very few incentives to appeal to, excepting the occasional stubborn idealist.

    while jadanzzy refers to civic society, of course, i concede that in every way assimilation benefits the state and government. but i just don’t see how the posture of the church should be that way, at least not in the long run. i don’t know how we can be a prophetic voice and yet efficient and unilateral at the same time. the mind reels at how this dynamic of unity and diversity can be balanced, and yet, i want to believe that is what was intended in acts 2. but what do i know? i’m the occasional stubborn idealist. i have to confess i’ve never seen it done well before. but i am hopeful, if not frustrated and tired.

  3. Nice post -DY.
    One day all nations will Praise the Lord (Ps 117)!
    I was thinking if churches focused on the immediate neighborhood/coummunity where they are located, will that help make that church more mulitcultural. And I reckon no, because Americans live in segregated coummunities. The church will get there, but because of our state (sin,etc) we have problems getting along.

    I wonder if as minorities in America, in our attempts at multiculturalism, this cause is 1. doomed to fail, because we are minority, and 2. overcompensating because we were rejected by the dominant culture at times? Overcompensating in the area of focusing too much on wanting multicultralism over wanting to worship (and serve) Christ? Case in point, I went to Grace Comm. Church (John MacArthur is pastor there) and it seemed quite diverse. At their visitor’s center, various folks of diverse backgrounds.

  4. Well said. I think that I need only look in the mirror and can find a minority in myself. The fact that God is no respecter or persons is enough for me that neither should I be.

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