Man, I’ve got so many thoughts after today’s Reconciliation Seminar at New Life Fellowship. Hence, the quick blog post to get a conversation started.
I originally suspected we’d be snowed out, so I was rather surprised to see that approximately 100 people showed up for the seminar, mostly NLF attenders. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, I’ll see if we can get a video up in the near future (no guarantees). Meanwhile, you can see pictures from the event here.
We hope for the conversation about race, class, etc. to continue.
Here are some thoughts:
1) The Conversation of Reconciliation Needs to Address Personal AND Corporate Injustices/Sins – Soong Chan touched upon this as he gave a reflection on the history of slavery in America, and I think it’s easy to miss some of the systemic injustices and inequalities that we’re still facing (and feeling the effects of today). It’s common to ignore corporate sins when I fail to see my participation in the system. How do we take next steps to remedy these corporate inequalities? Hopefully we can wrestle with this together…
2) There’s an Illusion that Building a Diverse Church Family will be Easy (or Formulaic) - It’s definitely hip for churches nowadays to claim to value diversity, and I do think it’s a genuine hope or wish, especially amongst younger people. However, since there are so few models out there, I think most of the evangelical world is running around blindfolded, and when we finally find only a piece in the puzzle, we think (and naively hope) that we’ve completed the task.
There are new church conferences on diversity popping up here and there, and I hope these gatherings are places for people to go deep instead of following a trendy topic.
Even for NLF, we can easily believe we’ve “arrived”, but the truth is, we’re still facing issues of ethnic cliquish tendencies, the changing demographics of Queens, and a need for uber rich people. Just kidding about the last one, but if you know any uber rich people, please refer them to us.
But yeah, as Idilio shared so frankly and eloquently today, we all have stuff we’re still carrying and working through…
Again, hopefully we can wrestle together…
3) Understanding (or at Least Trying to Understand) The Black Experience is Fundamental to Making Progress in the Area of Reconciliation – This is certainly not to discount the experience of so many other ethnic minorities (or even white minorities in different urban neighborhoods), but the narrative of the Black experience in America is so simple and complex and central and peripheral and apparent and disguised and painful and hopeful that it must be listened to when delving into reconciliation.
Even recently, I read about racial conflicts on the campus of UCSD, and although Blacks comprise only 2% of the student population, gay/lesbian clubs and groups for disabled students have begun to stand by the Black students. The feelings of alienation are all too common – and the Black experience in America will give a window into the raw depths of those feelings of alienation.
In contexts where other ethnic minorities feel threatened/alienated, like in South Philly where hate crimes against Asian American Students have erupted in recent months, I believe the Black experience gives enormous perspective on how hurtful and damaging racism can become.
Yes, these are hate crimes against Asian American students from African-American students.
Pain, Hurt, Alienation, and Violence have a way of working in cycles.
4) I Have to Take Personal Responsibility – It’s easy to assume that it will just happen if I pray enough, or if I talk to my non-Asian brethren once in awhile, or if I’m part of a diverse group/church/setting (even if I live far away in a neighborhood without “those” people – fill in the blank).
After all, it’s usually other people who are racist/sexist/ageist, etc.
But not me.
What happens when we all think this way? What happens when we always expect the other to make the first step? What happens when we try once to make the first step, feel rejected, and we don’t want to take any more steps?
It’s not my problem, it’s theirs.
Really? Do I really value this then?
5) We Need to Talk
Immediately after the seminar, I huddled with Pete and Rich (and later Jihee and Aabye-Gayle) about what to do next. People, we need to talk.
I came away with an overwhelming sense that we need to go deeper, not out of a sense of despair, but rather, hopefulness.
Many more people are wondering about race, class, and gender than we really think.
Hopefully, with proper guidelines (and Emotionally Healthy Skills), we can get together to talk.
If you have any thoughts on the types of forum that might work, please let me know.
Movie viewing/discussions, small groups, blogs, more seminars, guest speakers, chocolate chip cookies and milk, etc.
I’m open to anything right now.