Thoughts on our Reconciliation Seminar

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.

Let’s talk.

12 responses to “Thoughts on our Reconciliation Seminar

  1. Thanks for inviting me to this! I was blessed and challenged. I was amazed that the time went by so quickly (and 10am-1pm is not a short time!). I felt like we only scratched the surface of these issues. I appreciated the next steps that were mentioned (to talk about it, to expose yourself intentionally to other cultures, to be a “cultural broker”, to pray, etc.) but wished for even more suggestions.
    Would love to attend further events like this, please keep me posted!

  2. I would love to talk over chocolate chip cookies and milk! Today’s seminar left me hungry and thirsty for more. It’s such a hearty topic. I walked away with a lot I want to think and talk about.

  3. I’m really glad I went to this event. The topics were so interesting and so real that it has left me with sooooo many thoughts and questions that I also don’t know where to begin.

    I am still a bit curious as to what it means to be a Christian living for Christ and to be true to culture. I know God likes diversity, but, how do I use this diversity in a way that is pleasing to him and useful for his kingdom and where is the balance between the earth cultures and – for want of a better phrase – Christ culture?
    Or is there something like Christ culture?

  4. Oh, and as an immigrant – 1st gen – to this country, I also thought it was interesting, the analogy about reaping the benefits of seeds not sown well …

  5. Ditto! I feel we need to keep on talking and working through things together as a community, I would like to see the young adults community take some leadership in planning some things around this topic too. I’d be willing to be part of a leadership team around this.

  6. I was delighted to read the confession that at NLF, “. . . we’re still facing issues of ethnic cliquish tendencies.”

    Are cliques indicative of a failure to Biblically reconcile, or are they residuals from a time when there was no reconciliation at all and now that there has been some, the old “carnal” ways still rear their ugly heads from time to time?

    What were the take-aways and applications to address this “cliquish” awareness? Were admonitions given to the largest ethnic cliques to deliberately welcome others from minority ethnicities into their folds when approached by the minorities? Were admonitions given to the cliques to be proactive and deliberately seek out and invite in brothers and sisters from minority ethnicities? Where does the impetus to address and ameliorate the negative effects of cliquishness come from?

    If the Asian population is the fastest growing population at NLF — is it not? — and one of the races prone to cliquishness, despite the fact that this race has been subjected to and continues to be subjected to racial discrimination, what responsibility do Asians have to ensure that cliquishness does not exclude others? What responsibilities do other races and ethnicities have to ensure that discrimination against Asians does not continue within NLF?

    What role do historically discriminated against Blacks have in their relationship with the fast-growing Asian population to ensure that each knows the pain of the other and that each makes an intentional effort NOT to discriminate against the other and works to disband cliques?

    What about across race and gender lines? The interaction of men from all races with Asian women? What fears reside within Asian women? Are the same fears held by Black women? If so why? How can they be overcome?

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  8. The talk and panel discussion really got me thinking. I would love to discuss and hear opinions on next steps, both as an individual and a community.

  9. hey everyone! Just wanted to let you know that Pete Scazzero posted some next steps here:

    emotionallyhealthy.org/blog/?p=587

    we’ll keep you posted on other next steps!

  10. Wonderful seminar and what I appreciated most was the frankness that Idalio ( hope I got his name right )spoke with concerning Asian Americans. He modled true tranceparency as it related to his hangups concerning our Asian brothers. I personally would like to see that sort of authenticity modled by some of our Brothers and Sisters from global dominant cultures (Caucasian and even Chinese, Korean). On a whole, the seminar was great.

  11. Pingback: Practical steps for racial and cultural reconciliation « djchuang.com

  12. This is something I am working through and despite all my efforts I find myself inexplicably tangled with my tendencies for self righteousness and fear. So I tend to run to comfort of isolation and tribalism. But the city challenges me and I am learning through these reflections. Thank you for posting this.

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