Friday, November 09, 2012

Are We Ready for Diversity?

Every time I visit my son and his family in the San Francisco area, I come back profoundly impacted by the diversity of the people I encounter—Japanese, Korean, Chinese, various East Asian and South Asian people, and Hispanics.  Sometimes the situation is almost surrealistic as one sees a Japanese family touring the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier whose planes inflicted major damage on Japanese planes, ships, and facilities during World War Two!

The fact that we are becoming a nation of minorities in which Euro-Americans will soon be one was emphasized by the recent Presidential elections.  Mr. Romney was not just defeated by President Obama and a well-run organization but by demographics—a country that is increasingly Hispanic and Asian, a country of diversity.  This is a trend that is not going to change.

I have often commented on the growing ethnic diversity in our little part of Tennessee, but we have only begun to experience what will be a tidal wave of change in the coming decades.  Even the small changes we have seen have prompted some backlash and paranoia on the part of the shrinking majority population.

And I have not even started to address what this means to the church!  How will our suburban, predominantly white congregations respond to the changes around us?  If we look at what has happened with our African-American neighbors, we see that the Sunday morning worship hour in churches is still the most segregated time of the week for Christian Americans (a paraphrase of a comment attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).  Is this the way forward?  I hope not.

One reason for hope and change is the number of marriages between people of different ethnic backgrounds.  This opens up new possibilities that may lead the couple to become involved in a church where one partner is in the minority.  Another option is those churches that recognize that their mission is to be cross-cultural, welcoming mixed-ethnic families and people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Look out over your congregation this Sunday.  Does that sea of faces reflect the diversity of God’s people?  If not, we are missing the blessing of being everything that God has called us to be.

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