This fall, we have collaborated with Destino (Latino ministry), Nations (Native American ministry) and Impact (African American ministry) to write an article called, “Six Postures of Ethnic Minority Culture Towards Majority Culture.” We hope it provides language and categories to further discussion about these significant topics. We hope you take the time to read and discuss it with your teams, families, and churches or organizations.
You can find the article here, if you want to read in its entirety, or share it with others.
But to allow for easier reading and interaction, we have decided to break up the article into posts as well on this blog. We have posted a question that you can engage at the end of each post. No matter where you are on your journey, we hope you will feel inspired to share your own thoughts and stories here!
Posture # 5: Unity as Assimilation
By Adrian & Jennifer Pei, Destino Kristy, Donnie & Renee Begay (with personal stories by Destino, Epic, Impact, and Nations staff)
The fifth posture is best described as Unity as Assimilation. As representatives of various ethnic minority groups, we desire as much as anyone to see true unity expressed and lived out. However, as the “Five Postures” article pointed out, efforts toward unity can often lead to uniformity, which devalues uniqueness and differences. While the temptation for the majority culture is to keep things the same, so they don’t have to face discomfort or adapt, the temptation for minority cultures is to conform (or assimilate) to the existing culture.
When many minorities enter a multiethnic church setting, they often encounter pressure to not discuss differences, due to fear that this may lead to division in the body of Christ. Or sometimes, cultural conversation is discouraged because people feel it “waters down” the gospel. Silence about an issue does not necessarily mean neutrality, as some people may assume. This kind of silence is not due to unawareness, but due to underlying
beliefs about the meaning and value of culture and context.
Whether subtle or overt, many minorities respond to these pressures by thinking they must leave behind their culture, to embrace a “new” and “superior” one in Christ. This creates a misleading – and potentially damaging – dichotomy between culture and faith. Without the proper awareness and maturity, minorities may associate (or even equate) “fallen-ness” with their ethnic identity, and spiritual conversion withassimilation into the majority culture.
We acknowledge that unity is complex, and that it needs to be discussed and pursued with thoughtfulness and care. Yet in the history of debates about the true meaning of contextualization and unity, we have noticed how little attention has been given to the concept of “loss.” As ethnic minority leaders, what of our family and culture’s story have we forsaken, in pursuit of an immature vision of unity?
Yet we can bring these stories to enrich the body of Christ! As we begin to see diversity as adding depth to our theological and spiritual community, rather than diluting it, we are freed to bring all of who we are to our ministry.
As we begin to value complexity, rather than discourage it, we can lead as bridge-builders who help others to navigate the tension of multicultural settings.
We have noticed that unity in the Western church is very influenced by an individualistic mindset. People see themselves as distinct individuals, even if they don’t consider cultural distinctives. To be in community, each person must find it, and adapt to the culture. In our Native culture, we are simply born into the community of our families, and this is for life. You are part of a clan, and any debt or burden becomes the clan’s responsibility. When we are on the reservation, we don’t have to try to fit in or be unified — we are already tied to each other. But when we are off the reservation, it’s an entirely different story. – Renee Begay
When I first became a Christian in high school, I was so eager to fit in to my new church community that I pulled away from my family. Because the broken parts of my Hispanic culture had caused great pain in my life, I turned my back on it altogether. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that by rejecting my culture in its entirety, I was also rejecting the beautiful aspects of it. – Destino Kristy