Archive for April, 2008

My story — and a gentle plea for less vanilla.

April 18th, 2008 by MerkerMatic

As I get to know people, I’ve always loved asking them what they know about their ancestry: What’s your ethnic background? What does your name mean? I’ve found that many European Americans don’t know, and some even brush it aside saying they’re a “mutt” or “who cares?” or “just American” or “just plain vanilla.”

Likening skin color to ice cream flavors does make sense. Most flavors are somewhere between white and brown. But to define Northern Europeans as “vanilla” or “white” implies that they are tasteless and colorless, which is yet another way of defining white as the racially and culturally neutral “background” color of our society.

I long for the day when white Americans realize they aren’t just part of a neutral vanilla background. Here’s an example of what I mean: April 15’s episode of World Have Your Say posed this question to minorities: “Do you feel like you have to leave your culture at the door when you go to work…?” Whites would have a hard time answering (more…)

Jesus’ Platform

April 11th, 2008 by Kelsi Johns

In the first part of Chapter 1, Metzger sheds light on the history of the fundamentalist-evangelical movement in America and the the ways in which both the left and right have used the political platform to tout their own agendas, which only foster “walls of separation, not bridges of redemption” (p. 14). Their respective hopes are in legislation rather than the cross. Historically, conservatives and liberals alike have “used power politics to build moral utopias” (p. 13).

I think this is right on. So often when I’m talking to friends, colleagues, whomever, their concern is: Who is going to run our country next? Who’s going to, in a sense, save this wreck and put the pieces back together? Another republican? Doubtful, they say. A black man? Maybe, but he doesn’t have much experience. A woman? Well, she is a bit abrasive. So who will it be? That’s the hot topic right now, right? And I wonder, is Jesus left in the corner with his hands open? What about his agenda? What about his public discourse, his experience, and his oh so gentle demeanor? And it is interesting to me that this is how the candidates are typically discussed: by their status as minority figures. A black man. A woman. The lone republican. First and foremost, they are not described by their values, morals, faith, etc. They are first qualified by what they are not. (The woman that’s not a man, the black man that’s not a white man, the republican that’s not a democrat.) This makes sense, as that is how things are often distinguished, but it further enforces the mindset that political orientations and decisions are often rooted in polarization and separation rather than in reconciliation and unity.

Metzger says that those on the left and the right often “use power politics to promote the agenda of their special-interest groups” (p. 14), which then leads to these walls of separation. “They are consumed by the wrong priorities”.

If politics only serves our special-interest groups and as a means to further ostracize and divide, then how and where does that fit in to the vision of Christ?

With the goal of achieving a non-divisive “patchwork quilt” body of Christ (set forth in the conclusion to the book), how are we to interact with politics and legislation in light of and out of respect for the various differences in religious and social convictions, and socioeconomic and racial backgrounds in our country? Furthermore, I wonder how the church and government are to co-exist, without one squandering or manipulating the other. I think that we often (mistakenly) view the connection between the government of our secular nation to the body of Christ as seamless–as if the government or the church is simply an arm of the other.

In what ways do you think we as Christians have mistakingly replaced the power of the cross in the church with power politics in the realm of the state when it comes to promoting and enforcing our moral ideals, and how might you find it harmful to reconciliation?

And really, whose moral ideas are we touting–our own personal hot buttons, or Christ’s through and through–regardless of whether or not they personally ignite us or line up with our political stances?

So really the question is: as Christ followers who desire reconciliation and unity, how are we to engage politics of the state in a redemptive and effective manner? What would that look like?

The Consumer Church and Christian Discipleship in Small Groups

April 8th, 2008 by Joshua Reshey

Reshey’s essay assesses the influence of modern consumer culture upon Christian discipleship in ‘small groups’. His argument is framed around what he terms the power of the “invisible yet heavy hand of the market economy,” that makes itself felt in every aspect of life, including the church in America. He believes that, “consumerist mentalities affect interpersonal relationships through the imperative of personal preference,” meaning that he local church is often forced to cater to individual tastes. This problems especially true with regard to prevailing small group discipleship structures. Reshey argues that the consumer-oriented church fails to adequately disciple its believers in small groups because their content and structure reinforce consumerism. He concludes that churches need to address small group discipleship with an affective Trinitarian ethic of love and engagement to counteract the prevailing consumerist orientation.

The Consumer Church and Christian Discipleship in Small Groups

The Class: Removing the Blinders of Prejudice in the Church

April 6th, 2008 by MerkerMatic

This is the syllabus for the class we held at Imago Dei Community in April and May 2008:

Class Overview:

We all struggle with prejudice—pre-judging people. Even in the church, we distort and minimize those whose stories and experiences are different from our own, as we view them through our limited cultural lenses. We need to see others rightly from God’s global kingdom perspective. This 8 week class hosted by a group of Christ-followers from Imago Dei will develop further the themes addressed during the “Are You a Passive Racist?” forum led by Paul and Mariko Metzger at Evangel Baptist last November. The aim of the class is to share God’s kingdom vision where God invites all of us and incorporates each of our stories into Christ’s story through the Spirit. Building on the biblical story where God invites all of us to participate in his story, we need to invite others whose experiences are different from our own to share their stories so that we can move beyond the pain, victimization, and isolation associated with prejudice toward healing, victory, and hope. As our eyes are opened as we listen in love, we hope to move from racial, ethnic, and cultural prejudice to just forms of perception as we look through God’s eyes as viewed through Christian Scripture.

Ground Rules:

*Stay engaged: Participants should do everything possible to come to all classes as these 8 weeks are a relationship building exercise.*Be prepared to experience discomfort: You may experience guilt, sorrow, conviction, followed (possibly) by repentance, renewal, greater self-awareness, and a heightened appreciation for God and one another.*Speak your truth in love: Truth can be objective and scientific. But it can also be personal and passionate. It can be complex, reflecting pain, anger, disbelief, or even ambiguity as a result of encountering unfamiliar experiences. If all truth is God’s truth, then God’s truth includes crying truth, stuttering truth, expressing truth with uncomfortable pauses, and even angry truth. Make sure to express hard truths, and also to express them in love, seeking to build up one another.Listen well: It’s so easy to write off those whose experiences are different from our own. Listen well to others as they share their experiences. Good listeners are often God’s healing agents.*Expect and accept non-closure: Sometimes offenders have to give time to victims to heal before they can experience full reconciliation and move forward. No one in this class should expect closure for racism on the macro level at the end of the class; if anything, our hope is that we will all come away more sensitized to racism and other forms of prejudice, becoming more effective agents of reconciliation.Sense your own brokenness and need for God: We are all victimizers and victims, depending on the contexts in which we find ourselves. Accept one another, seeking reconciliation with God and with one another.*Four of the points listed above as ground rules were adaptations of points made in the book, Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, written by Glenn Eric Singleton and Curtis Linton (Corwin Press, 2005)

Select Resources:

Mark DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation, J-B Leadership Network Series (Jossey-Bass, 2007).Curtiss Paul DeYoung,Michael O. Emerson, George Yancey and Karen Chai Kim, United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race (Oxford, 2004).Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford, 2001).Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Grand Central, 2001).Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today (Perseus, 2006).Paul Louis Metzger, Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church (Eerdmans, 2007).John M. Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down, 30th Anniversary Edition (Regal, 2006).Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice, More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel, Revised and Expanded (IVP, 2000).Glenn Eric Singleton and Curtis Linton, Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools (Corwin Press, 2005).Richard Twiss, One Church, Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You, Revised Edition (Regal Books, 2000).Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Free To Be Bound: Church Beyond the Color Line (Navpress, 2008).Other helpful works include significant works of literature, such as the following: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Other important sources include the following films: The Color of Fear, Crash, Eyes on the Prize, Race—the Power of Illusion, and Unfulfilled Dreams.Removing the Blinders of Prejudice in the Church©2008, Paul and Mariko Metzger and Imago Friends