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Monday, March 28, 2005

On Desiring Multiculturalism

According to my fellow SoCal Blogger, John Schroeder of Blogotional, it is futile to cultivate multicultural churches because any such attempts will only result in heartbreaking failure.

For one thing, merely calculating the racial compositions of congregations is misleading since "[i]f integration is to matter it must be a matter of the heart, not merely the head count." Secondly, congregations are segregated only because of social forces causing people to drift to those with whom they relate more than anything else. Finally, any effort to unite people along racial, or any other, lines end up being artificially contrived.

John therefore joins others (in the comments of a post over at " target="_blank">here)in calling for the church to desire, but not force, integration. This in response to DJ Chuang's post highlighting an April Christianity Today article, on the thesis that all churches should be multiracial.

I am somewhat puzzled by John's attitude.

While he agrees that all churches ought to aim for the ideal of multiculturalism, he is ambivalent about the success of its actual practice. In fact, he drew upon his own experiences to suggest that it will only fail.

John's personal examples in previous efforts to integrate churches he had been involved in seemed to me, to be a little on the trivial side and misses the point about being intentional about fostering multicultural congregations or churches.

For I do not think multiculturalism amounts merely to having people of different language or cultural groups within a congregation, and even having different languages in your worship or fellowship groups. This kind of approach towards integration is precisely why earlier reported efforts to foster "multiculturalism" in churches had failed.

Perhaps John's earlier point about multiculturalism being more than just statistical and that it is more a matter of the heart rings true. Perhaps, true multiculturalism is achieved only when there is genuine conversations and engagement of different cultural expressions and theologizing of the same faith within the church, or congregation.

John says to "desire" multiculturalism, but, is it really enough to desire multiculturalism in our churches? How does "desiring" multiculturalism look like?

Ought there be a definite program, an intentional, concerted effort in actually going out of the way to setup our churches so that they be truly multicultural? If such programs or efforts are carried out, would that be considered "forcing" an ideal that is hopelessly unattainable except by coincidence or accident?

I might continue to explore this topic a little, perhaps in future posts, but before I do I would like to know your take about this.

What does it mean to you to implement multiculturalism in our churches? Should we even do this? Would doing it implicate us in forcing something that is not natural? Should we just remain passively "desiring" it to happen, and let nature run its course? How do "real multicultural" churches look like, and how do we measure them?