Category Archives: ethnicity

“Disunity in Christ”: An Interview with Christena Cleveland

Note: Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist with a hopeful passion for overcoming cultural divisions in groups.  She regularly blogs about reconciliation, race and privilege. Drawing from a vast body of research, she uncovers the underlying processes that affect relationships within and between groups and helps leaders understand how to promote an appreciation for diversity and build effective collaborations with diverse groups. Christena earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. from the University of California.  She has published numerous scholarly articles and held academic appointments at the University of California, Westmont College, St. Catherine University and Bethel Seminary. She coaches pastors and organizational leaders on multicultural issues and speaks regularly at organizations, churches, conferences and universities. In addition to speaking, coaching and writing, she serves on the pastoral preaching team at her church and is a volunteer Young Life leader in urban Minneapolis. She recently completed her first book Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart

I had the privilege of offering an endorsement of Christena’s book, which I loved as a social scientist. Here’s my plug:

In Disunity in Christ, Christena Cleveland provides an insightful analysis of why we all say we want unity but find it so difficult to gain it. Combining a humble Christian tone, familiarity with many types of churches and skillful use of social science, Disunity in Christ reveals to us those very human tendencies that keep us divided. Along the way, Cleveland helps us to see, laugh at and rethink our very selves. This book will …

Also posted in books, community, conflict, Interviews, race | | 9 Comments

“I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me”: The Intra-Group Gaze of Race and Identity

Came up for a short break from sermon preparation and should have kept my head in the book!

Apparently the “race and ethnicity police” have infiltrated the ranks of sports broadcasters. One wishes the racial identity police would go the way of Hitler’s Gestapo, but we’ll have to await the end of the world war called “race.”

Veteran sports reporter Rob Parker has raised some eyebrows and caused a stir by questioning whether the Redskins’ RGIII is a “brother” or a “cornball brother.” Parker doubts RGIII’s black bona fides because apparently he has a white fiance, may be a Republican [gasp in horror!], and continues to answer repeated and unsolicited questions about being a “Black quarterback” with equal parts big picture grace and hat tips to his fan base. Parker wants him to just pull out his ghetto card–if he has one–and act “Black.” Parker gives him credit for wearing braids–that’s “urban” after all–but finds RGIII suspect nonetheless. Parker concludes on ESPN’s First Take, “he’s not one of us.”



Stephen A. Smith countered by saying he was uncomfortable with where the interview with Parker had gone. He rightly says that the man’s fiance and political leanings are no one’s business. Credit to Smith for seeing clearly on those issues. But Smith goes on to express his irritation with the tacit requirement of successful Black athletes to “please the masses.” Smith rightly rejects the double-standard that’s long plagued prominent Black athletes. They should be free from the white gaze just as white athletes …

Also posted in race | | 9 Comments

I Was Thinking of Giving Up Blogging…

Until I saw Church Relevance’s recent Top 200 Christian Blogs list.  This is an annual ranking (though I think earlier years were top 100) that combines several factors to determine a ranking among Christian blogs.  Here’s how the folks at Church Relevance describe the list:

Some focus exclusively on ministry, while others are more like theology or news blogs. Regardless of how you label them, these are the world’s most popular church blogs written by many of today’s most influential church leaders, journalists, theologians, and Christ followers

Seems like too great a claim to me.  But it is an interesting list.  I find it’s main value in the listing of interesting new blogs to follow.

So why did the list change my mind about no longer blogging?

It’s not Pure Church’s #22 ranking.  In fact, I think we’re down a few spots from last year.

I skimmed the list and realized that there are very few ethnic Christians on the listing!  There’s Pure Church, but after that the number of Christians from ethnic backgrounds making the list of 200 gets slim indeed!

Becky Hsu and Jerry Park contribute every few weeks over at Black, White and Gray (T-#57 in the ranking)–a blog name that sounds like it could focus on multi-ethnic perspectives but turns out to be mainly White brothers and sisters.

Bruce Reyes-Chow comes in at #90.

Another African American, Scott Williams, joins the list tied at #98 with his blog BigIstheNewSmall.

DJ Chuang bounces in at #134 and Eugene Cho at …

Also posted in blogging, blogs, Uncategorized | | 19 Comments

T4G Debrief: Where Were All the African Americans?

A couple days ago, David Murray posted a second reflection on T4G where he asked, “Where were all the African Americans?” Murray expressed some timidity raising the question for fear of saying something offensive or incorrect. We’ve all had enough hand-slapping when it comes to reaching into the “race” and ethnicity cookie jar.  I appreciate the courage to press into the issue.  As far as I’m concerned (and who am I to offer an opinion?), it’s okay to ask the question, even though something feels “off” with the question.

For anyone interested, here are my quick responses:

1. Murray guesses that African Americans made up about 1-2 percent of the crowd.  That might be correct.  But here’s the question for me: What percentage of the Reformed Christian world do African Americans comprise?  I’d think we’re not much more than 1-2 percent–tops!  The Reformed world is small and the African-American Reformed even smaller.  Perhaps this is what seems “off” about the post to me.  On a percentage basis, I wouldn’t be all that concerned even though I’d love all my kinsmen according to the flesh to adopt this robust, God-exalting, and biblical theological world and life view.

2.  Murray mentions that the Man Up! conference was happening at the same time and might have attracted some who otherwise would have attended.  That might be true.  I know a couple guys who opted for Man Up! over T4G.  And I think they made the correct decision.  Here’s why.  Man Up! represents an important movement …

Also posted in conferences, T4G, Together for the Gospel | | 43 Comments

Where Does “Blackness” and “Whiteness” Come From?

I don’t know what I expect when I write some blog posts.  Usually I’m just in my own little head trying to get some coherent thoughts out so I can learn and think.  So, I write what I’m thinking.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I do hope it’s helpful to someone else.  But sometimes it stirs up questions and comments I didn’t anticipate.  Like the post “This Black Leader or That Black Leader.”  I suppose I knew it would stir conversation, but I didn’t anticipate being accused of furthering Black-White divides, especially when I’ve written so much to challenge the very question of “race” itself.  Outflanked on the right, I suppose.

Then there was this great question: “Where does the idea of ‘blackness’ come from anyway?”  Hmmm.  That’s a fine question.  It revealed my assumption that everybody had a working notion of “blackness” or “whiteness” and some sense of where it comes from.  I’m glad for the question for two reasons: (1) It proves not everybody does–that’s good news; and (2) it suggests real progress on this front–also good news.

But, perhaps it’s good to attempt a short answer to this question before resuming the schedule of posts I have for this week.  Perhaps answer this question will help make some sense of the previous posts and make the subsequent ones more helpful (at least understandable).  So, where does “blackness” (and for that matter, “whiteness”) come from?

Not from the Bible

First, we ought to say something about where it …

Also posted in race | | 17 Comments

Evangelicalism in Black and White

Urban Faith has an interesting 30-minute discussion of Evangelicalism in Black and White Communities with Dr. William Pannell of Fuller Theological Seminary. For those new to him, William Pannell…

was the first African-American to serve on Fuller’s Board of Trustees. In 1992 he was appointed as the Arthur DeKruyter/Christ Church Oak Brook Professor of Preaching, served as dean of the Chapel from 1992 to 1998, and also served as director of the African-American Studies Program. A gifted preacher and professor of homiletics, Pannell has nurtured several generations of Fuller students from the classroom to the pulpit. He currently serves on the board of Taylor University in Indiana and is the author of numerous articles and books, including The Coming Race Wars? A Cry for Reconciliation (1993); Evangelism from the Bottom Up (1992); and My Friend, the Enemy (1968). [From the Fuller website]

Here is the video:

Here are the interview questions and their time frames:
1. What is Black Evangelicalism? [00:03]
2. What was your relationship with the late Tom Skinner and the rise of Black Evangelicalism? [2:05]

Reconciliation, Billy Graham, and the White community [6:05]

3. Why did you write My Friend, The Enemy (1968)? [7:55]
4. What is the Obsidian Society? [12:53]
5. What are the challenges facing young black evangelical scholars? [14:17]
6. What is the state of preaching as we move deeper into the 21st century? [16:46]
7. What lead to the development of your book, The Coming Race Wars, published in 1993? …

Also posted in Evangelicals, Interviews, video | | 3 Comments

Colorblind Is Not the Same As Justice-blind

I enjoyed this conversation between Colin Hansen and John Piper regarding John’s new book, Bloodlines. I deeply respect and admire John’s faith in the Lord, willingness to risk, and courage to stand on this issue. And in these videos you can see his passion and investment in arguing for a blood-bought reshaping of our thinking about ourselves.

Confronting the Racial Sins of Our Fathers from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Can’t Afford to Be Color Blind from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

I think John nails the colorblind issue in the second video. He captures the tension and dynamic very well, showing both the pros and the cons of the issue.

If I might, I’d want to tack on one footnote to what John has said extremely well. Sometimes the appeal to being colorblind masks a deeper issue of being “justice blind.” That is, some people have called for a colorblind society or positioned themselves as colorblind people as a means for willfully ignoring justice issues that themselves are predicated upon color. Examples abound. Fill in the blank.

So, there arises a suspicion of the notion because of very real justice or injustice issues attached to color. We don’t want a naive movement toward colorblindness (in the positive sense) when it gives room for “justice blindness.” That’s part of the tension and concern. In a society filled with systematic statistical disparities on the basis of skin …

Also posted in race | | 3 Comments

Anyabwile v. Wake

Protesters took over a Wake County Public School board meeting in Raleigh, N.C., during a protest of the school board's decision to eliminate a busing policy focused on diversity.

You’ve heard of Brown v. The Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case that began the dismantling of “separate but equal” in public education.  Well, it seems that the gains of the Civil Rights movement are imperiled in at least one jurisdiction, Wake County, North Carolina.

My wife served in a Wake County high school for three years as a history teacher.  I coached junior varsity and varsity basketball in the same system.  In North Carolina, Wake County schools were the gem of the state.  And with good reason.  The system managed an integration policy that to some extent ameliorated some of the wide income and resource gaps between various neighborhoods in the system.  It was a busing strategy that had some challenges (many of our students were bused past three or four high schools in order to attend school, leaving home sometimes as early as 6:30am).  But on the whole, the system worked to give greater opportunity to all.

Thanks to the backing of sibling billionaires, what was once widely regarded an effective system for ending both segregation and class disadvantage may now be dismantled.  Black Voices, an internet newspaper associated with The Huffington Post, reports on the community’s response to the election of five school board members bankrolled by Charles and David Koch (not N.C. residents), the Tea Party, …

Also posted in Civil Rights, community, race | | 11 Comments

Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege

Senator James Webb (D-Va) offers an interesting op-ed at The Wall Street Journal entitled “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege.”  Webb questions the validity of viewing white America as a monolith along with the continuation of government programs originally designed to remedy slavery’s legacy but not serve all “people of color.”

Here’s Webb’s conclusion:

Where should we go from here? Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end.

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.

Memo to my fellow politicians: Drop the Procrustean policies and allow harmony to invade the public mindset. Fairness will happen, and bitterness will fade away.

Read the entire piece.  This isn’t typical Democrat speak.  And it’s a certainly a rare opinion in Northern Virginia.  Webb gets points for breaking the party line with a dissenting opinion.

But is his reasoning solid?  I’m curious; what do you think?  Does Webb’s point of view hold?  Is white privilege a myth?  Ought tenure in the country privilege someone to government support or resources?  And curiously, are southern white Baptists really an ethnic group?

Also posted in politics, race | | 1 Comment

Demographics, Diversity, Leadership and the Church–Mega and Mini

This morning, I read with interest Time Magazine’s David Van Biema’s article, “Can Megachurches Bridge the Racial Divide?”  It’s a positive look at Bill Hybels’ and Willow Creek‘s efforts at diversifying a once all-white suburban congregation.  The article gives great attention to Hybels’ leadership on this issue at Willow, his steady “drum beat” approach to identifying racial issues, the work of small groups in building community across racial lines, and so on. Hybels has apparently shown a level of repentance and leadership that few have.

“I hadn’t [preached] about it in 24 years.” So he promised his congregation, “I’m not going to overwhelm you.” Yet he persisted, sermonizing repeatedly about America’s racial history and continuing inequities. He pledged to open Willow to every ethnicity. In 2003, he recalls, he threw down the gauntlet, telling his flock that the church’s racial outreach was “part of who we are, and if it can’t be part of who you are, you probably need to find a church that doesn’t talk about this issue.”

Amen.  I was encouraged with the read, and I hope you will be also.  Still, the article raises a number of questions worthy of further consideration.

Is It Demographics and Probability, or Is It Leadership and Gospel Change?

For example, why should “megachurches” be lauded as the possible bridge over troubled racial waters?  Is there something “mega” about their teaching and Christian ethic, or is the apparent ability of megachurches to achieve some diversity simply reflect economies of scale?  If you grow …

Also posted in Anthony Carter, church leadership, ecclesiology, Healthy membership, leadership, Lemuel Haynes, pastoral ministry, race, relationships | | 12 Comments