Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Acceptance

Church can be the loneliest place on earth.

Church is advertised as a safe haven for those seeking love and acceptance that the outside world lacks, yet I have seldom found the promise of community to be true. I dread the moments following the closing prayer, when people around me quickly vanish into their cliques, leaving me very much alone and awkward in a crowd of happy looking people beaming with smiles as I quietly head out to the parking lot with my car keys firmly in hand.

Reasons are many, not the least of which is my introverted nature and reluctance to intrude into where I have not been invited. This, along with other things, contributes to the elusiveness of "Christian fellowship" as I struggle to find my footing in church.

****************************
Often suggested by well meaning people when I share the aforementioned issue is that I look into "Asian American" churches in search of "acceptance."

That advice, as well intended as it may be, bothers me greatly for several reasons. For one thing, it is a knee jerk fallacy to assume race is the issue that when people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds fail to jive right away. How many of you have problems getting along with members of your own family? Not only do they share your ethnic background, but they’ve spent most of your childhood years living with you under the same roof. They've seen the side of you that most of your friends have not.

They even have your nose. Yeah, you heard me.

Having said that, I admit there is some validity to their suggestion. But before getting more into that, perhaps some background about so-called Asian American churches for those of you who live outside of regions with heavy immigrant populations may be in order.

Throughout Southern California is a myriad of churches geared towards immigrants whose language, dress and social habits are still deeply rooted in their home cultures. Often these churches function not just as houses of worship, but social and economic hubs for new arrivals to this country as well.

Naturally, they bring their children to church with the hopes of instilling in them not just their religious beliefs, but cultural values as well. But as children quickly master the new language and adapt to the mainstream American culture, they find themselves alienated in their parents’ immigrant church hampered by language and cultural barriers.

Some may venture into "American" churches (for lack of a better term) to find themselves just as disfranchised as they are in their parents’ churches. They have their own experiences and issues very few seem to understand and relate to, hense ensues an identity crisis.

With the purpose of meeting the needs unique to Asian Americans, some of my college friends have gone onto starting churches with an "Asian American focus" throughout Southern California, where you will find people with Asian faces whose speech patterns bear no traces of accent and their mannerisms hardly distinguishable from red blooded Americans. In such ethnically homogeneous congregations, they are said to have found comfort and "acceptance" that neither their parents’ immigrant churches nor mainstream American churches provide.

Obviously such social habits which amount to self imposed segregation are not limited to Asians in America. Most people are gravitated toward those with similar backgrounds and traits and their social circles tend to be homogeneous not just ethnically, but economically as well. Chances are that they don't harbor thoughts of racism. In this day and age of political correctness and racial hyper-sensitivity, people are loath to feel as though they are walking on egg shells so as not to offend people from different ethnic backgrounds. They just want to hang out with people they can feel comfortable around.

So the aforementioned sociological observations seem to support the notion that venturing into Asian American churches may lead me to more "acceptance" from those who can relate to me because they share similar life experiences and circumstances.

I understand. It makes sense.

However, I strongly object to the use of the word "acceptance" in that context. To me, the word acceptance connotes work and effort. If my fellow Asian Americans "accept" me, mostly because I look, talk, and think like them, I am not sure if they should be awarded with such a noble concept of acceptance. Gravitation toward the familiar is as natural as eating and breathing, which in and of themselves are neither moral nor immoral, so why should such behavior be elevated and praised?

To me, acceptance means an act of reaching out to others despite obstacles. It requires something of you. It takes rising above yourself. I love what the Jordanian young woman at a peace conference in the Middle East said. "In order to make peace with your enemies, you have to go to war with yourself."

Show me a person who actively resists his/her natural tendencies to stay in the comfort zone and seeks to reach out to others despite hurdles. That is acceptance. If my fellow Koreans had reached out to blacks in the ashes of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, that would have been acceptance. Sadly very little, if any, of that took place.

When a young girl named Agnes Bojaxhiu from an upper middle class family in Albania decided to dedicate her life to the poorest of the poor in India to later become known as Mother Teresa, that is acceptance.

If you are a Christian who believes that the Son of God came in human flesh to be among us and ultimately died for us on the cross in our place, that, ladies and gentlemen, is


!!! ACCEPTANCE !!!

Those of us who call ourselves Christians should understand that better than anyone. After all, we are the beneficiaries of the ultimate and greatest Gift of Acceptance from Jesus Christ. And because of that, we should be out there leading the world in demolishing racial and cultural barriers and demonstrate to the world what acceptance is all about, because of what Jesus did. We should be out there kicking butt.

Yet, eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is said to be the most segregated hour in America.


*****************************

One sociological observation I have noted over the years is a strong correlation between a group’s willingness to integrate and the criticality of its mission.

At the one end of the spectrum is the military which integrated years before the civil rights era. When bullets from the enemy are flying, you couldn’t care less about the skin color or economic status of the person next to you when your life is hanging in the balance. "There is no time for race shit," a Marine who had just finished a tour in Iraq bluntly told me.

Then at the other end of the spectrum are casual social groups. Their "mission," if you will, consists of very little beyond simply having a good time. Bullets aren’t flying, but the booze is. Casual social groups tend to be very homogenious because they can afford to be. Good looks, money and popularity play huge factors. Hanging out with the prettiest people in the crowd will pay off handsomely as you work your way up the social hierarchy.

No sane Marine would employ that tactic while battling the insurgents in Feluja, or he'd be dead before he knew it.

What does it say about the church of Jesus Christ in America today? Do we not bear more resemblance to casual social circles than the military? Interestingly enough, the Bible is full of military metaphors in describing how we ought to live out our Christian lives. We are to be mindful of Satan's "fiery darts" in our spiritual struggles, but my Gawd, we act as though we have all the luxury in the world to sit next to people who look, act, and talk just like us while dodging those darts from the Devil.

Homogeneity and the Christian Church in America:  Perhaps we Christians should channel our fervency and dedication to eradicating this kind of "homo" instead of obsessing with the sex kind.

31 Comments:

At September 13, 2005 9:52 PM, Blogger Gold Rust said...

I like the way you think - your not afraid to goagainst the orthadox. Check out my blog - its kinda like that too.

 
At September 14, 2005 8:54 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Michael, thanks.

And your statements about making "projects." Guilty as charged. Have done that myself, and been at the receiving end of it too. Will comment more, but that is so true.

 
At September 14, 2005 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there is also a fair bit of how we are raised and the world we live in when we grow up that affects this sort of clique/group behaviour. While I'm not going to say that I have an equal distribution of ethnicities amoung my friends, I do know that I really could care less about skin color (unless it is purple, in which case it would facinate me to no end). Heck, I try to hang out with as many different people as possible in (what for a lack of a better term is) my drinking group. I know we are way to far out of the way for you, but anyone who isn't an a-hole is more than welcome to come and socialize.
-Mike Ax.

 
At September 14, 2005 5:35 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Hey Mike,

GNP was great. We had a fantastic support group there. I always had good friends at work, but considering that I was there only for 1.5 years, I made a lot of good friends. That is why I didn't mind the commute because of the people there. Most of us really liked each other. Too bad it lasted only 1.5 years for me.

 
At September 14, 2005 9:21 PM, Blogger grace said...

David,
While I am addressing the bullying aspect of spiritual abuse, what you are touching on is a possibly more common aspect of spiritual abuse. You have described a type of wounding that is all too common.

I think the exclusivity within the church culture leaves many people wondering why they don't fit in and what they have to do to belong.

 
At September 15, 2005 8:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,
With all that has come to pass, is it really too bad that you only had 1.5 years at GNP? I think you have found a better place for yourself. There is no Bruce screaming at you to motivate you, and no Kris asking you "Is it done yet?".
-M.Ax.

 
At September 15, 2005 8:50 AM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

That was really an awesome post. Made me think to much for so early in the morning. But I recalled a church I attended a few years ago before I moved south. I had attended many churches up til that time. They had all been mostly black churches. I visited a church that was racially mixed, really about 50-50, it was a very different experience. Its the closest I've ever been in any situation where race was not an issue, I was accepted, we fellowshiped, and I felt completely at ease. Even more so than the black churches I had attended. Now that I've moved, Ive visited some mostly white churches and have felt very unwelcomed. I've visited some black churches and have felt unwelcomed. Ive sort of settled with the church where I am now, but I yearn for that church like I once had.

 
At September 15, 2005 9:46 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Mike: "Is it done yet?" Thanks for bringing back horror memories. I will have to blog about that. I am hesitant about writing stories where people's identities can be revealed. As bad as K and B were, the rest of the crew (for the most part. Ah, the notes every 5 minutes...) were awesome. We were very diverse not just ethnically but in terms of life experiences and personalities. Nobody was a cookie cutter anything (well, one guy was a cookie cutter Korean, and he drove me out of my mind).

Brotha Buck: You made an excellent point. I did try Asian American churches and felt just as alienated. So non Asian people refuse to accept me because I'm Asian. Asians "accept" me because I'm Asian. They both are equally shallow as far as I'm concerned. I didn't do anything to be born an Asian, so why should I be rejected or received because of what I was born into. Where did you live before you moved South?

 
At September 15, 2005 1:23 PM, Blogger Elevated said...

Wow Dave great thoughts. I've been saving a response until I could thoroughly read your post.

I've known the feeling of keys in hand and darting for the door since day one at my church. I ascribed it to our size rather than cliques or callousness. I too was heavily disappointed in the lack of "open arms" I experienced. I once attended a smaller church with a friend in San Diego and was blown away when not only the Pastor made sure to welcome us (from the podium - yipes) but then people were stopping us on our way out to make it known they were happy we came and hoped we came back again. It really made me wish I lived closer.

I loved the analogy we should be embracing our fellow Christians with a fervency of a soldier in battle that has found someone to cover his back.

I appreciate this "smack on he head" and am sure going to make sure I make attempts at shedding my skin of shyness.

 
At September 15, 2005 7:28 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

Dave, a really good essay. You will be disappointed to hear that seminary, at least the one I go to, tends to see the same sort of racial cliques around lunch tables (although that is not a hard and fast rule). I also experience this same sort of exclusion at the church I worship at here in NJ - and practically everyone in the church is the same color as myself! I find myself thinking it's the duty of others to reach out and to include me, but I know that it is my duty to reach out and include others.

 
At September 15, 2005 7:44 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Elevated:
Thanks for the kind words. As you say about a soldier in battle, I need to remind myself that we are at war, but it is often easy to forget. As to shedding your skin of shynes, you don't come across that way, at least through this medium.

Jenny:
That is too bad. I remember hanging out at Talbot one day at the invitation of a friend, and was amazed how people congregated around very strictly along racial lines. And yes, there, it was a hard and fast rule. And many called themselves future missionaries. I was hoping that a more "liberal" seminary like PTE (Talbot is very conservative) would be different, but that is too bad.

practically everyone in the church is the same color as myself

What color are you, Jenny? Have known you for almost four years (remember after the reception you were the first GNP employee I saw? You had a car accident that day and was crying), but never got around to ask you that :).

Our circle of GNP friends was great as I said to Mike up there. After all, it was because of you, I got to start blogging. I wish I were closer so we could hang out more, but now people are all scattered and GNP is no more.

 
At September 16, 2005 5:07 PM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

Hey David, I moved south to Austin, Texas from Des Moines Iowa. I'm going to have to bring this conversation up at some point at my mens church group...class.

Best!

 
At September 16, 2005 7:30 PM, Blogger Bar Bar A said...

This is profound, I am so glad I found your site (thru Michael). I am American but still find that church is one of the lonliest places for me. I haven't been for months because I just couldn't bear another Sunday of feeling like I didn't belong (after 5 yeas at the same place). Thank you for this post.

 
At September 16, 2005 9:26 PM, Blogger insomniacman said...

The comparison between the military's pioneering integration and the still-rampant segregation in social settings is really insightful. I'm a Florida cracker, descended from a long line of rednecks and white trash, and it occurred to me a couple years ago, Why is church the only part of my life where we do things the same as we did in the ****ing Civil War? I go to school (another place with a critical mission) with people of all backgrounds, I work with people of all ethnicities. Why is church different? Shouldn't so-called "houses of God" be ahead of the curve, not 2 centuries behind it?

 
At September 16, 2005 9:58 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Brotha Buck:
I was wondering if you were a California transplant. The only part of Iowa I've been to is the national park (forget the name) which was right across the Mississippi from a Winsconsin town called Prairie..something.

Well Woman:
Thanks for the kind words. I see that you live in Mission Viejo. I live in Garden Grove. Good to see a fellow OC blogger.

I am fully aware that race is not the only factor used to exclude. I don't know what your circumstances are, but it is interesting to note that Jesus hung out with mostly rejects marginalized by society and the religious establishment at the time - Gentiles, prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners, etc. What a stark contrast.

insomniacman:
Shouldn't so-called "houses of God" be ahead of the curve, not 2 centuries behind it?

You hit it out of the ball park. I wish I had thought of phrasing it that way. That was exactly what I was trying to say. I think one reason may be that Christians call themselves "conservative." Well, there are good values that we should conserve, but we shouldn't be conserving sins. Thanks for visiting my blog.

 
At September 17, 2005 2:49 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

David, this is stellar. Absolutely great post - your thoughts and your expression of them.

I haven't visited your (or anybody's) blog in some time. I'm glad you alerted me to this. I would have been sorry to miss it.

One of the several reasons I left organized religion altogether was my discomfort with the social aspects. Though I'm easier that way now, while I was growing up and as a young adult, I was uncomfortable in group settings. In synagogue, as soon as the service ended, I felt like I was at a party - out of place.

On a different note... I will never understand religion being used as an instrument of division. I simply cannot understand someone invoking Jesus Christ while fostering intolerance and hate. I'm not a Christian, but I know something about what Jesus taught. The people who use his teachings as weapons of hate must be the biggest hypocrites on earth. It would be like forming the Gandhi Militia.

 
At September 17, 2005 3:00 PM, Blogger Brea said...

I admit - I only read the first few paragraphs of your post (I have a short attention span). I can relate with what you said about missing the sense of community in church. I have always felt the same way. That was until I found my church. Have you ever tried an intercultural church? I am very shy around large groups and this church makes me feel welcomed everyday. They have a ministry for everyone and I leave the service feeling connected. There has to be a similar church in southern California with all that diversity. Maybe you just haven't found the right place yet? Here is the link to my church if you are interested in taking a look: http://www.bridgewayonline.org
Unfortunately, I have since moved. I haven’t found a similar church in my area and have given up altogether.

 
At September 17, 2005 4:12 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Laura,
Thanks for the kind words. As to Jesus' name being used to foster intolerance and hate, that is a million dollar question which tends to attract predictable answers mired in nebulous symantics. It is an excellent topic to blog about, and I will have to think about it.

Brea,
Thanks for stopping by. I have gone to a church which portrays itself as "multi-cultural," but there again, people are being defined by their race. In theory, when a church strives to commit to the teachings of Jesus, then the multi-cultural makeup of the congregation should be one of MANY natural by-products. This particular church started out with an Asian American focus, but the pastor decided to be more pro-active in welcoming non Asians. But constantly keeping tabs on the makeup ("We are now 10% Hispanic, 5% black, 12% white ....") of the church couldn't help the feeling that people were being defined by their race.

 
At September 18, 2005 5:43 AM, Blogger Max said...

Hi David,
Yes, I'm still blogging (explanation at my blog). I really enjoyed this particular post of yours.

I believe this problem is just a human response. It is a devoloped habit based on laziness. I tend to try and ignore the cliques. It is a conscious effort to try to go and say hi to new people and people other than my "usual" crowd but because of my experiences during high school, I do make the effort to break out of my comfort zone. That's the thing. We simply get socially lazy. We do the easy thing and gravitate to those we feel most comfortable around.

For most people it's probably not even done consciously.

So, I would say, thanks for pointing this out to all of us. It's a reminder that with knowledge comes responsibility. We know how someone who feels avoided and alone sees things and we have the oportunity to change our response where we live.

I'm off to church in about an hour. I'll be looking at the crowd through your eyes this morning.

 
At September 18, 2005 5:58 PM, Blogger Bar Bar A said...

David, Garden Grove! Your right down the street :)

The comment you made in reponse to mine reminded me of a book I just finished called "Jesus in the Margins". It was a good read.

 
At September 19, 2005 9:11 AM, Blogger Gretchen said...

When I read this post for the first time a few days ago, I wanted to write something but hadn't formulated cohesive thoughts on the subject.
It is so sad to me that the one place that is supposed to be safe and good filled with people who are supposedly following Jesus Christ can be the lonliest and most uncomfortable place around.
Although I'm an extrovert and have grown up in the same church and know many of the people I see on Sunday mornings, I still have felt the same way at times. Keys in hand quietly walking to my car wishing that someone had acknowledged me.
My next thought is, how many times have I avoided looking around and seeking out the person who looks lonely and ready to bolt to their car?
What is so scary about knowing each other? Why aren't we going out of our way to truly love and accept someone else the way Jesus loved and accepted the people he came in contact with?
Some of the reasons that I have are;

1. That I'll have to enter into something uncomfortable. i.e. we all have pain and difficulties and it's inconvienent to deal with someone elses "stuff".
2. I'm afraid of judgment. The difficulty that many Christians face is the deep down feelings of judgement on themselves which manytimes translates to judgment of others.
3. I haven't truly internalized the concept of God's deep and unfathomable acceptance of all of me and therefore have a difficult time being free to love those who I'm not already in relationship with.

Yes, there are Christians out there, I have been moved by them, that are whole. They love as Jesus loves. They lay down their judgements and accept as Jesus accepted. They are, unfortunately, few and far between but they serve as an example of the peace and joy that truly comes when one has accepted the love that only God can give. When we are loved and cared for we can give. That means entering into others pain, lonliness, discomfort etc.... with confidence.
How much more deeply joyful would the church experience be? To be surrouned by whole people who could share the real Jesus with not only each other but anyone who walked through the doors.

 
At September 20, 2005 1:44 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Max
Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, lazyness can be deadily not just in terms of how we related to others, but to God as well. Often I expect everything to come to me instead of being pro-active. A lesson to be learned and applied.

Grechen
Wow, you could have written a blog about this on your site. That might have been the longest or second longest response I have ever had and definitely one of the most profound.

Those are excellent reasons you've identified. I can identify with everyone of them. A lot more than I like to admit. We all have insecurities which seem to manifest themselves in unexpected ways.

In many ways, I feel more at easy around non-Christians. There aren't any expectations "to be spiritual" and to perform. How those two things have become synonymous is truly indicative of how legalistic we have become.

BTW, I started thinking about putting an essay like this when I was reading Blankets. Starting on page 78, Craig Thompson describes his experiences at church camp. It hit a little too close to home.

 
At September 20, 2005 10:59 AM, Blogger Heidi said...

There are lots of great comments here. I resonate with Gretchen (my sister...) and agree that it is hard to invest or relate with people because we might be afraid of opening up with our own stuff. I think that one of Satan's biggest ploys is to keep us in Shame or Guilt over our own sin. It keeps us from being able to look at it in the face, and makes repentance very difficult, if not impossible. It also keeps us hidden from each other.

David, you and I have been talking about life in the Charismatic vs. Evangelical church. When we moved over to the Charismatics, we begain to have a very different church experience. It could be that our specific church is unique in this, but there are some factors that changed my Christian/church experience.

The main one is that we are open and expect to hear from the Lord, thru the Holy Spirit, when we pray for people. He tells us how to pray. It was kind of unsettling when I got prayed for by a stranger, and they were able to pray for my needs very specifically. Basically, my point is that it is hard to have hidden issues that I don't want to talk about when God is telling them to other people so they can minister to me.

In our church, we know all about the struggles going on in each others' lives. It's because the Lord reveals things, and we are known. Once we realize that we aren't going to be looked down on for having problems, then we start sharing more freely too. There is no judgement, so it's not scary to be known. Think of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well. He told her that she had five husbands, and she believed in Him. He didn't judge her, and He doesn't judge us now either. He just brings life through truth. The more I am known, the less I have to hide, and the humbler I am. It works really well.

There is another big factor in this too. I think that there is some spiritual warfare going on to keep us away from each other. If unity is a benchmark for Christians, then it seems likely that Satan would want to prevent it. In a church setting, real worship is a huge warfare tool on a corporate level. In Psalms it says that the Lord is enthroned on the praises of his people. When He is enthroned, everything else is dethroned. I think that when vibrant worship happens, it breaks down walls between believers.

I don't want to gloat, but I have to say that I love my church so much, because we are a true family; we know and are known. It brings humility, and connection, and we have a lot of fun. Its new for me, but it is becoming essential to my Christian experience. I think it is the way it's supposed to be.

 
At September 20, 2005 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

I do not wish to belittle your feelings, so please do not misinterpret what I say.

As a matter of background and introduction, I am an avid church-goer, and have been all my life. I am a single, white, Christian female in her twenties.

I must also state this disclaimer: My guess is that I attend a Christian church different from any you have, and therefore my experience has probably been a sharp contrast to that of yours.

I just wonder at religious communities. While I do have acquaintances, and even casual friends, at church, I do not attend to socialize. I attend church every week solely because I love the Lord, and to partake of the ordinances offered there.

I’m not saying that I do not appreciate the camaraderie that should accompany a religious environment, but I am saying that even if everyone at church were to shun me as though I had the plague, I would continue to go, just to worship my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I love them and want to be near them.

I am fascinated how people will change congregations and sects in search of friendship and community, as opposed to being in search of correct doctrine, organization, and proper authority.

I do not judge; I simply view myself as being blessed with knowledge that few have. Perhaps that is why I will be taking a year and a half of my life, by choice, and through my own funding, to go find people who are searching for truth and help them understand the things I’ve taken for granted my whole life.

Best wishes to you in finding what you're searching for,

C

 
At September 21, 2005 10:42 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Heidi,

You certainly have a good little sister :).

As to others knowing and praying for your needs, I admit I had not heard of that concept before. So how do you find out? Do you compare notes?

I find it interesting that people keep hidden some of their most pressing issues from those who are close to us, but yet spill their guts out to strangers such as their therapists. I don't know if that is along the same concept, but people in the same church aren't exactly complete strangers.

But "bearing one another's burden"s is a very biblical concept for sure. Because we place such a premium on individualism and independence, the concept of inter-dependence seems to be a long lost concept. What you are describing, I think, personifies it.

 
At September 22, 2005 12:38 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

C,

I think I get the gist of what you are saying, but there are lots of teachings about how we ought to relate to fellow Christians and how we should love them. And how we love our fellow believers reflects how much we love God.

So I don't think anyone can do this alone. Perhaps that is not what you meant by, but I do agree that ultimately each of us will stand alone before God and and our relationship with him is what truly matters.

 
At September 22, 2005 6:17 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

Dave,

Great post! I've been to all kinds of church services - protestant, catholic, black, white, Latino and integrated and I can say that the church at which I was most comfortable was also the most diverse church I've ever attended. Of course, there, again, is an example of like seeking like. Those of us who lead integrated lives are bound to feel at least a little strange in a segregated environment.

That said, I do think it also helps to be active within the church. When you are a part of smaller prayer and volunteer groups, the big mass of people you see on the patio after service doesn't seem quite so faceless.

 
At September 22, 2005 7:13 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Amanda,

Those of us who lead integrated lives are bound to feel at least a little strange in a segregated environment.

That is an excellent point! I see that you are back to blogging again. Well, keep it up.

 
At September 27, 2005 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,
Great post - thank you.
In my experience, what you have described is certainly very true, not from a racial stand point, but definitely as a societal position. People like me who are not what those highest on the food chain consider "acceptable" (money, social status, job, neighborhood, appearance, "spiritual maturity," heritage - "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much" -), are ignored, even though every service includes a message of reaching out to one another in Christian fellowship and community.

I have attended a number of churches in my 46 years and I have yet to find even one that doesn't have some degree of "cliquishness." But often those who ARE "accepted" are unable to understand or even see that there are those of us who don't measure up, fit in, or find welcome. There are those who are thin enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, have a more spiritual "front," etc. that cannot begin to comprehend that there very well might be people in their church who are left out.

As to why "acceptance" is important in churches - I believe acceptance between Christians is crucial for one very specific reason: The bible says that we are temples of the Living God and that His Spirit lives in us. If God dwells in Christians, then any time a Christian rejects, shuns, or ignores another Christian, they are in essence sending a message that God is rejecting/shunning/ignoring that person.

And THAT, my friend, is definitely spiritual abuse.

Ellen

 
At October 09, 2005 1:03 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Michael's comment reposted. Some of the hyperlinks had to be fixed to keep the sidebar from being pushed down

Wow! What a powerful post!

Where to begin in response? First of all, though my heritage is of the northern European oppressor-type, I can really relate to what you say about the feeling when the closing hymn or praise song plays. We have been attending our current church for about 16 months. I am good friends with the pastor, but other than that, I really have no friends there.

As far as the race issue goes. What can I say as a middle-class white dude? My denomination is highly committed to being a "multicultural church".

And in my area, we have a multicultural churh led by Eugene Cho.

But we do gravitate toward those who look like us. Or, sometimes we make "projects" out of people who do not look like us. All too often, the purpose in reaching out is to make ourselves feel good, to prove that we are loving, or to get something out of the other person. I must admit that I have done it.

And when that happens, the person reaching out with an agenda has certain expectations. First of all, there is the expectation of gratitude, and acceptance. We are all needy human beings, but "relationships" that are built on an agenda are doomed to death or dysfunction.

I have so much to learn about genuine love. I believe there is not a lot of genuine love in the church because we do not love ourselves. We do not love ourselves because we do not truly, deeply feel loved by God. We not truly, deeply feel loved by God because to get there we have to acknowledge our neediness. And the last thing an average American wants to admit is being needy.

I believe that God teaches me that I am loved when I face and experience my total brokenness, and go to Him that way. It is then that I get to experience His love and acceptace. Ah, but I'm starting to talk in circles or repeat myself repeat myself.

I have to believe that there are millions, or at least hundreds of thousands of Christians in America who are able to reach out to those outside their racial, socio-economic, class, educational, etc. background.

The church we recently left, had about 800 white people on a Sunday. There were a few people of colour, but . . . let's see . . the janitor was hispanic, then there were the African refugee families we had sponsored. There were a number of Asians too, but Asians are the largest minority group in our area.

Well, I'm starting to ramble. I don't mean to do a disservice to your really strong, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing so candidly.

May God help us both find what we are looking for in the church. (Hmm, would that be authentic Christianity?)

In His Grace,

Michael

 
At October 09, 2005 3:18 PM, Blogger Michael the Forgiven said...

Thanks for fixing my post, David. :)

 

Post a Comment

<< Home