Monday, December 19, 2005

Dreaming of a "White" Christmas?: Race and the Emergent Church

Here at year’s end, I’m in a bit of a reflective mood.

It has been a year of changes and transitions and new experiences for me personally. I went to Africa (Morocco) for the first time in June, gave a boatload of conference papers about subjects I find really interesting and worthy of historical reflection, made some great friends both in blogosphere and in person, finished my Ph.D. coursework (in history), received attention for my writing, and my wife and I had our third child – a daughter! – in the wee hours of December 17. Both mother and daughter are home resting peacefully, and little Madeline's two big brothers love their sister!

Much of my recent research, reading, and writing on the wider world of twentieth/twenty-first century evangelicalism involves the Emerging/Emergent church. Not only does this topic interest me on an academic plane, but the movement resonates with me personally as well. Thus, here at year’s end, many of my reflections have to do with many things going on/in the Emerging/Emergent conversation and I comment both as an academic and as a practitioner.

One of the Emerging/Emergent streams of discussion in 2005, among many, many others, has been about race and ethnicity. Here I have in mind the series of posts by DJ Chaung on becoming a multiracial church, Scot McKnight's thoughts on (anti)racism and diversity, Anthony Smith's musings on the postmodern black church (and here and here), Jamie Arpin-Ricci's posts on diversity and gender, JazzTheologian's notes on spirituality and jazz, Rudy Carrasco's reflections on ethnicity, and the initiatives of Jay Voorhees and Aaron Flores. I'd also recommend reading Cracked Pots, Latina Liz, and Emergent Latino. And there are many others.

I applaud all of these contributions (have I left anyone out?) and have learned a great deal from all of these probing and cogent reflections.

I see real “promise” in the Emerging/Emergent movement for a willingness to think, act, pray, and live in spiritually holistic ways, for engagement with and adoption of aspects of all that encompasses Christian Traditions, and for an embrace of the global (Emerging) aspects of the movement; and for a real concern for and willingness to enact what James calls true religion. The Emergent-US statement of “Order,” as I read it, embraces all of these objectives.

Yet, there is more.

One of the glaring omissions in the conversation (though Anthony broaches the topic and I relate a personal story) is the reality that for all of the laudable discourse about inclusion and diversity, and for all of the crucial multicultural initiatives taking place, there must be a sustained, rigorous, honest, and open discussion about and interrogation of white privilege. Put another way, the road forward for the Emergent church and the diversity/multicultural conversation must begin with a discussion of white privilege.

Perhaps this is implicit in the words and thoughts of those who’ve reflected on race/ethnicity and the Emergent church, but I suggest that owning up to white privilege and discussing it slowly, thoroughly, and thoughtfully is one of the most important dimensions of this part of the Emerging/Emergent conversation. I write of an initiative that will take time, care, and much grace.

Further posts: what is white privilege and why does it matter for the Emergent church?


APN said...

Excellent. The focus and course of such a discussion result from defining "white privilege"; how it has been implemented, used, and abused historically; and why such a discussion should matter in Emergent conversations. I have been reading many of the blogs that you posted (by reading through your blogroll at LK's insistence), but until the Emergent community (conversation??) examines to the face they have projected on many fronts (white males), they will not truly be recognized as the diverse, inclusive, and holistic entity they are heartily attempting to be. I look forward to reading those posts of yours.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Thanks for the shoutout!

Jamie Arpin-Ricci