Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Colorblindness Is Not The Answer

Photo Credit: Leah Tihia™
From Monica Williams, Ph.D. in an article from Psychology Today:
"Many Americans view colorblindness as helpful to people of color by asserting that race does not matter (Tarca, 2005). But in America, most under-represented minorities will explain that race does matter, as it affects opportunities, perceptions, income, and so much more. When race-related problems arise, colorblindness tends to individualize conflicts and shortcomings, rather than examining the larger picture with cultural differences, stereotypes, and values placed into context. 
Instead of resulting from an enlightened (albeit well-meaning) position, colorblindness comes from a lack of awareness of racial privilege conferred by Whiteness (Tarca, 2005). White people can guiltlessly subscribe to colorblindness because they are usually unaware of how race affects people of color and American society as a whole. 
How might colorblindness cause harm? Here's an example close to home for those of you who are psychologically-minded. In the not-so-distant past, in psychotherapy a client's racial and ethnic remarks were viewed as a defensive shift away from important issues, and the therapist tended to interpret this as resistance (Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 1991). However, such an approach hinders the exploration of conflicts related to race, ethnicity, and culture. The therapist doesn't see the whole picture, and the client is left frustrated. 
A colorblind approach effectively does the same thing. Blind means not being able to see things. I don't want to be blind. I want to see things clearly, even if they make me uncomfortable. As a therapist I need to be able to hear and "see" everything my client is communicating on many different levels. I can't afford to be blind to anything. Would you want to see a surgeon who operated blindfolded? Of course not. Likewise, a therapist should not be blinded either, especially to something as critical as a person's culture or racial identity. By encouraging the exploration of racial and cultural concepts, the therapist can provide a more authentic opportunity to understand and resolve the client's problems (Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 1991). 
Nonetheless, I have encountered many fellow therapists who ascribe to a colorblind philosophy. They ignore race or pretend its personal, social, and historical effects don't exist. This approach ignores the incredibly salient experience of being stigmatized by society and represents an empathetic failure on the part of the therapist. Colorblindness does not foster equality or respect; it merely relieves the therapist of his or her obligation to address important racial differences and difficulties."
To read the complete article please click here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Black or African American?

Photo Credit: longislandwins
From NewsOne.com:
"The labels used to describe Americans of African descent mark the movement of a people from the slave house to the White House. Today, many are resisting this progression by holding on to a name from the past: “black.” 
For this group – some descended from U.S. slaves, some immigrants with a separate history – “African-American” is not the sign of progress hailed when the term was popularized in the late 1980s. Instead, it’s a misleading connection to a distant culture. 
The debate has waxed and waned since African-American went mainstream, and gained new significance after the son of a black Kenyan and a white American moved into the White House. President Barack Obama’s identity has been contested from all sides, renewing questions that have followed millions of darker Americans: 
What are you? Where are you from? And how do you fit into this country?
...Today, 24 years after [Rev. Jesse] Jackson popularized African-American, it’s unclear what term is preferred by the community. A series of Gallup polls from 1991 to 2007 showed no strong consensus for either black or African-American. In a January 2011 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 42 percent of respondents said they preferred black, 35 percent said African-American, 13 percent said it doesn’t make any difference, and 7 percent chose “some other term.” 
Meanwhile, a record number of black people in America – almost 1 in 10 – were born abroad, according to census figures."
To read the complete article please click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Is Your Cultural Intelligence

Photo Credit: b_imam77
We all know about intellectual intelligence and most of us are familiar with emotional intelligence. But many of us may not be aware of our cultural intelligence.

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah comments:
"Our nation is moving rapidly towards racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, and American Christianity is bearing witness to these dramatic changes. Workplaces, congregations, conferences, and readerships are all changing to reflect this reality, but Christian leaders are lagging behind in attaining the cultural intelligence they need in order to navigate through this multi-cultural reality. 
Cultural intelligence is not merely gaining intellectual knowledge about another culture. Just because you like samurai/ninja culture and have seen Kung Fu movies does not mean that you possess cultural intelligence. Instead, a leader with a high cultural IQ has developed a sensitivity to other cultures and handles those cultural contexts with honor and respect. 
Without cultural intelligence, a leader runs the risk of caricaturing other cultures, as in the church’s example above. You cannot appropriately represent a culture that you have not taken the time to know or understand. And when you attempt to do so, you not only dishonor those who are a part of the culture you are diminishing, but you also dishonor the One who has created every tongue, tribe, and nation to begin with. 
None of us can claim perfect understanding of the wonderful diversity that exists both around the globe and even within our own country. But Christians are called to be ministers of reconciliation, and Christian leaders are the ones who need to step forward in the hard work of developing cultural intelligence."
To read Dr. Rah's complete post please click here.

To learn even more about this important topic, check out the book Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Dr. Rah.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Does Character Matter For Presidential Candidates?

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy New Delhi
"Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character." ~ Henry Clay

In the midst of a highly contested U.S. presidential primary season, a new book uncovers aspects of the personal life of President John F. Kennedy. The book, written by a former White House aide who claims she had an affair with President Kennedy, once again raises the question of personal character as it pertains to qualifications for the nation's highest office.

The suggestion of indiscretions on behalf of President Kennedy is not news to presidential historians. This has been commonly known for some time. What is intriguing to consider is whether Kennedy would have ever gotten elected in the first place had he lived in our TMZ-driven culture. Several current individuals aspiring to the presidency have had to face allegations of their own marital infidelities and this has been fatal for some (see Herman Cain) and could be for others (see Newt Gingrich).

What this tells us that character, who we are at our moral core, still appears to matter to the American public. Robert Dallek writes in The Daily Beast why character does matter for presidents:
"Presidents are not only the country’s principal policy chief, shaping the nation’s domestic and foreign agendas, but also the most visible example of our values. As a country that prides itself on being the world’s exemplar of human rights, the rule of law, and moral standards, it is embarrassing to have men seeking and/or serving in the presidency who fall short of our highest ideals. True, most Americans give lip service to the proposition that even the most exalted among us have their flaws, but we are eager to believe that presidents manage to rise above the limitations that beset the rest of us. 
We have been constantly disappointed in the many ways presidents and lesser public officials have fallen short of what we expected of them—Harding’s Teapot Dome scandal; Harry Truman’s influence-peddling associates; John Kennedy’s hidden medical history and compulsive womanizing; Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick; Lyndon Johnson’s vulgarity that many complained undermined the dignity of the presidency; Richard Nixon’s resignation for abuse of power; Ronald Reagan’s Iran-contra scandal; Bill Clinton’s Monica; and George W. Bush’s Valerie Plame expose are among the most memorable of our recent public embarrassments. 
...Whether we like it or not, president’s private lives are no longer hidden from public view. And it is not without benefit to have this information. Presidential character matters and not just for the symbolic reasons I mentioned. Wouldn’t the country have been better served taking account of Harding’s moral failings? Certainly, voters acted recklessly in ignoring complaints that Nixon, despite assertions that we were dealing with the “new” Nixon, deserved the epithet, “tricky Dick.” We were certainly forewarned about Clinton’s womanizing, which undermined his presidency. James Monroe’s assertion that “national honor is the national property of the highest value” remains an enduring ideal. 
Should politicians’ character flaws, then, bar them from office, especially the oval office? Or does this set an impossibly high standard? Probably. Presidential aspirants reach for the highest office to satisfy some yearning for greatness or even immortality. The historian Richard Hofstadter said that politics for a majority of office holders, and particularly those obsessed with getting to the White House, is a form of vocational therapy. Grandiosity or convictions about standing apart from ordinary men seems to be a central component of the country’s most ambitious politicians. Ambition, of course, is not without its virtues. But when politicians, and especially presidents, let their need to win eclipse the larger good, as has so often been the case, it makes presidential striving a national problem."
Whether a man (or woman) has been faithful to their spouse should not be the only factor in deciding who we vote for. For it is true that just because a woman or man has remained true to their marital vows does not mean they will necessarily make a good president. But I also know this: If a person hasn't been true to the one person they've vowed before God to remain faithful, it would be naive to believe that they'd be true to the common American citizen.

Yes, character still matters.

To read the complete Dallek article please click here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Playboy Doesn't Have Right About Sex

Photo Credit: photobunny
In a sex-saturated society such as ours, it should come as no surprise that many of us have a messed up view of our sexuality. In a culture that seems to prize sex above all else, how is it that so many problems we face revolve around this issue?

In a new article posted on Kyria.com, Les Parrot tackles this complicated topic in a piece entitled "Sex as Sacred." Examining the influence that Playboy and its founder, Hugh Hefner, have had on our society, Parrot unpacks God's intentions for our sexuality.

He says this:
"Hugh Hefner thinks of himself as a prophet, even a missionary, who has led America out of sexual repression into a new era of sexual freedom. He never admits that it is all based on a lie—probably because he was too intoxicated on his own hedonistic hysteria to even notice. He never figured out that the sexually liberated society he envisioned, and that we now live in, is built on a warped and distorted attitude toward sex. 
By the standards of today's "liberated" man, the purpose of sex is personal pleasure—and women, along with pornography or whatever else strikes his fancy—are to be used as a means to achieving it. In Hef's world women are merely sexual playthings for male fantasies. Hefner, in his drive to free us from sexual self-restraint and modesty, has neglected to figure out the true purpose and pleasure of sex. 
Of course, that's understandable. He's not looking for it. He's not attempting to live his life by God's standards. Quite the contrary. He even scoffs at the idea of sexual morality. He doesn't care to be honorable and monogamous in his sex life. But you and I do. And that's why, for us, the purpose of sex is paramount. 
...When we sever the connection of sex from the sacred, we neglect our spiritual longings. The French sociologist Jacques Ellul saw our modern fixation with sex as the symptom of a breakdown in intimacy. Having detached the physical act of sex from relationship, we become spiritually bankrupt. And I've worked with enough men in my counseling office to see firsthand the desperate looks of loneliness and despair when men have compulsively reduced sex to simple self-gratification. It's inevitable when we neglect the sacred aspect of the gift of sex."
God is not against sex. In fact, he invented it. But when we seek to find sexual fulfillment outside of his intended plans, we miss out on all that God had in mind when He created humans as unique sexual beings. We find ourselves searching outside of God's design to fulfill our need for physical pleasure, even though this quest often leaves us feeling heartbroken and empty.

As the great British writer, C.S. Lewis, said in "The Weight of Glory":
"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why City Life & Raising a Family Are Not Incompatible

Photo Credit: kaysha
Kathy Keller, longtime resident of New York City and assistant director of communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, shares her thoughts in a recent post on The Gospel Coalition site on why she thinks a big city is a wonderful place to raise a family.

Here she comments on the perceived darkness in the city and its effect on children:
"In the city your kids see sin and its consequences while you are still with them and can help them process it. Eventually they're going to encounter it for themselves, usually when they leave the protected environment of home for the big wide world---just when you are no longer around to discuss things. 
I have had parents counter this suggestion by saying that, as valuable as processing the ugliness of this broken world with your children might be, there is such a thing as seeing too much, too soon. Possibly so, but my daughter in law (with degrees in education from Vanderbilt and Harvard in both primary and secondary education, and experience in teaching both) pointed something out to me---if children are really that young, too young for some sights, they simply won't see them, or understand what they're seeing. 
Children find a great deal of the world inexplicable to them, so the very young are not usually in danger of being damaged by fleeting glimpses of the sordid world. By the time they are old enough to notice what they're seeing, it's time for parents to be talking to them about it, anyway. And it's usually way younger than you thought!"
To read the rest of the post please click here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Suggested Resources For Understanding Culture & Race in America

Photo Credit:
The Impact Movement
In my fifteen years of ministering cross-culturally within the United States, I've encountered a number of helpful resources that have aided me in my journey of understanding, appreciation and things I've learned from other cultures.

I've listed a sampling of these books here, categorized by the ethnic group(s) the reading focuses on, in the hopes that it might assist you in learning more about yourself and others, particularly as it relates to campus ministry:

African Americans
Asian Americans
Hispanics & Latinos
General Cultural Understanding

While not exhaustive by any means, I hope this listing of books will prove to be a fruitful resource to you as you seek to gain a greater understanding of the richness of cultures that God has given us in His wisdom and love. If you have any additional books that you have found helpful in your journey, please list them in the comments section and I may add them to this listing.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thoughts On The Passing Of Whitney Houston

Photo Credit: zennie62
Even from an early age, Whitney Houston seemed destined for greatness. As the daughter of gospel great Cissy Houston, cousin of singer Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of music legend Aretha Franklin, Whitney (she only needs to be referred to by her first name) was groomed for success. Her stunning good looks were surpassed only by her immense vocal talents. Many of us remain stunned by the news that she passed away yesterday at the age of 48.

Among pop and R&B music fans of my generation, Whitney stands above all other female vocalists (only Mariah Carey and Celine Dion are even in the conversation). The purity and freshness of her voice placed her above the many others that have sought to imitate her but have never duplicated her. So it is with great sadness that the final years of her life saw the loss of her once beautiful voice replaced by a gravely, raspy tinge that was no longer the Whitney we knew and loved.

As a young man in the late 80's and early 90's during Whitney's peak years, I counted myself among her legion of fans. In fact, the high school graduation present that I requested from my parents was to go to a concert of hers with a few of my friends. The evening was enjoyable but I couldn't help but feel a little out of place in my t-shirt and shorts alongside the majority African American audience, many of whom were dressed as if they were going to a church service (I'm sure my black friends will find the humor in this.)

Whitney's well-publicized battles with addiction have been blamed for the shortness of her life, as has her tumultuous relationship with ex-husband Bobby Brown (who happens to be another favorite musical artist of mine). While we might never know all the contributing factors as to why her life was cut short, one can't help but wonder how her career (and more importantly, her life) might have turned out differently had she chosen to eschew the temptations that so gripped her later years of life.

Whitney had grown up in the church and frequently acknowledged her faith in Christ, but at some point, she began to fill voids in her life through destructive substances and relationships that could not ultimately bring her happiness. I trust that her faith in God was real but it was also apparent that the special gift that she had been given was no longer there the past few years.

Like we are all prone to do, she turned to other things besides God in order to bring her the joy in her life that only God can bring. Those that abuse alcohol and drugs are often seeking an escape from life or to dull the pain they are experiencing. None of us will know what it was that the most talented singer of my generation was trying to escape from but I hope that now, at last, she is home and free of pain.

In her honor, I've posted the video below which contains Whitney's first ever national television appearance back in 1985. It was apparent even then that she would be a star as she sings the ballad "Home" from The Wiz.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The War On Christians That You Don't Know About

Photo Credit: Imagens Cristãs
With a significant amount of coverage in the news recently concerning claims of discrimination against Christians in the United States, one might think that American Christians have it pretty rough.

While it is true that many of us are rightly concerned about churches getting kicked out of NYC public schools, government requirements regarding health care and contraception, and campus groups losing their charters on college campuses because of their beliefs, we must also realize that many of our brothers and sisters in other places are facing far greater challenges.

Even with the appearance of the lack of concern for the rights of Christians in the U.S., the treatment of Christians in my home country is far from the worst in the world. In a recent Newsweek cover story, Ayaan Hirsi Ali sheds some light on what is happening to some Christians in other parts of the world:
"We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries. 
The media’s reticence on the subject no doubt has several sources. One may be fear of provoking additional violence. Another is most likely the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—a kind of United Nations of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia—and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Over the past decade, these and similar groups have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called “Islamophobia”—a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia. 
But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake."
While it is true that Christians should be concerned about the mistreatment of any persons no matter what faith they subscribe to, we mustn't minimize the very real suffering and persecution that Christians around the world face everyday -- whether the mainstream media covers it or not. Kudos to Newsweek for bringing further attention to this matter.

To read the rest of the article please click here.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Why We Don't Always "Get It" When It Comes To Racism

Photo Credit: maHidoodi
Pastor Greg Boyd offers a challenging perspective on why it can be so difficult for us white people to "get it" when it comes to racism. Here are some of his thoughts:
"Most white people I know sincerely believe they live in a country that is, for the most part, a land of equal opportunity that is mostly free of racism. Yes we all see the occasional overt racism that erupts now and then in America, and most of us are genuinely revolted by this. 
But we tend to see these events, and the attitudes behind them, as rather atypical of America as a whole. And yes, most of us white folks know at least a little bit of the shocking statistics of disparity in America (e.g. young black males are statistically more likely to end up in prison than to go to college). But, given our operative assumptions about America, we whites often either refuse to believe these statistics or, more commonly, we find ways to explain them away. 
I honestly don’t for a moment think this is because white people are generally racist. I believe most white people genuinely despise racism, so far as they understand it, and sincerely believe they are anti-racist, so far as they understand it. It’s just that they don’t understand it very far. Our awareness is stunted because our life-experience tends to blind us to racism as a subversive structural issue."
To read more about Pastor Boyd's journey of understanding on this topic please click here.

(h/t to Maureen Okonkwo for the link.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Southern Baptists Prepared to Elect First Black President

Photo Credit: Franklin Ave. Baptist Church
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation's largest Protestant denomination with over 16 million members, is close to making history by potentially electing its first president of African descent this summer.

Rev. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and friend of The Impact Movement, has announced that he plans to seek the SBC's top office at its convention in New Orleans this June. The SBC was founded in 1845 after splitting with northern Baptists on the biblical justification for slavery.

Because of its historic roots, the SBC has had a difficult time attracting (and keeping) African American members. But the potential election of Pastor Luter as its leader would provide a visible demonstration that the denomination is moving beyond its unfortunate history. In fact, the SBC formulated a resolution in 1995 in which it denounced its racist past and expressed its desire to be more welcoming to not only African Americans, but all ethnic minorities. Over one million black Americans are now members of SBC congregations and the denomination claims that 20% of its members are now people of color.

Sojourners comments on this exciting development:
"The Southern Baptist president has no authority over the denomination's 51,000 autonomous churches and missions, but the president exerts influence by appointing the most important committees in Baptist organizational life. The denomination's turn toward theological conservatism in the 1980s was triggered by the election of a succession of conservative presidents.
Akin, Moore and others say they are eager to elect Luter, both for his leadership gifts and to demonstrate Southern Baptist acceptance of the changing face of their work.
Luter is widely known around the convention, having preached in hundreds of pulpits. Moreover, supporters said he is widely admired as a pastor in his own right. Luter built Franklin Avenue Baptist Church into a major success, then led his congregation in rebuilding after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Luter's church was a once a predominantly white Southern Baptist congregation dying on the vine after its neighborhood became increasingly black in the 1970s. A street-corner preacher with no previous pastoral experience, Luter took over in 1986. The church kept its Southern Baptist affiliation while he built it into the predominantly black powerhouse it is today.
Akin said several Baptist congregations around the country tried to recruit Luter as a pastor or co-pastor, believing he might be available after Katrina. "He was like Peyton Manning as a free agent."
Akin said Luter's stature grew in his decision to remain in New Orleans. "You have to have unbelievable respect for a man who made that kind of commitment," Akin said. "My God, look at what he did."
To read more of the Sojourners article please click here.

Monday, February 06, 2012

How Jeremy Lin Is Shattering Stereotypes

Photo Credit: Kimberly*
Timothy Dalrymple has written a great article about New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin, a talented guard out of Harvard who is busting up stereotypes about Asian American men.

A highlight:
"But stereotypes are stereotypes because they’re intellectually lazy generalizations that only tell a part of the story.  They feed more off our ignorance and our fears than our knowledge and understanding.  The stereotypes I listed above do not describe the Asian-American men I know, or only offer a profoundly caricatured description of one part of their character.
Jeremy, like many Asian-American male athletes, is consistently underestimated.  Great basketball players don’t come from Harvard for a very simple reason: because great basketball players don’t go to Harvard in the first place.  They’re recruited by Duke or Kansas or UCLA or UNC.  A high school basketball player with Jeremy Lin’s statistics should have been recruited heavily by the nation’s top programs.  But Jeremy Lin was unrecruited and had to send video tapes and pitch himself.  He performed brilliantly in college, and many college coaches kicked themselves for overlooking him.   
Then he was undrafted for the NBA — but performed well in the Summer League and was picked up by the Warriors. Arguably, there are reasons he was overlooked other than race.  Jeremy isn’t the flashiest player; never the tallest or strongest guy on the court (he entered high school 5’3″ and 125 lbs), he has had to add layer after layer of skills and strategies and basketball intelligence.  But still, someone with his track record, someone with his statistics and all around game, would have gotten more notice if he weren’t a relatively small, baby-faced Asian-American in a league that has hardly ever seen an Asian-American succeed."
To read the rest of the article please click here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Corporate Dimension To The Imago Dei

Photo Credit: Jrtippins
From Richard Mouw's book, When The Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem:
"One of the more fascinating proposals which has been made in theological discussions is the biblical notion of "the image of God" (imago dei) is that this image has a "corporate dimension." 
That is, there is no one human individual or group who can fully bear or manifest all that is involved in the image of God so that there is a sense in which that image is collectively possessed. 
The image of God is, as it were, parceled out among the peoples of the earth. By looking at different individuals and groups we get glimpses of different aspects of the full image of God.” 
(h/t to Destino Eric for the quote.)