Awareness and Assumptions
The church that I have the privilege of leading is a multicultural stew. European American, Latino, African American, African, and Asian Americans all gathered into one body. This is not only a privilege to be part of, but a glimpse of heaven (Rev 7:9).
Recently, our leadership and pastors have been having some significant conversations about unity among diversity. One of the things that surfaced is that our own colors and cultures great impair our ability to truly know, relate, and ultimately love others. We found that despite our sincerity towards one another, that there were these persistent assumptions that we had about one another, that keep us somewhat separated.
Interestingly, knowing that we have assumptions is the first step in limiting the affect that our color and culture may have on my understanding of others. If you have neighbors, co-workers, or even marriages with people of a different ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious culture, language, or lifestyle, then you need to manage your assumptions for a deeper connection. I want to share a paradigm for David Anderson's wonderful book, "The Multicultual Ministry Handbook".
1. Acknowledge that you have Assumptions. Understand that your family life, experiences, education, and socioeconmic status frames your understanding of people and people groups. Take time to acknowledge what those assumptions may be. For me, that means acknowledging that I have been framed from a traditional African American perspective, in a rust belt town where racism was fairly frequent and obvious. That begins to shape my assumptions.
2. Analyze your Assumptions. Take time to reflect upon what you think. Consider, that your assumptions may be completely inaccurate, or contextually inappropriate. Statements that begin with "All Black people are like..." tend to allow us to get to the bottom of our assumptions. Some of your analysis will reveal that you may have issues of superiority or inferiority. Take time to process why and how these feelings, thoughts, and assessments developed.
3. Act out of reconciliation. Reconcilation is the desire to connect with each other on a level that sees the other as fully human and truly dignified. Often, we act out of defensiveness, guilt, shame, and anger, particularly when it comes to race relations, and more recently, social class relations. To act out of reconcilation is to focus on healing and hope. It is to point out the wounds of the past while confirming the bond of the present.
What assumptions do you need to manage to connect with people outside of your color and culture? Can you apply the three A's to your relationships?
May God bless you as you celebrate the diversity of God's creation!
Pastor M Traylor