Getting the Gospel Right: Restoring Community

Scot McKnight confronts our gospel of individuality and the problems that derive from it over at Out of Ur. He asks:

What then is Christian spirituality? It is the person who is restored to God, to self, to others and the world – all four directions for all time – by a gospel that emerges from a “communal God” (the Trinity) to create a community that reflects who God is. Do we preach a gospel that gives rise to holistic restoration and that can create a fully biblical spirituality?

The individuality-gospel that is found in many churches (maybe mine, maybe yours) not only has a damaging effect on our spiritual transformation, it is an incomplete representation of the God we serve. We lose the restored community facet of the good news when our gospel is personal alone. McKnight calls this gospel a parody – it’s painful to think of the label that applies to the poor pastor who presents this kind of message.

What I found intriguing in the light of some discussions I have been involved in this week is this:

Let us not suppose that any of these examples has simplistic explanations, but let us think a little more systemically: if we preach a gospel that is entirely focused on “getting right with God” but which does not include in that presentation that God’s intent is to form a community (the Church) in which restored persons live out this Christ-shaped and Spirit-directed spirituality, then we can expect to hear lots of pulpit rhetoric exhorting us that the Church matters. And, if we discover on Sunday morning that everyone in our church is the same ethnically and economically, we can be sure that we are preaching something that is attracting only those kinds of people. And if we are hesitant to admit the implication of this ethnic, economic reality, then we need to be more honest with ourselves. We get what we preach. And we perform what we preach. How we live reveals the gospel we responded to and the gospel we believe.

Read the whole post and chew on it a bit before responding. Better yet, let the Spirit guide your reading and see what comes of it.

False Assumptions of the Interracial Couple

I’ve managed to alienate a group of brothers and sisters over on another blog by challenging the identity of a church or a Christian that is rooted in any kind of a hyphenated description, Italian-Scottish-English-French-American for example as I would identify my own heritage. While this Balkanization of the American experience is prevalent in the larger culture, my contention was that it had no place in the context of Christ’s church. Gal 3:26-27 says,

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

While this issue is little discussed outside of a place like the United States where, by definition, every church would be a __________-Church, in a culture where by design the culture is intended to blend by assimilation there should be no hyphenated churches.

Attempts were made to dismiss my position first by challenging the validity of my walk in the _____________-American church. After providing my bona fides there was simply silence. The silence didn’t stir me to respond but one final comment by another poster remains troubling. He says in his final words regarding those of us involved in interracial marriages:

As to the challenging question of interethnic marriage (particularly between White and “other”) it seems important to recognize that any minority person has a bi-cultural identity at some level, or is at least able to function biculturally as interaction with the dominant culture in dominant culture ways is really non-optional. For those in the dominant culture, especially males, even if they are married to a member of a minority group, participation in a minority context is always optional.

I hope I’m reading this wrong, especially in the context of the church. Just like the American experiment was intended to work: a new culture created by the assimilation of immigrant cultures into the larger whole creating a new identity and a release of the old identity, the Church that Christ left was also intended to be made of people who had left their previous identities behind and saw themselves as new people. No hyphens, no dominant culture, no racial division voluntary or otherwise. Those who continue to live in either the American or Christian culture but still retain their primary identity with a hyphen are dividing Christ’s people, not uniting them under a new banner as intended.

What is most troubling is the resentment that this writer holds toward the ‘dominant’ culture and we males that inhabit it. By picturing us as oppressors who can voluntarily flit in and out of ‘minority’ culture while our poor ‘other’ spouses must bow to it without choice he exposes his own racism. My wife was born and raised in a foreign country giving her full right to identify with a hyphen, my child who was born and raised here does not. He is a part of the ‘dominant’ culture, contributing to it the best of both his mother and father’s cultures. What other options does he have or need?