The news out of St. Louis County regarding the tensions there are further signs of how much the individual and collective human heart needs a complete transformation by the work of Jesus. As buildings burned, people ransacked and looted, and many were arrested, I watched a Caucasian women say, “I don’t know what all the noise is about. There are no racial tensions here in Ferguson.”
Clearly, not everyone sees the world the way she does.
Two definitions come to mind – race and ethnicity.
Race is genetic. In our DNA. God given. Unchangeable. With Darrell and Clairena as my parents, my race would be the same if I was born in China, Israel, or Burkina Faso.
Ethnicity is learned. It is about traditions, culture, and behaviors. Ethnicity is changeable.
MCA Church is moving forward in “keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)” by learning what I call “race and ethnicity humility.” Following the Biblical command to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than your selves,” (Philippians 2:3) includes race and ethnicity! In humility I am to count other races as more significant than mine. Humbling myself before other ethnicities is a must.
Personally, my race is Caucasian and much of my ethnicity is Inupiat.
For me it isn’t real difficult to consider other races as more significant than mine, but it is a HUGE challenge to honor other ethnicities above my own. For example, my Inupiat ethnicity is steeped in the power of feasting as worship. After a successful hunting season in which God has provided whales, moose, caribou, fish, seals, walrus, and ducks, EVERYTHING stops for the feast. Naluqatak, the Barrow, Alaska Whaling Festival, is among the yearly highlights of celebration to God for His bountiful provisions.
With joy, I brought Naluqatak to MCA Church on Thanksgiving Day. I was so excited to have an MCA Church wide feast celebrating the goodness and bounty of the Lord. To my total surprise, the people of my own race thought it to be the dumbest and most family unfriendly idea they had ever heard. “What? You want us to leave our suburban homes where we gather on Thanksgiving with our family? You are crazy! Thanksgiving is a day to stay home with family.”
At that moment I realized that I am, by birth, a white guy. I am by upbringing, an Inupiat.
Deep in my soul I felt that those who disagreed with me about Thanksgiving being a church-wide feast unto the Lord were anti-ministry, anti-church family, and anti-love one another. Now I know that there are more than just one way to celebrate God’s bounty. I must admit, because ethnicity runs so deep in my soul, I still think the church-wide feast unto the Lord is better and more spiritual than “cloistering” in our middle and upper class homes.
This is clearly an opportunity for me to practice ethnicity humility.
MCA Church continues to become a collection of people from many races and even more ethnicities. By God’s grace we are learning to consider other’s race and ethnicity as better than our own. You, your race, and your ethnicity are deeply loved, valued, and appreciated in our Church family.
I can’t bring much change to the situation in Ferguson but I can humbly consider the races and ethnicities with whom I interact as better than my own.
Race and ethnic humility is my starfish. I can’t change the whole beach but I can make a difference for this one.