Friday, July 06, 2007

What Now?

Is it morally right for school districts to use ethnicity (we’re all one race cf. Acts 17) to assign students to schools in order to increase diversity? According to the latest Supreme Court ruling it is no longer legal regardless of whether or not it‘s morally right. Once announced the decision was either hailed or decried by those on the left and right. The comments by both demonstrate once more that America is a divided nation with both sides entrenched, distrustful and disdainful of the other. In light of that I do hope that believers can refrain from casting those who disagree with them as either politically correct imbeciles or knee-jerk conservative bigots.

Since we’re debating the merits (sorry for the pun) of affirmative action I’d like to get behind the issue and pose some questions in light of this decision. The school districts in question were barred from using ethnicity to in order to achieve a desired goal of diversity. The issue at hand seemed to be achieving a certain measure of ethnic diversity. The question I’d like to ask is this: Is it necessary for our society to have a certain amount of diversity? Most of us would probably agree that it’s desirable, but would our society suffer if the vast majority of our children were educated in ethnically homogenous environments? If it is necessary to have some diversity how could a school district, college or company achieve it without getting sued? If a lack of diversity does in the long run harm our society does that harm outweigh any attempts to rectify it?
Have our churches been less effective in our witness because most of them are largely consists of believers from one ethnicity? Think of some of the leading evangelical reformed churches in our country? If we believe that they’re effectiveness hasn’t been unduly hindered because they’re largely homogenous can we convince the society that the pursuit of diversity is necessary and not just desirable? It’s one thing to conclude that the government should not and cannot force diversity, but it’s a whole other issue to believe that people will simply make nice especially when issues of education and opportunity are at stake.

Another set of questions to consider. Should African-Americans be more concerned about quality education then diversity? Is the drive for diversity about resources for a good education or do we really believe that having our children in the same classrooms with white children is valuable in and of itself? Granted there are some wealthy school districts that outspend inner-city (code for mainly poor and black) districts by a two to one ration. But what if we could deliver a high quality education to our children that would prepare them for gainful careers in this high tech 21st century world despite spending disparities? Would we still have as much interest in diversity? One more point concerning this. With night falling on affirmative action is this the time to put our energy and effort into quality education instead of diversity no matter how desirable it is?

Finally, (at least for this post) how should the church react? Is it enough for us just to applaud the ruling while hoping the next one will be the final death knell for affirmative action? Are we prepared to show the society that diversity is desirable not because it’s politically correct but because God intentionally chose people from every ethnicity to make up His church? Will we make the effort to include a diverse group of people in our lives in order to honor one of the prime implications of the gospel?
Many believe that this ruling will eventually lead us to being a more fair society and it might. Others are convinced that it was morally right regardless of the practical implications and they have a point. But should we at least ponder the possibility that it might ease the path toward us becoming a more separate society than we already are? And if it does would it really be that bad of a thing. If so, what are we the church of the living God willing to do about it?

To Him Who Loves Us...
Pastor Lance


Anonymous said...

'Have our churches been less effective in our witness because most of them are largely consists of believers from one ethnicity?'

I think what people think about this question is largely determined by whether they are in the majority group of the church (well if visitors aren't feeling this church is for them, they can go to the church down the road where people like them meet), or the nature of your social circle (in my situation where do I take non believers to church, when I know they will interpret my (fairly homogenous) church as being that way for negative reasons.

This of course is not bringing scripture to bear on the issue - where I see no examples of Paul planting HUP churches - in fact isn't there alot of his attention on the issues of Christians (who are different) fellowshipping together ?

I am convinced we need to see more multi ethnic churches, as here in the UK it is where things are headed socially (more mixed relationships and large cities becoming majority non white in the next 20 years). But is anyone prepared to do what it takes ?

In the US you may feel things are bad - but I heard Don Carson say on the Gospel Coalition web site 'we don't want this to be a white mans club' - so at least these issues are on the table, they're yet to get into the kitchen over here.

Colin Thomas

Pastor Lance said...

hey colin, thanks for the insights from across the way. the challenge for us is to move the issue from the table and into the living room. usually our discussions on race/ethnicity are limited to the news item of the day. but perhaps the Lord in His gracious providence is moving our churches to grasp this issue for His glory and thus it will keep coming up until we tackle it in earnest.

the Lord's Peace
pastor lance

ajcarter said...

Good questions, Lance. The problem is that the answers will be the usual pat answers. We will condemn the sincere attempts of our country to seek diversity, while making excuses for the lack of said diversity in the evangelical (particularly reformed) church. In other words, same ol' soup, just warmed over.

Peace my man.

AndyHigg said...

The Caucasian brother returns:

I have taught at an inner-city, predominantly AfAm high school and a suburban, predominantly Cauc high school (forgive the abbreviations: I'm just tired of typing!) and have come to two conclusions:

1) All parents should seek the best education for their students, regardless of diversity and race, but most don't.

2) Parental involvement does more to motivate kids that cool programs or even socioeconomics.

I'll wager that if socioeconomic was controlled for, you could show that the more times a parent meet their child's teachers, the better that child does in school. Maybe this is related to in-home emphasis on schoolwork, maybe it is the fear of punishment and the seeking of praise by the child!

Jim Pemberton said...

I think it's interesting that many who hope for segregation (and there are still such people out there) also argue for cultural assimilation. You can't expect the melting pot to work unless the ingredients mix together.

In our churches too many of us talk about people who are different than us being brothers and sisters in Christ, but also practice segregation. We find it difficult to leave the comfort of our homogeneous churches. More than that we find it difficult to leave the comfort of our cliques.

In our own churches we may speak of a fellow of the same race and say, "He's a social misfit," while denying him the socialization he needs to learn how to "fit in." Likewise, among people of different ethnic backgrounds we deny each other the value of our close association because we fear that tomorrow will not be the same as yesterday. Let it not be so - the status quo is not good enough.

It is not a matter of "diversity". It is a matter of glorifying God by seeking Him among His people no matter how different they are. God must be glorified in our service to one another. If we teach our children nothing else besides the gospel, we must teach them this as a ministry of the gospel. Then everything else will be granted to us. (Mt. 6:33)

Pastor Lance said...

thanks for the input brothers. it does seem that parental involvement in education gets lost in this discussion. andy echoes what other teachers have told me. high parental involvement usually equates to high student achievement and frankly we don't need integrated schools to accomplish this. thus the issue remains the same. if society decided to drop all attempts at integration in schools, colleges etc. how would the church respond?

thanks jim for reminding us that the issue isn't diversity as much as it is biblical unity. thus, what does authentic biblical unity look like in an ethnically divided culture?

the Lord's Peace