Social media and the web have been on fire as of late with conflicts between genders and ethnicities within the church. I won't share the hyperlinks, because I don't know that the details of the discussions are helpful. Things have come to a head, and I for one am glad though I know that through this emerging discussionI'll discover ways in which my own spiritual formation has succumbed to different gender and ethnic trappings over time.
I'll discover that I'm not as attentive and squeaky clean in loving my neighbor as I had hoped, or even loving God with everything I've got (see Matthew 22:37-40).
So it's best just to admit it here: my journey Christian spiritual formation has followed the line of white male America.
I may not be as "manly" as other men, but I'm a white male. I watch college sports. I enjoyed (and yes, shed a tear) at Braveheart and Rudy. I feel those impulses to fix my wife when she needs me to listen. Even though I'm a spiritual director and thus a professional listener, I sometimes slip out of that mode at home.
I'm a pastor because I have a sense of calling to that work, but also because the social and hierarchical structures of the church I grew up in allowed that to be. Translation - would I have had that sense of call if I wasn't a dude?
I'm an American citizen. I've known privilege, protection, and the esprit de corps of American life all of my conscious existence. I have leisure time, access to resources, wealth and comfort aplenty.
I'm not saying this to make anyone guilty - including myself, that's unhealthy and counterproductive and frankly it runs counter to the promises of Scripture that we as followers of Jesus are God's "…beloved, in whom He is well pleased."
No, this is instead a recalibration. A statement of reality that causes us to turn our heads and look at thing from a different angle. A repentance, of a sort.
I do not know what it means to be a Christian of Asian descent living in the contemporary American Christian subculture where the loudest voices come from Caucasian Christians who straddle the line between orthodoxy and patriotism. Or those who sometimes completely confuse the two. Either way.
I do not know what it means to be a woman in a church culture dominated by masculine pronouns and male-specific leadership expectations. Test case: you visit a church and you are introduced to a woman on staff - do you think "secretary/children's pastor" or "executive/discipleship/preaching" pastor?
I do not know what it feels like to live out of a Christian story that was taught in the context of communism, imperialism, or totalitarian regimes. I don't know what it feels like to have a faith that is a crime.
If we are to grow in our formation into Christlikeness, these are aspects of our stories - and the stories of others - that we need to begin to take seriously. We need to think through gender in our churches and in our lives. We need to think through the impact of our ethnic heritage on the story of how God is transforming us and renewing us.
More than that, we need to honor those pieces - those critical plot points in the fabric of our existence - so that the body of Christ retains its beautiful color palette, rather than becoming monochrome and without flavor.
Today, finish this sentence honestly: Me and My ___________________________ Spirituality.
What are the pieces that make you who you are in Christ? Who does that lead you to naturally misunderstand, marginalize and possibly destroy? Ask God for insight into how this affects the way you see Christ and others in this grand banquet called Christian community.