urban exile: whose history?

The latest Urban Exile column has been posted at Out of Ur.  This one was particularly difficult to write for some reason; thanks to the guys at Leadership Journal for their helpful editing.  Here are the first two paragraphs.  You can read the rest and comment at Out of Ur.

urban_exileI’ve been to a lot of potlucks. Growing up in church and being a pastor has meant many, many casseroles and Jell-O salads. After a recent preaching gig at a suburban church, I was treated to an entirely different version of the potluck: fried chicken, ribs, spaghetti, and kimchi-stuffed dumplings. Not a casserole or gelatin-inspired food product to be seen. The menu perfectly reflected the ethnically diverse congregation of students, families, and retired folks.

Contrast these eclectic culinary delights with the weeklong theology class I took earlier this year. The professor provided an overview of church history that hit all the high points: canon, creeds, schism, reformation, awakening, evangelicalism, and so on. Curiously, there was no mention Christianity’s early spread to Africa and India and not a word about the faith’s new center in the global south. In the past, both church and neighborhood reinforced this mostly European perspective on history. Of course I knew about the Middle-Eastern roots of and some of the global influences on Christianity, but didn’t most of the important stuff happen to guys with vaguely European-sounding names? History and tradition through a Western lens made sense when I lived and worshiped with people whose great-great-grandparents came from Germany, England, and Sweden…

3 thoughts on “urban exile: whose history?

  1. Your potluck metaphor is really speaks to me. When all you are used to and know and are exposed to is casseroles and jello, then you are able to heap your plate with down home cooking without a thought to what else there might be to eat. But, when you’ve tasted more you might want more…even if you don’t always like the new flavors, textures or smells…

    Last week I met a beautiful woman who was a refugee from Laos. She spent time in refugee camps in Thailand, lived in Hong Kong before immigrating to Louisiana, and now works in China, using all the languages she learned along the way. She has tasted and learned to eat many cuisines and is able to set the table for others in amazing ways. She will present and live her faith in awesome and authentic yet different ways than me. That must make God smile.

  2. Wow, I’ve been commenting a lot here lately…but I couldn’t pass up the chance to tell my multi-cultural pot luck story. We went to a primarily African American Church in Buffalo. One Sunday they announced the upcoming ‘best chicken dinner ever’ (an amazing feast with at least 10 different kinds of fried chicken…and one curry). After the announcement, the only white elder stood up and said ‘I have been going to this church for 3 years now and have yet to try a sweet potato pie…I don’t think they exist.” And he sat down.

    There were no less than a dozen sweet potato pies the next week. I asked his daughter if she was going to try one and she rolled her eyes. ‘Please no more,’ she said ‘sweet potato pies have been showing up at our house all week.”

    I never know where the right line is between focusing too much on ethnicity and not taking it seriously enough…but I think they were pretty close to having it right at that church.

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