Confession of a Hypocrite: All My Friends Are White (And Christian and Straight)

Confession of a Hypocrite: All My Friends Are White (And Christian and Straight)Image by Toni Holmes.

I wrote a series recently about my changing views on evangelism, after some disastrous attempts to convert my dear friends.

I mentioned in my last post that I believe reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel and the Church’s mission. We need to build bridges between individuals and people groups – between people of different races, ages, cultures, languages, socioeconomic status, gender, orientation, political affiliation, etc, and learn to care for one another.

I think Creation makes it clear that God loves diversity: that’s why he made us all so wildly and gloriously different. I believe God’s heart longs for us to see one another and recognize and affirms God’s image in one another.

Jesus came to earth to reconcile humanity to God, and it’s our job to go out and continue the work of healing broken relationships. We do this by listening to one another and serving one another. That’s why it’s so important to seek out relationships with people who are different from ourselves – people who don’t look or talk like us. We need to listen to each others’ stories, to grieve with one another, to bless one another, and to celebrate together. Only then can we make great steps towards reconciliation.

All that being said, I must confess that my current social group is incredibly homogeneous.


It didn’t used to be like this.

When I was in high school I got a part-time job harvesting mushrooms at a mushroom farm. The owners hired mostly new immigrants, so my sister and I were part of the white minority amongst an incredibly diverse workforce. We worked side-by-side with people of every age and colour – folks straight from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Yemen, Sudan, Congo and China.  We had lunch and chatted daily with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and agnostic. They taught us how to count in different languages and explained their prayers and customs. We smelled the aromas of their exotic foods wafting from the microwaves and tasted fruits and pastries we’d never seen before. And we became friends.

I then attended the University of Windsor, which also has an extraordinarily diverse student body. Some of my best friends came from places like Iran and Lebanon. I went to their homes and ate their delicious ethnic foods, and sat around in the student lounge talking philosophy with Jews, Catholics, Muslims and atheists.

But then I had a baby and became a stay-at-home mom in my very white hometown. I lost touch with my work and school friends, who moved on to big cities or other provinces.

I don’t get out of the house much anymore, to keep up with the demands of 24-7 childcare and housekeeping (and a little blogging on the side). And on top of that, I’m an introvert with pretty severe social anxiety about talking to strangers and meeting new people.

My church is almost completely homogeneous – all blue-collar Mennonites (like me), and predominantly young couples with kids. To make matters worse, the services are strictly segregated by age: there’s a nursery for babies and toddlers; Sunday school for young children; a German service for the older folks; an early service for young parents; and a later once for youth and young adults. (Of course, these age categories aren’t formally enforced, but there’s pretty strong social pressure to conform to this segregation.)

And so it has come to pass that most of the faces I see on regular basis look like mine: young and white, mostly female. We’re all self-identified Christians. I don’t have a single nonwhite, nonchristian, or LGBT friend in real life (I only have a few acquaintances online).

I’m not sure what to do about this. I’m not comfortable with this reality. I know it’s not quite right. I feel like the hugest hypocrite, waxing poetic on the importance of reconciliation while going weeks or months without seeing a single face or hearing a single accent that’s different from mine.

I think the first step for me is to acknowledge that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Jesus didn’t mean for me to only interact with people who are like me, and who rarely make me uncomfortable or question my values or habits.

I hope to make this right. Perhaps in this season of my life, I’m kind of limited in the range of people I’m able to befriend and converse with; but I hope to always strive towards welcoming folks into my life who will challenge me and teach me to see the world in new ways.

But for now, this is my reality. And the loss is greatest to me.

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  1. LGBT online “friend” here! I am an Episcopalian mom of three and read your posts often but have only commented once I think. My youngest attends a preschool that is very diverse and I love that for her but my older two attend our church school and there is just about zero diversity which I struggle with. I enjoy your thought provoking posts and your activities ideas for toddlers.

  2. I don’t really see very many people either, and it’s true that my church is mostly white, even mostly German. But it’s also mostly older, so the few friends I do have there are in a completely different stage of life than I, which definitely provides a different perspective.

    But almost none of my friends outside church are Christian, and none of them are Lutheran (Catholics and evangelicals, mostly). Several are LGBT of one firm or another; many are non-white (mostly Hispanic, Asian, or Indian, though; it’s true that I only see one black person regularly). Actually, now that I think about it, even several families at church are on the Cherokee rolls.

    Maybe it has something to do with geography? Especially in New Mexico, where I grew up, but even in Oklahoma, I think you’d be hard-pressed not to have any non-white friends. (Well, if you’re counting Hispanic as non-white, which is technically not always correct.)

    • That should be “one form or another.” Damn you autocorrect.

      Anyway, I mostly don’t pay attention to these things, honestly. Every person is different from every other person. And in some ways, we are all. I don’t want to assume differences in our personalities just because of differences in our skin color or whatever. Certainly our color, religion, and sexual orientation affect us, but they don’t necessarily define us.

      I don’t know if I’m being clear, but my point is that, while diversity is important in some ways, it’s not the be all end all of a thoughtfully lived life. There’s something to be learned from everyone, and I’m sure you’ve gained insights from those in your homogenous friend group, as well.

      • You make a good point. I just fear we’re more susceptible to a kind of “groupthink” when we’re all so similar. We were all raised in fairly similar socioeconomic situations, speaking the same language, eating the same foods, etc. It’s easy to forget that there’s a diverse range of experiences, and it’s easy to overlook/forget our privilege when it’s all we know.

        • It’s true! I guess I just see a lot (a LOT) of diversity in the backgrounds, socioeconomic status, etc even among just my white, straight, Christian friends (well, friends who meet one or two of those criteria, anyway, since I really don’t have all that many that meet all three). I mean, even things like whether or not their parents have a college education. And I don’t want you to undervalue the friends you have, even as you remain cognizant of the shortcomings of your circle as a whole. ;-)

    • Geography definitely plays a part. The nonwhite members of our town are MOSTLY male migrant workers from Mexico and Jamaica — they come up during farming season, and then return home for the winter. I’m guessing the demographics will change as more migrant workers end up making a permanent home here. I don’t have to drive very far to reach very diversely-populated cities. But at this stage of my life, even those short trips are rare.

      • I know what you mean about even short trips being too much at this stage! I guess I’m glad for the advantages of my own geographies. And I really can’t imagine such a homogenous population, heh. The migrant worker component would be very interesting! Obviously down here we’re at the permanent settlement point with some of those same populations. Slash in New Mexico sometimes you very acutely feel that it’s the white people who are the newcomers. ;-)

  3. Only white people worry about such things. All my life my friends have been mostly white. Most are not Christian but they are white. I have one gay friend.
    Not going to aoilogize for it and not going to change it.

  4. Heather G says

    Hey Kathleen!

    Thought I’d post my suggestions here so that others struggling with the same question might be able to use them as inspiration.

    A couple of diversity-increasing ideas came to mind while reading your post:

    – the University is always looking for Canadian hosts for international students at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The students want to experience a Canadian traditional meal with a local family, but the U struggles to find enough host families. It’s just a one-day commitment, not even overnight. I’ll forward you the link when I see it next year.

    – ever think of volunteering the way Susanne and John did with English language learners? We already know you’ve got English teaching skill to spare, and if it was in town you wouldn’t have to drive far.

    – is there a New Canadians or Newcomer centre in Leamington where you could volunteer with diverse populations?

    – not sure what you have planned for Lydia’s social activities as she grows, but anything she participates in with diverse kids will mean that you get exposed to their diverse parents. Sparks, perhaps? Sports? Maybe “case the joint” at a few of them to check out the demographics? It would be equally good for Lydia to be exposed to diverse kids, particularly if you homeschool. Art lessons?

    – hosting international students – they’re always looking for safe & friendly host homes for international students, both at the pre- and post-secondary level. Plus they pay a bit to convert the cost of food and accommodations.

    – this one is really out there, but as a radical Christian maybe you’d consider it. What about sponsoring or hosting refugees or immigrants? It’s a big commitment, but I thought I’d put it out there just in case.

    Ok, I’m done! Now you should challenge me to follow my own advice!

    • Wow, Heather — all awesome suggestions! I might wait a bit to jump into any big commitments until we’ve reached a slightly less taxing season of parenting, but I really hope to start volunteering at some point soon. And I definitely want Lydia to get to know other kids from diverse backgrounds (That’s part of the reason I’m so glad it’s not just evangelicals homeschooling these days!).

    • Oh wow, what convicting digressions, Heather!

      My mom stayed home with us but her education is in linguistics and ESL, and she used to volunteer at our elementary school tutoring immigrants’ children in English. We met many families from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other Asian (mostly) countries that way. What has always struck me is that it’s because she stayed home and didn’t have a career doing this, and because she gave up all those years when we were little and she couldn’t do much of anything, that she was later perfectly placed to meet this need in our community. It helps to remember that now that I’m in the wrangling-Littles-and-not-much-else stage myself.

  5. I feel silly saying it every time I comment, but I also think it’s important to say it every time (since it’s the truth): this is a great post. The importance of diversity is something I take really seriously; but, like you, the actual circle of people in my life aren’t all that different from me. That said, my husband and I do choose to live within city limits, meaning that there are all kinds of different people living all around us (versus the suburbs where things get very monotone very quickly). I grocery shop with them, pump gas next to them, smile to them in our gorgeous Victorian park, would want my imaginary kids going to school (or other activities, if I homeschooled) with their kids. . . but I don’t actually *know* them.

    It’s funny you bring up your previously more diverse experiences. My life has been the same. In high school (an all girls, Catholic high school, but still), there were familes from Iran, Jordan, the Philippines, etc. In college (a private Jesuit university, but still), there was even more diversity – all kinds of different races, religions, and cultures. Looking back, it’s amazing how easily I took all of that diverse experience for granted. I didn’t even think about it then; it was just the way it was. It was natural.

    Now, though, I have significantly less diversity in my life; and, like you, it does feel unnatural (which is why I now think about it, whereas before I never did). But, without the school system to provide it (or even without a large place of employment outside the home, which neither you nor I have), it’s really hard to recreate that in our own small, private lives. (My Masters degree is in Social Work; and in my work with clients, I encounter all kinds of diversity, which I love; but I’m talking strictly within my personal life here.)

    I frequently joke with my good friend Brian that his family represents my greatest diversity of friendships: Brian is gay, and he and his partner (both of whom are white) have adoped two African American boys (who are actually biological brothers). Without Brian’s family, everyone else in my life would be straight and white!

    There I’ve gone, hijacking your comments section again! Big hugs!

    PS. Can I offer an idea for a post sometime? I’d love to hear how you specifically (try to) manage simplicity and minimalism in your life regarding computer, internet, email, smartphone/apps, and other screen usage. I know this is something you were paying attention to this Lent, and I’d love to hear more all about it. XO
    Rebecca recently posted..Product Recommendations: Deodorant, Toothpaste, Laundry Detergent & Paper ProductsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your support, Rebecca!

      As for your post suggestion — good idea! It might be kind of limited and boring, though, since I’m so not tech-savvy (I’ve never even downloaded an app. I had my husband download, and then uninstall, FB and IG, onto my second-hand Samsung Galaxy.) But I’ll definitely think about it. Removing social media from my smartphone was an EXCELLENT move, and I will never go back.

      • See! That’s exactly what I want you to write all about! That is not at all boring to me (and could be just the inspiration I need). I am always checking my phone: email (work and personal), FB, Twitter, and Instagram (and though I’m not anywhere near as bad as some people, that doesn’t mean I’m good!). I’m not sure I want to uninstall completely, but I do want to figure out some better limits. To start with, I’ve been working on paring down who I follow on Twitter and IG (and I’ve always been picky about who I’m FB friends with. Only 30 friends for me on there!). But I’d love to hear how you (and others) do it – what you do, what you don’t do, when you do it, when you don’t do it. Also: how much time you spend on your computer (and watching tv – which I know isn’t much for you), how you spend that time; how many sites you regularly visit, etc. I think it’d be a fascinating discussion!
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  6. I attend a seminary in Ohio that is fairly diverse. I mean, there are a LOT of white people, but we have a bunch of different races and ethnicities represented in addition to a large LGBTQ population. Diversity and authentic relationships are often conversation topics around here.

    Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who is both black and pansexual (and she’s just getting to the point where she can talk about it…so proud of her!). I asked her how she thinks we can develop intentional relationships with those who are different from us without having those other people be the token “black friend” or “LGBT friend” or any other category. This is something I really struggle with because isn’t having a token person essentially just another form of racism (sexism, ageism, you fill in the blank), albeit much less damaging than other forms?

    We talked about how authenticity is really important, and it’s also important to recognize when we just don’t jive with one another. A lot of relationships start out for fairly superficial reasons, but when we’re really authentic with each other, they can evolve into true friendships.

    I know this doesn’t really help you out with your situation of living within a pretty homogeneous community, but I think it’s also important to think about.

    And I agree with Rebecca. Another fab post. It’s like you and I have the same brainwaves. Yay!

    • Yes, I understand that’s it’s every easy to make “token” friends, which I definitely want to avoid, too! And that’s why it’s awesome that you’re able to have authentic conversations with someone about it.

      In the past, it was never an issue for me, because I was simply surrounded by such diverse people. I never set out to make Muslim friends; there were just a lot of Muslims around me at my school and workplace, and I happened to click with some of them. (Lots of them, actually. I’ve found that Muslims tend to be some of the nicest people!). Now that I’m not surrounded by diverse people, it’s hard to know how I can be intentional about connecting with people different from myself without just looking for token friends. Definitely something to be conscious about. Thanks for getting me thinking about it.

  7. I have been thinking about your post, and here are some of my thoughts. At first I was thinking about how having diversity in friendship is not really all that super critical important. I was thinking about how individuals within a “group” are often more diverse than friends between different “groups.” I have (mostly in the past, too) had some friends from different religions, sexual orientation, country of origin, skin color, etc. I just don’t feel like those categories made them any more or less like me. In many ways, they had the same core values, sense of humor, etc. And maybe that’s your point, that we should learn to see the similarities between different groups of people. But I wouldn’t say that my friendships with those people were any different or felt any different than friendships between anyone else. They weren’t more fulfilling or educational or . . . fill in the blank.

    I think it’s only natural to want to spend time with people who have the same values and ideas and experiences as you: there’s a lot more there that you can relate to. And finding someone to be friends with who has different values than you is a lot harder (in my opinion) than finding someone who belongs to a different “group” (like skin color, nation of origin, religion, etc.) Also, I was thinking about a post you wrote earlier about how many of your friends were committed to waiting until marriage to have sex. What a blessing! I can only imagine how that sort of solidarity between peers helped you stay strong. I have a couple of friends I made recently who share a lot of my values and seem to care about the things that I am passionate about. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find someone like that to be friends with!

    On the other hand, friends become boring when they have nothing new to share. For example, I like to read a bunch of blogs from the same blog network, and though I really like what the authors have to say, I have started to feel like they are all recycling the same stories over and over and it’s getting, well, old. I want something new. It’s good to get new stories and new viewpoints, whether it’s from internet friends or real-life friends.

    Maybe part of your sorrow for losing friendships with diverse people is that your life has become home-based and child-centered (not that it’s bad–same is true for me–just a possible reality). I just got back from a play date and was totally bored with the mom conversation. Usually I’m excited to get out of the house and have some fellowship, but the mundane talk about diapers and eating and naps and whatever felt so . . . boring. I loooove being a mom but it can be hard to get together with other moms and have a diverse conversation. I dunno. That’s some of my musings.

  8. It’s human nature to seek out things that make you comfortable and re-fortify your own belief systems. This isn’t necessarily a good thing (in fact it can be quite dangerous) and I think it’s important to realize this and take steps to try to diversify your social circle. I find church goer’s and parents to be especially susceptible to this.

    I have a fairly diverse group of friends and acquaintances but have recently realized I really need to expand the age of my network…it’s a shame so many of us go through life but rarely stray more than a half decade out of our age. Blaming this on the “season of your life” I think is selling yourself short. You’re an interesting person who has the ability to reach out and make connections, push yourself outside that comfort zone, find a meetup group…challenge your perspectives.

  9. Thank you for posting this!

    My first prolonged exposure to Christainity was a more conservative than MCC church for Vacation Bible School when I was 11. I was beat up and called names for not fitting in and I didn’t know what to do and I was already starting to realize I was really, really different. Even time I prayed God told me I was suppose to be this way; but all the churchs was around as a kid told me I wasn’t supposed to this way and religion in general was very painful even though I wanted to believe. I recently started to look into things again and finding out that it seems like many Mennoites share many of values I have and that what I saw was not all Mennoites or Christians.

    The more I read about the Mennoites the more I want to join and recently I found a church I can start going to that is open and affirming. It’s really healing to see Mennoites that are accepting after being separated from my Mom’s Methodist and Mennoite side of my family and kinda being the person who does not exist other than to a handful of people in my family. I’m glad I can start growing in faith again and knowing that God loves, not hates, who I am.

  10. Well. I am Black and I am a Nigeria. I hail from the Eastern part of the country (Anambra State). My (Igbo) name is Somtochukwu which means “Follow me and praise God” .

    I stumbled upon your website about 6 months ago when I was trying to find out/browse about people that share similar belief as me – simple life, spend less, want to do away with putting on shoes, and loves her Natural look and hair.

    I was very glad that I found you.

    You can keep up with me at my website( so that you can explore and learn my culture.

  11. It can be interesting to navigate everyday life concerns and goals such as this one. Finding common ground with those you build relationships with (even it’s an intent to learn and share with respect) could be a nice reason to befriend someone outside of your demographic, rather than appearance alone.

  12. Even though you don’t have much opportunity to meet new people who are different than yourself, it’s great that you are still open to expanding your cultural horizon. And that openness will be integral when the opportunity does arise. Thanks for sharing!
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