Image by Toni Holmes.
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.