2018 & 2042: Our Many Colored Future (Kwasi Kena)

The future. People have been and remain fascinated by it. Futurism, an art movement originating in Italy around 1909, emphasized the dynamism of speed, motion, youth, technology and the force of machinery. The movement only lasted nine years; ending in 1918. For some Futurism represented progress and hope, for others warning and fear. George Orwell took a stab at predicting the future in his classic book, 1984. Stanley Kubrick shared his thoughts in the film, 2001: a space odyssey. The business world looks to futurists who explore predictions and possibilities of the future. When I attended seminary in the ‘80s, the book Megatrends was required reading. With such widespread interest in the future, where should Christian leaders focus their gaze today? I suggest there are two sets of numbers that we should not ignore; the years 2018 and 2042.

In 2018, demographers note that the majority of persons aged 18 and under will be non-White in the United States.[1] By 2042, this country will become “majority minority”.[2] In California, Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in the state.[3] Though your church may be situated in a culturally homogenous community, the chances are increasing daily that your children and grandchildren will encounter multiple ethnic groups during their lifetimes. How then should we prepare them and ourselves to engage our many colored future?

The past year has been a particularly volatile one for race relations in the United States. We have witnessed too many cellphone, dash cam, and security videos of race-driven violence. The worst culminating in the slaughter of nine innocent victims at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

I have been teaching the Cultural Contexts of Ministry course since I first arrived at Wesley Seminary at IWU three years ago. Sadly, each time I have taught the onsite intensive, there has been some type of racially charged national incident to process in class: July 13, 2013, the verdict in the Travon Martin court case; July 17, 2014, the video release of the choking death of Eric Gardner; August 9, 2014, the shooting of Michael Brown; November 22, 2014, the shooting of Tamir Rice, and most recently June 17, 2015, the murder of the “Emmanuel Nine”. I ask students to share how their congregations responded the Sunday following these incidents. Often the room becomes uncomfortably silent. The voice of the church goes mute when it does not have a vocabulary for such situations. The “what-should-I-say-or-do-say” language only emerges after people muster the courage to enter the life of the “Other” and learn from sitting in communal anguish. Developing the cultural intelligence to deal with current events involving race must become part of the ministry toolkit of today’s Christian leaders because 2018 and 2042 are coming.

As we church leaders walk into the increasingly diverse future, what posture will we take with regard to ethnic diversity? In the Cultural Context of Ministry class, we talk about anticipatory socialization, which involves doing the pre-work of learning about some of the core values, beliefs, and history of “others”. This work involves both formal reading and real-world conversations with people from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Go beyond finding out about ethnic foods, dress, and arts. Chase the “why” question that forms people’s core values and beliefs. Get their historical view on issues.

As we move closer to being a majority minority country, there is some pre-work that Christian leaders can do. Here is a short list of options that some colleges belonging to the CCCU (Christian Council for Christian Colleges & Universities) use to guide their thoughts and actions regarding how their institutions will relate to diverse peoples on and off campus. I suggest Christian leaders review this list and consider what it would mean to practice each concept in word and dead. Invite people in your churches or institutions to help you discern which concepts would help prepare people in your ministry context to relate to others in our many-colored world with deep respect and Christ’s love.

Reconciliation

Peace Making

Anti-Racism

Social Justice

Intercultural Competencies

Celebration of Culture and/or Individual Difference

Human Flourishing

Shalom

[1] Persistent Racial/Ethnic Gaps in the U.S. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Reports/2014/us-inequality-racial-ethnic-gaps.aspx Retrieved August, 2, 2015

[2] Roberts, Sam. “Minorities in U.S. set to become majority by 2042”. The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/world/americas/14iht-census.1.15284537.html?_r=0 Retrieved August, 2, 2015

[3] Panzar, Javiar. “It’s official: Latinos now outnumber whites in California”. Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-census-latinos-20150708-story.html Retrieved August, 2, 2015