The Reconciliation Generation
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter explores the role young adults are playing in the push toward multiethnic churches and the converging factors — both secular and religious — that have contributed to their diversity. InterVarsity has played a key role in the lives of many young people at Evergreen. The ways in which InterVarsity in Los Angeles addresses diversity and racial reconciliation is examined. While many white evangelicals appeal to a color-blind, individual reconciliation approach to diversity, InterVarsity in Los Angeles has stressed ethnic diversity and, increasingly, social justice in its teaching on racial reconciliation.
“Energizing a Reconciliation Generation” is the slogan Brenda Salter McNeil chose for her nonprofit organization, Overflow Ministries. 1 Salter McNeil travels all over the country trying to ignite a passion for racial reconciliation among young people, believing that they have been chosen by God for this work. She writes in the Overflow newsletter: “After much time in prayer and observing the work of the Holy Spirit, we believe that God is igniting a fire among our youth for racial and ethnic reconciliation. What adults have not been able to do to heal our world and bring people together, God is going to use our youth to do in a radical, unconventional and powerful way!” 2 Leading the way will be today's college students, trained through college Bible fellowships, such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, to be the next generation of evangelical leaders. We will have to wait another decade or two to see if Salter McNeil's prediction is correct, but if Evergreen Baptist Church is any indication of the future of evangelicalism, it looks as if she will be. Aside from the leadership of Pastor Ken, any success Evergreen has found in its mission to become multiethnic is attributable to these young people, both in terms of their commitment to racial reconciliation and the ethnic diversity within this age group.
Who are these “young people,” as they are often referred to at Evergreen, and why are they coming to this church? Time and again I was told that the young people at Evergreen have “a value for diversity,” meaning that they place a high value on diversity. Their attitude (p. 56 ) fits the perspective historian David Hollinger calls “cosmopolitanism”: the recognition, acceptance, and eager exploration of diversity. 3 Since the young people at Evergreen are urban-dwellers, the label “cosmopolitan” seems all the more fitting. Like other young adults in the United States, their cosmopolitan perspective has been shaped by exposure to the increasing diversity around them and in popular culture, as well as by the promotion of multiculturalism in the educational system. As evangelicals, however, their “value for diversity” has been further shaped through theological education and the theology of racial reconciliation in particular.
The Post-1965 Generations
When I speak of the young adults at Evergreen, I am referring first of all to members in their twenties and early thirties. Because they span the so-called Generation X (those born between 1964 and 1981) and Generation Y, or what Evergreen calls the Millennial generation (those born in 1982 and after), neither of these categories is satisfactory. What really distinguishes these young people is that they have not yet begun families. A few are married and many are moving toward marriage, but they do not have children and, thus, are not involved in the programs sponsored by Evergreen's large Family Life Division.
As we saw in chapter 1, before Evergreen split into two congregations in 1997 there was a palpable tension between those who wanted a family-focused church and those who wanted a socially-engaged church. The “minivan crowd,” as Ken calls them, followed Pastor Cory to plant a new Asian American church, and the messy, postmodern crowd followed Ken. Five years later there were again a sizeable number of families at Evergreen Los Angeles who wanted more family-focused activities and a sizeable group of young adults who were coming to Evergreen for the reconciliation vision rather than family programming. 4 This division is by no means impassable, since there are “family people” at Evergreen who are very committed to the church's vision, just as there are older members who share the young people's enthusiasm for reconciliation. Nonetheless, because almost everyone I interviewed identified a clear division between the young people and the rest of the congregation, I take this generational divide to be significant even if it is an over-simplification of the array of concerns and commitments Evergreeners of all ages hold.
One thing the young and old at Evergreen agree on is that young people are living in a different world. But what kind of a world is it? In their study of the impact of generational divisions on congregational life, Jackson Carroll and Wade Clark Roof suggest that we think of a generation as a carrier of culture. 5 They (p. 57 ) point out that the culture of Gen Xers has been largely shaped by what they have inherited from Baby Boomers, namely a world in which greater consumption, environmental consciousness, and more equitable gender roles are taken for granted. 6 In addition, it is widely noted that today's young people, to a much greater degree than their predecessors, are immersed in technology and popular culture. Theologian Tom Beaudoin argues that Generation X is defined by its relationship to popular culture, which has served as their dominant maker of meaning. 7 Like Baby Boomers, young people are deeply suspicious of institutions, but they are also cynical about the idealism that motivated the activists of the 1960s. As the first American generation to live with widespread divorce and single-parent households, young people yearn for community, and it is this yearning that brings many to church.
Donald Miller, a sociologist of religion, has given churches that engage with postmodern ideas, rather than rejecting them, the label “new paradigm churches.” 8 These churches embrace aspects of postmodern culture, especially popular culture and new media technologies, while holding on to traditional Christian beliefs. Evergreen fits this model perfectly: it uses Christian rock music, catchy slogans, and media images taken from popular movies. The 2004 Advent sermon series, “The Message & Messiah Reloaded,” was a takeoff on the Matrix movie trilogy. Another characteristic of new paradigm churches is that they are willing to engage with epistemological skepticism. Gen Xers are particularly wary of truths taught by supposed authorities and seek truths that can be verified through personal experience. According to social theorist Anthony Giddens, this is in keeping with the reflexivity of modern society, in which all knowledge is subject to doubt and chronic revision in the light of new knowledge. 9 While some religious communities try to create a protective buffer against skepticism, new paradigm churches maintain a strong adherence to traditional Christian doctrines without alienating the critical-thinking spiritual seeker.
Rather than rejecting the seeker mentality, new paradigm churches view it as part of the process of faith development. Evergreen is typical of such churches; for example, it holds classes for newcomers in which they are encouraged to question Christian truths. For these seekers, faith develops not through accepting doctrine but through their ongoing personal experience of Jesus Christ. Since words like “orthodoxy” and “doctrine” are rarely heard in the new paradigm churches, Miller describes them as “doctrinal minimalists.” This description certainly fits Evergreen, where the teaching stresses applying lessons from the Bible in everyday life, rather than such evangelical theological positions as premillennialism and dispensationalism. 10 In fact, one cannot find a creedal statement of any kind printed on any of the church materials, but (p. 58 ) that does not mean that Evergreeners reject traditional Christian beliefs. Instead, the church's documents publicize Evergreen's vision statement, its mission statement, and its values—hope, humility, and hospitality—all of which make it clear that this is a place where people who believe in Christ can publicly proclaim “God's eternal purpose in the world.” Beaudoin characterizes Gen Xers as “irreverent,” but that cannot be said of young evangelicals, who, by some accounts, adhere to a more conservative religious ethos than baby boomers. 11
There are also indications that Generation X has a greater tolerance and appreciation of diversity than older Americans. Beaudoin notes Gen Xers' greater acceptance of same-sex relationships and religious pluralism, but more relevant to this study is their appreciation of ethnic diversity. Raised in the post–civil rights era, they are the inheritors of integrated schools, affirmative action programs, and the ideology of multiculturalism. Generation Xers have never encountered antimiscegenation laws, but they have seen the emergence of the multiracial identity movement. Particularly within urban areas, though increasingly all across the country, young people have more encounters with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds during their formative years than previous generations.
Diversity as the Norm
The data collected during the 2000 federal census made it possible to trace the cycles of increasing diversity in the United States. By the year 2050, White Americans will no longer be in the majority—but to Californians this is old news. When the immigration laws changed in 1965, urban coastal areas like Los Angeles and New York were the first to experience a sharp increase in immigration from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the 1970 census, people of color made up only 23 percent of California residents, but by 2000 that number had grown to 53 percent. 12 In Southern California, the population is comprised of 40.3 percent Hispanics, 39.9 percent non-Hispanic Whites, 11.3 percent Asians, and 7.6 percent non-Hispanic Blacks. With this growing diversity, the number of racially-balanced cities in Los Angeles County has almost doubled in the last twenty years, even as White residents leave these areas. 13
The public schools are a key space for cross-ethnic interaction among young people. More than half of those who live in Los Angeles County speak a language other than English at home, and within the Los Angeles Unified School District ninety-two different languages have been specifically identified. 14 But there are conflicting reports of how much mixing actually occurs in (p. 59 ) diverse schools. Beverly Tatum (author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) observes that elementary-school students tend to mix across ethnic lines, but by junior high friendships become increasingly racially divided. 15 More research is needed to extend these findings, but one thing is certain: young people in Los Angeles County today have been exposed to more diversity than any previous generation.
While young people in urban areas experience diversity firsthand, those in less diverse areas of the United States encounter ethnic diversity through popular culture. Television, the loco parentis of Generations X and Y, has played a strategic role not only in introducing young people to the “ethnically other” but also in portraying people of color in positive ways. The Cosby Show, for example, presented a happy, affluent African American family. Music television stations such as MTV introduced suburban youth to the music and hip-hop culture of Black Americans. In the 1980s, children all over America fell in love with Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, and Michael Jackson; in the 1990s, they were enamored of Michael Jordan, Will Smith, and Janet Jackson. More recently, Asian and Latino stars, such as Jackie Chan and Jennifer Lopez, have also gained the status of pop icons, and the fame of golf star Tiger Woods has brought more attention to the presence of multiethnic individuals. More than television or movies, advertisers have brought hipness to diversity. From the Benetton commercials of the 1980s and Gap commercials of the 1990s to the new decade's ads for Apple's iPod and Toyota's Gen Y–oriented Scion marque, advertisers have banked on the “diversity is cool” theme to attract the coveted young consumer. While White faces still dominate the media, and people of color are routinely portrayed through demeaning stereotypes, popular culture has played a significant role in both introducing Americans to peoples previously kept separate and promoting diversity as a positive value. 16
Having grown up experiencing ethnic diversity as the norm, many of the young people at Evergreen come there specifically to be in a multiethnic church. Johnny, for example, is a recent UCLA graduate whose parents immigrated to the United States from very different parts of the world. Having been surrounded by a variety of cultures his whole life, Johnny cannot imagine being at a homogeneous church, and he is certain Evergreen will grow even more diverse: “When there are people like me who are not Asian, or who are and just love the multiethnic environment, it's going to happen because those people have friends of all different ethnicities.” Indeed, I did meet many young people at Evergreen who, like Johnny, not only accept diversity, they value it highly. This appreciative stance has been formed in large part through the ideology of multiculturalism promoted in the schools.
(p. 60 ) Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism refers to a new vision of America that emerged in the 1980s and early 1990s out of a confluence of the civil rights movement, ethnic pride movements, and the rising number of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America since 1965. Even before it was given the name “multiculturalism,” this ideology was being taught in the public schools, particularly in urban areas where schools faced unprecedented diversity among their students. Multiculturalism is associated with those who want to celebrate the cultural diversity of the United States, as well as those who are highly critical of the triumphant image of a tolerant America. No doubt there are many other agendas also identified with multiculturalism, but what they all share in common is captured well by sociologist Robert Wuthnow: “True multiculturalism takes the position that diversity itself is of value and that genuine diversity respects the value of people's being able to live within their own communities and pass on their own traditions to their children.” 17 When I speak of an ideology of multiculturalism, I am referring to this belief in the enduring value of diversity in and of itself.
How influential has multiculturalism been on young people? Nathan Glazer called his book on the subject We Are All Multiculturalists Now. His title makes an ironic claim, given that Glazer is no fan of multiculturalism and the book describes pockets of resistance to it. 18 School districts have been the battlegrounds of these culture wars, and in California, during the 1990s, there were contentious debates at the local and state level over the teaching of multiculturalism in public schools. 19 Some of the strongest opponents of multiculturalism are conservative Christians who associate it with liberal secularism and efforts to remove God from the public sphere. Even when particular versions of multiculturalism, or even the term itself, evoke strong negative reactions, Glazer's title remains quite accurate: diversity has become a widely accepted fact of American life. 20 No child in America can grow up unaware of racial categories, since from an early age children are forced, for better or worse, to take their place within the multicultural schema.
Mixed Marriages and Multiethnic Kids
Taking his place in a multicultural world defined by racial categories has always been difficult for Jacob, a twenty-four-year-old member of Evergreen who identifies himself as Mexican, Spanish, Apache, Navajo, and Honduran. In previous generations those of mixed heritage were often treated with disdain and turned into objects of curiosity or pity, but people like Jacob no longer face intense social stigma. Jacob proudly talks about himself as multiracial. Rather (p. 61 ) than a liability, he sees this as an asset helping him thrive in a diverse world. Like many people of mixed racial heritage, Jacob is most comfortable in diverse settings. When he graduated from UCLA with a degree in engineering, he moved to Rosemead to be a part of Evergreen's vision of reconciliation.
Since the founding of the United States, mixed marriages and their “mixed blood” offspring have been a source of scandal, but young people have grown up after federal antimiscegenation laws were eliminated and the remaining state laws were no longer being enforced. Many young people in Southern California would find it hard to believe that the state of Alabama did not throw out a law forbidding Black-White marriage until the year 2000—and even then with only 60 percent support in the state legislature. 21 Though some Americans still object to mixed marriages, polls indicate that younger Americans are much more open to them than their elders. Considering the history of miscegenation laws, legal scholar Randall Kennedy is optimistic that Americans are becoming increasingly multiracial in their tastes, affections, and identities. Kennedy credits this development largely to the efforts of multiracial individuals who have challenged the rigidity of racial categories. 22
In the 1980s, a multiracial identity movement began to challenge the inadequacy of these categories as encountered in countless institutional forms. By 2000, half a dozen states had passed legislation to include a multiracial category on school and employment forms, and for the first time in sixty years Americans could identify with multiple racial categories on census forms in the year 2000. 23 According to the 2000 census, 2.4 percent of Americans identified with more than one race, and 42 percent of these individuals were under eighteen. California has the third highest percentage of multiracial persons in the country, 4.7 percent, and in Los Angeles country that percentage rises to 4.9 percent, more than double the national average. 24 Evergreeners Johnny and Jacob are proud to be part of this growing number of multiracial individuals. At Evergreen they find many other young people who, even if they are not part of the relatively small population of Americans who identify as multiracial, also want the freedom to develop and assert a holistic, complex identity.
Fluid Ethnic Identity
Recognizing the instability of identity is part of the epistemological shift of our times. Talk of the constructed self, the protean self, the negotiated self, and various other unstable selves is common in the halls of academia, but Tom Beaudoin sees this phenomenon also reflected in the relationship of Gen Xers to popular culture and cyberspace: “Both our experience and our imagination of our selves are characterized more by incoherence than coherence, more by (p. 62 ) fragmentation than unity.” 25 Though Beaudoin does not link this notion of fluidity to ethnic identity, ethnic studies scholars certainly have. But this has done little to change the way most Americans think of ethnicity: as something people either have or do not have, as if one is either “ethnic” or “American.” 26 I heard echoes of this either/or thinking in interviews with some Evergreeners who described themselves as “basically American” or “a diluted Asian.”
A more helpful way to capture the complex and fluid nature of ethnic identity is suggested by ethnicity theorists Stephen Cornell and Douglas Hartmann. They speak of ethnicity as being “thick” or “thin,” with the key factor being the degree to which it serves as an organizing force in one's life. 27 Some people are more thickly connected to their ethnic culture than others, but this connection also changes depending on life events and context. For example, life passages like births, marriages, and deaths often activate ethnic connections that have been dormant. On the other hand, while ethnicity is activated in certain situations, it can also be purposely hidden. Many people of color learn to hide cultural differences in order to be successful in a White-dominated society. Thinking of ethnicity as fluid, constructed, subjective, situational, ambivalent, unstable, and reciprocal makes it possible to avoid essentializing socially constructed racial categories and the confused notion that one is either “ethnic” or “American.” This new way of thinking about ethnic identity is welcomed not only by people of mixed ethnic heritage, but by all those who resist what David Hollinger calls the “authority of color and shape.”
No matter how appealing this fluid notion of ethnic identity may be to young people, their ability to assert their chosen identity is limited by the reality that others will perceive them in terms of static racial categories. Mary Waters has written poignantly on the freedom White Americans have to exercise their “ethnic options”—that is, the freedom to be seen as “ethnic” when they wish and “just American” when they wish—but people of color, especially African Americans, are rarely afforded this freedom. 28 These limitations have not stopped individuals from asserting an identity contrary to the one assigned to them, as Tiger Woods did when he said on the Oprah Winfrey show that he does not think of himself as Black. 29 Instead, he made a new identity for himself as a child, “Cablinasian,” which embraced his Caucasian, Black, Indian, and Asian heritage. Woods was strongly criticized by Blacks for trying to “Whiten,” but many rallied behind his right to be identified as he wishes.
At Evergreen, many of the young people of color are also asserting a fluid sense of ethnic identity, despite facing strong social pressure to accept their given place in the American racial system. 30 Ben, for example, is the son of two immigrants from Hong Kong and grew up attending an English-speaking Chinese church. He feels most Chinese on Chinese New Year, but most of the (p. 63 ) time he thinks of himself as having assimilated into the Asian American melting pot. Elena identifies proudly as Latina, but since she does not speak Spanish she finds most people “don't have a category for that.” Shin, whose parents were born in Korea, sees herself as “a little Korean,” but thinks that if she marries a Korean man she will become more Korean. Mark refuses to identify as an African American, insisting that race does not exist. Wei, whose parents are both from China, is not sure what she is but thinks her Asian ethnicity is more symbolic than real, a distinction she learned in an ethnic studies class. 31 Like those who identify as multiracial or multiethnic, these Evergreeners are challenging essentialist racial discourse, even though their freedom to fully exercise these ethnic options is limited by the racial categories others impose on them.
It makes sense that cosmopolitan young people, who have grown up in diverse settings and learned to value diversity, would be more skilled at negotiating diverse settings than older Americans. Coming from diverse families, Johnny and Jacob have had to learn these skills at home, but they both believe people of their generation are more adept in cross-cultural settings. It would be a stretch of the imagination to suggest that all young people are both enthusiastic about diversity and skilled at living in a multicultural society in which identities are fluid and situational. Less of a stretch is to suggest that there is a cosmopolitan ethos emerging among urban, college-educated Americans, shaped both by their exposure to diversity and their exposure to new ways of thinking about ethnic identity and diversity. Recognizing this new ethos gives Johnny and Jacob great hope in the future of the church, but, more important, they feel called to make racial reconciliation a reality. They are not alone in thinking that young people will play a special role in bringing about a more inclusive society. Within evangelical circles, many of those pushing for racial reconciliation believe that this generation will be the one to break down the walls of hostility.
The Reconciliation Generation
I first heard the term “reconciliation generation” from Brenda Salter McNeil, but the underlying assumption that young people are somehow better equipped to succeed at racial reconciliation I heard from many people. I met Salter McNeil when she came to preach at Evergreen in 2003 on the subject of racial reconciliation, and afterwards I was able to interview her by telephone. After working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for many years, Salter McNeil began Overflow Ministries in 1995 in order to concentrate entirely on healing (p. 64 ) people and healing the nation through the ministry of reconciliation. Overflow Ministries offers such resources as training courses, motivational speakers, tapes, videos, and study guides. While Salter McNeil gets occasional speaking requests from churches, most of her work is done on the campuses of evangelical colleges like George Fox University and with para-church organizations like the International Network of Children's Ministries. 32 She has noticed over the years that fewer people are arguing about the legitimacy of racial reconciliation; now they just want to know how to do it. The answer, she believes, is to encourage the emergence of a reconciliation generation, which she defines as “a host of people from various tribes, nations, and ethnicities who are Kingdom people called to do the work of racial reconciliation.” 33
Like their Gen X and Gen Y peers, young, urban evangelicals are part of the emerging cosmopolitan ethos described in the last chapter, but within evangelical circles they have been raised to be wary of anything associated with liberal politics, and as a result many are turned off by multiculturalism. As one InterVarsity staff member explains it: “The politically correct movement has shoved tolerance down our throats, and therefore Gen X tends to have a naïve and apathetic stance toward racism.” When Pastor Ken was asked to join the board of a predominantly White evangelical college in Southern California, he was surprised to find so much resistance to diversity programs among the White students. He told me, “There's a lot of fatigue out there, or just apathy, if not antagonism, to this whole thing.” In some racial reconciliation circles, there is a good deal of multiculturalism-bashing that goes on, but this does not mean that young evangelicals have rejected its basic premise. As I was repeatedly told in my interviews, young people today have a strong “value for diversity.”
Racial Reconciliation on the College Campus
While it is tempting to see racial reconciliation as a Christian version of multiculturalism, this interpretation is strongly rejected by evangelicals. As one InterVarsity staff person explained it, “We're reworking a lot of tapes from the educational process where the goal is diversity, the goal is sensitivity, and the goal is numbers across ethnic lines. There is nothing wrong with diversity, but that is not the goal. The goal is healing and forgiveness and transformation.” Given the resistance among young evangelicals to anything perceived as part of the “liberal, p.c. agenda” of multiculturalism, the challenge on college campuses is to present racial reconciliation as an entirely different, biblically-based way of approaching racial divisions. When twenty-four-year-old Steve started attending Evergreen, he did not want to hear any more about diversity, which he felt was shoved down his throat when he attended a nearby liberal arts college. (p. 65 ) Racial reconciliation, on the other hand, excites him because the Gospel is involved: “Without the Gospel involved it takes on a much more self-centered feel. It's more like I want everybody to know about me versus I want to know about everyone and I want to relate to people.” This is precisely the point that evangelical college-based organizations try to make when they insist that racial reconciliation is not multiculturalism, but something much more socially and spiritually profound.
All over the United States, evangelical college students are learning about racial reconciliation. I am sure there are some colleges where it is not talked about, but now that racial reconciliation has been accepted by the mainstream, they are the exception. Here is just one example of how evangelical colleges are promoting racial reconciliation: John Perkins, one of the early founders of the movement, has received honorary doctorates from seven evangelical colleges: Wheaton, Gordon, Huntington, Spring Arbor, Geneva, Northpark, and Bellhaven. 34 Many of the most elite evangelical liberal arts colleges have even created administrative positions to encourage tolerance of diversity on campus. 35 Chances are very good that young people who go to an evangelical college will encounter racial reconciliation through school initiatives and mandatory theology classes, but even at non-Christian schools, they can still learn about racial reconciliation through on-campus Bible fellowship organizations. 36
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is known as a strong advocate for racial reconciliation, but other national organizations, such as Campus Crusade for Christ, The Navigators, and Asian American Christian Fellowship, along with numerous regional groups, also teach racial reconciliation theology. These organizations exploded on campuses nationwide in the 1970s, fueled, according to religion scholar Rudy Busto, by a generation of post-1960s university students in search of meaning and values. 37 In the years since, much of their growth has come from Asian American students, many of whom arrive on college campuses already committed to evangelical Christianity. These fellowships are meant to foster the spiritual development of young adults so that when they graduate they will be fully equipped to be productive evangelicals. 38 Because they require an intense commitment of time and energy, college groups have an opportunity to influence young evangelicals at a critical, formative time, and they are often the training grounds for future church leaders. In this way, their influence on the evangelical movement as a whole is much greater than one would expect from the number of young people who participate in college fellowships.
Even though racial reconciliation is on the agenda of all college fellowships, only a handful of students will “get convicted” and make the pursuit of racial reconciliation their life's work. For many more, their college fellowship (p. 66 ) experience will compel them to engage in the kind of “individual reconciliation” that Emerson and Smith found widespread within mainstream evangelicalism. Most will leave college with a high value for diversity, a value learned through multiculturalism, popular culture, or their families, which has now been reframed and legitimated through racial reconciliation theology. To the extent that they seek out churches that promote this value, college fellowships are encouraging the institutionalization of racial reconciliation in congregational life. All the young people at Evergreen that I interviewed had become interested in, and in many cases committed to, racial reconciliation as participants in a college Bible fellowship. Because Evergreen has a strong connection with InterVarsity through Pastor Ken, I chose to learn more about how this organization is turning young people on to racial reconciliation.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
InterVarsity is an international organization of college fellowships that was formed in England in 1877 to serve as a nondenominational Christian witness on college campuses. The U.S. branch, InterVarsity/USA, which began in 1941, now serves more than thirty-five thousand college students on over 560 college and university campuses. InterVarsity also produces training materials, camps, books, and media tools for use in churches and para-church organizations. Since the late 1960s, it has been targeting the evangelization of students of color, and in the 1970s ethnic-specific fellowships were formed, primarily to serve the burgeoning number of Asian American evangelicals. Because InterVarsity has a grassroots structure run by paid staff and volunteers, chapters vary tremendously across the county, making it difficult to generalize about the organization. At the national level, racial reconciliation officially became a priority for InterVarsity in the late 1990s.
Hampering the implementation of racial reconciliation efforts at the campus level has been a lack of agreement about the meaning of racial reconciliation and how it relates to InterVarsity's evangelization mission. Antony Alumkal, who has studied the role of InterVarsity in the lives of Asian American college students, contends that it has followed in the footsteps of Promise Keepers in promoting an individual reconciliation approach. 39 I have also heard this criticism of the organization from InterVarsity staff members. In response to such criticisms, the national leadership has tried to foster a more sophisticated approach. In 2003, InterVarsity president Alec Hill published a statement on the tenth of the organization's core commitments: Ethnic Reconciliation and Justice. 40 Here he explains that in order to bring about ethnic reconciliation, we need intentionality, repentance, and justice: “Within InterVarsity, our challenge (p. 67 ) is to build systems that foster personal and systemic justice.” Contrary to Alumkal's assessment, some evangelicals think InterVarsity's racial reconciliation efforts—at least at the national level—are in accord with the more radical early racial reconciliation movement. Rudy Carrasco and Derek Perkins, codirectors of the Harambee Christian Family Center, for example, believe that through its focus on the minor prophets of the Old Testament, InterVarsity has a deeper root in justice issues than organizations like Promise Keepers. 41 They find that among the college students who come to Harambee to volunteer, the InterVarsity students are much further along in their understanding of what it takes to make racial reconciliation a reality. Limiting InterVarsity's commitment to racial reconciliation is a longstanding struggle over how much priority should be given to racial reconciliation, or any social agenda, as opposed to evangelism. 42 Some InterVarsity staff members want to see racial reconciliation given equal priority with InterVarsity's traditional focus on evangelism, but that is far from the case today.
Given InterVarsity's decentralized structure, the national leadership has limited influence over what happens on individual campuses, but the annual Urbana conference has been a key opportunity for the national leadership to speak directly to students. Over the last few decades, this conference, drawing some twenty thousand students annually, has evolved from a largely White gathering to a decidedly multiethnic and international one. According to the Urbana Web site, the 2003 assembly was the most diverse in its history, with 38 percent of the attendees being of non-White descent. 43 The goal of the Urbana conference is for students to commit to evangelism and cross-cultural missions and to make concrete decisions about how to integrate their faith into their lives. At the 2000 meeting, 2,947 students committed to “learn about and get involved in a challenging issue such as racial reconciliation, justice or poverty,” and 3,396 students decided to “build a friendship with a person from a different ethnic background and/or get involved with a group or church where I am a cultural minority.” 44 As a large, emotionally intense, and exciting gathering, Urbana can be a powerful, Pentecost-like experience that compels students to push for multiethnic fellowships on their campuses that will replicate their Urbana experience.
Across the country, the response of InterVarsity chapters to the racial reconciliation cause varies tremendously by region. Some regions have adopted it as a priority, and others have barely paid it notice. Some chapters have grappled with the role of social structures in racial inequities, while others have stressed making cross-cultural friendships. Chapters in the southern United States have focused on Black-White race relations, whereas those in large urban centers have developed out of a multiethnic framework. The biggest area (p. 68 ) of contention has been the existence of ethnic-specific fellowships and how they fit into a vision of racial reconciliation. Because each region creates its own organization, there are a number of different configurations. Some campuses have so few students of color that a single chapter is formed out of necessity, whereas other schools choose to have a multiethnic chapter instead of ethnic-specific chapters. Ethnic-specific fellowships are quite common on large, urban campuses.
Both those opposed to and those in support of ethnic-specific fellowships acknowledge that these groups are more effective at evangelizing students of color than White-dominated fellowships. In other words, the homogeneous unit principle works just as well on college campuses as it does in churches. In fact, on campuses with few students of color, these fellowships provide a vitally important respite from the burden of being a minority. These co-ethnic groupings can also play a key formative role in what InterVarsity calls “ethnic identity development.” This is noticeably different from the color-blind approach used in many evangelical settings. Ironically, even in ethnic-specific ministries ethnic identity may be of little importance. For example, Rudy Busto noted in his study of college Bible-study groups the “curious disappearance of Asianness in the discourses and practices of Bible study groups organized, paradoxically, by and for specific Asian groups.” 45
InterVarsity is also unusual among evangelical organizations in framing ethnic identity development as a justice issue. Keith Hirata, Assistant Director of Staff Development and Training, explained the purpose of ethnic-specific fellowships: “I view us as a hospital helping people heal from racial injustice, and ethnic-specific ministries do this. They value you and embrace your heritage. You need to have a strong sense of yourself to be a part of a multiethnic church.” 46 Hirata sees the existence of ethnic-specific groups as a temporary step in a long process toward the ultimate goal of integration. As students grow in their self-knowledge and their understanding of racialization, they will be better able to meet as equals in multiethnic settings. In the meantime, if InterVarsity is able to attract a “critical mass” of diverse students and staff through the use of ethnic-specific fellowships, it will be in a better position to form truly just and inclusive multiethnic communities.
While some members of the InterVarsity staff reject the ethnic-exclusive groups unequivocally, in recent years there has been a growing appreciation of ethnic-specific fellowships and their importance to students of color. 47 Recognizing the value of both ethnic-specific and multiethnic groups, some regions try to institutionalize both structures and give students of color a choice. Periodically all groups join together for worship, study, or fellowship events. Another way to combine the benefits of both structures is to have a single multiethnic (p. 69 ) chapter on each campus but to bring students of color together regionally for mutual support and ethnic identity development.
In InterVarsity chapters across the country, there is a good deal of experimentation going on in response to the changing ethnic makeup of students and the changing attitudes among them. Few regions of InterVarsity have invested as much energy into racial reconciliation as the Greater Los Angeles division. Home to some of the most ethnically diverse chapters in the country, InterVarsity in Los Angeles has been in the forefront of developing models for implementing racial reconciliation on college campuses. Staff members have written a number of articles for InterVarsity readership on the successes and failures of these efforts, including a comprehensive guide, Creating an Acts 6 Racially Reconciling Community: How “Race Matters” Works as a Campus Strategy. These documents, along with the ten interviews I conducted with past and present InterVarsity students and staff, provided me with a valuable picture of the kind of exposure to racial reconciliation young adults receive prior to coming to Evergreen.
InterVarsity in Greater Los Angeles
Though there was a verbal commitment to racial reconciliation in the Greater Los Angeles division in the 1980s, it was not until the late 1990s that it became a high priority and the staff decided to move beyond words and make racial reconciliation a concrete reality in their fellowships. Since that decision, they have developed a number of different programs addressing racial reconciliation, but the one they are best known for in InterVarsity circles is called “Race Matters,” a structure they adapted from the Rock of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church in Chicago. At the Rock, members of this Black-White congregation are encouraged to talk openly and honestly about race at meetings that are called, for obvious reasons, “Fudge Ripple.” 48 After studying what the Rock had been able to accomplish, the staff at the University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) campus started to hold their own version of these meetings in 1995, which they called “Rainbow Sherbet” to reflect the multiethnic makeup of UCLA students. The name was later changed to “Race Matters,” after Cornell West's book by that title.
Race Matters meetings are structured around a theme or question pertinent to ethnic tensions or issues the group is facing. Time is given for biblical teaching on the chosen theme before students break into ethnic-specific groups (including a group designated for mixed-heritage students if enough are present) for discussion of the theme. When the groups come back together, they must share with the whole gathering whatever was said in the small (p. 70 ) group. In both the small and large group discussions, students are encouraged to voice even those thoughts that they are ashamed of. One staff person explained that the first few comments “will be superficial or p.c., but soon enough someone will take the risk of actually being real with the group about their struggles.” By getting “real” about racism and ethnic identity, the students can confront their own and others' prejudices and thus move beyond awareness—the goal of “the p.c. agenda”—to reconciliation. While many raw feelings are expressed during these meetings, students make a commitment to reconcile before leaving and to form cross-racial friendships, both within and outside of the group, in which to continue seeking honesty, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Doug Schaupp, one of the creators of Race Matters and now director of the Los Angeles division, is passionate about racial reconciliation and believes that conflict is the only way to get there. As he sees it, unless we get into the hard issues of racialization in America, it is too easy to get stuck in a multiethnic trap:
People are not convicted about racial reconciliation. People are convicted about multiethnicity, and all that multiethnicity means is getting along. That lasts maybe a year until it gets hard. Who is in leadership? Who is in power? How are we going to work this out? That is no longer multiethnicity. Now we are talking about reconciliation dynamics, and those are super difficult. 49
Schaupp repeatedly hears the criticism that Race Matters is too conflictual, but he is convinced that conflict lies beneath the surface in every multiethnic community and that it is better to be proactive in addressing it than to be ambushed by it later.
Distinguishing racial reconciliation from the secular multicultural approach is an important part of the Race Matters program. In a short period of time, students learn how to get real about racism and how to reconcile with each other—something they do not learn, according to Schaupp, anywhere else. When I asked him if he believed current college students were especially open to racial reconciliation, he answered:
I don't think it's a college-age thing, but I do think college folks are risk-takers and InterVarsity staff are risk-takers … . I think that college is a particular time of intermeshness. We live in dorms together, and because there is a lot of overlap, there is a lot of conflict and there is a lot of ethnic conflict. So you don't have to wait but a year on any campus for there to be an ethnic crisis. You just read the newspapers on any given campus and at some point there was some major racist (p. 71 ) thing or major misunderstanding, and then the question is, is the Christian community going to respond to that or not? Nine times out of ten they are not equipped to. On our campuses we are doing Race Matters because that is the venue to air it right there, and you know seekers love this stuff. They come and they say, “We have never seen such a healing environment for honesty, because in class we have honesty but there is no healing.”
For both conflict and healing to occur at Race Matters, there must be a diversity of students to perform the roles of challenging, confessing, and forgiving. With a predominantly White membership in InterVarsity, it is the students of color who are often put in the spotlight during Race Matters. In the name of reconciliation, students are encouraged to confess their racism, and those confessed to are expected to forgive. A White staff member shared this story with me: “A friend of mine said it clearly a couple of times that she felt sort of exploited, that once she gets upset enough to have an emotional reaction about something and breaks down in front of the group, then the goal is achieved.” In addition to being catalysts for discussion, students of color are also expected to educate their peers about racism. A successful Race Matters session, I was told by many staff people, takes a well-trained facilitator who will speak for the minority students so they are not overburdened. I was able to see this firsthand when I attended a Race Matters meeting with the InterVarsity group at the University of California–Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus.
UCSB is not nearly as diverse a campus as UCLA, and the campus InterVarsity fellowship is made up primarily of White students. The chapter has been struggling for many years to increase the number of students of color and had recently decided to form a Bible-study group solely for Black and Latino students. The focus of this Race Matters was to discuss how students felt about the creation of an ethnic-specific Bible group. The White students did not have strong feelings about this decision, but the conversation did lead to a heated debate over how to make the weekly joint worship service more truly multiethnic. When students of color complained that the music was boring, White students asked why Latinos and Blacks get so emotional during worship. Even though the question was asked respectfully, it still put the students of color in a defensive position of having to explain and, in a sense, justify a charismatic religious style that is stigmatized in White middle-class society. Conflict also arose over whose responsibility it is to create multiethnic worship. The White students were open to new kinds of music and different speakers, but thought the Latino and Black students should be in charge of making those changes. The much smaller group of students of color argued that putting this task on them (p. 72 ) was unfair and that if the fellowship was truly practicing racial reconciliation, then all the students should help make the worship more inclusive.
This Race Matters meeting went on for several hours as the students tried to come to some agreement about how to vary the style of worship and whose job it would be to implement these changes. Some concrete decisions were made before midnight, and some good intentions for inclusivity were expressed by the White majority. From the perspective of an outsider, this appeared to be a successful session, since students did deal directly with racial issues and did work through some conflict, but it is clear that the burden of this process fell disproportionately on the few students of color.
Several students of color have left the UCSB InterVarsity group in recent years because they were tired of having to constantly educate the White students. It is precisely the frustrating need to explain themselves, and the reality of racialization in America, to the White students, “who just don't get it,” that led to creation of a Latino/Black Bible study at UCSB. The staff hopes that this ethnic-specific group will give Latino and Black students a chance to get out of the spotlight, be nurtured, and perhaps, as one staff person said very honestly, “to let go of some of the hatred they have for White people, which is something that probably wouldn't be talked about anywhere else in the fellowship, even at our Race Matters.”
As other InterVarsity chapters around the country have borrowed the Race Matters format, they have found mixed results. Unless the leaders are well trained in conflict resolution and very attentive to the feelings of those in the minority, the meetings can fail to elicit serious reflection on race issues, create ethnic rifts within chapters, or alienate students of color entirely. Race Matters, and the Los Angeles division's approach in general, has also been criticized for being too focused on individual feelings and relationships and, like Promise Keepers meetings, for not leading to concrete change. One graduate of UCLA now attending Evergreen commented:
I always felt like one of the goals was for people to try and say how they are racist and repent of that and go through that emotional experience and have someone from the sinned-upon culture forgive them and give them a hug or something. I guess I am not really into that kind of thing in general, the super-emotional without a tangible result.
All the current and former staff members I interviewed shared this concern that Race Matters is not producing tangible results. One former staff member now at Evergreen explained, “If we can have a good conversation and deal with our personal issues that's good, but there are still real issues faced by immigrants, or from the education system, that just aren't addressed. You can't do (p. 73 ) trickle-down racial reconciliation.” As the weaknesses of the Race Matters format have become more apparent, the initial excitement for this new racial reconciliation tool among InterVarsity staff around the country has died down, and even in the Los Angeles division the once-quarterly Race Matters meetings are now held only sporadically.
In response to criticism of their efforts, the Los Angeles division made a more explicit commitment to what it calls the three-stranded rope of racial reconciliation: justice, ethnic identity, and cross-ethnic friendships. To address justice issues, they decided to focus efforts on increasing the number of Black and Latino students and staff. In the 1990s, InterVarsity was on only seven of the sixty-two college campuses in Los Angeles, for the most part on the elite public and private campuses, which have small Black and Latino student populations. The leadership devoted resources to developing programs on the commuter campuses, such community colleges and the California State universities in Los Angeles, where they would have more interaction with Black and Latino students. By 2002, InterVarsity was serving on fourteen campuses with the goal of doubling that number in five years.
This shift from the elite to the commuter campuses brings greater ethnic and socioeconomic diversity into the organization and has consequently raised its awareness of social justice issues. On the elite campuses like USC and UCLA, InterVarsity has also started targeting Black and Latino students through ethnic-specific fellowships. One Black staff member told me how important this shift has been for the organization:
People's hearts have been really broken over the years and convicted and now they have changed their structures because of the heart check that God gave them in the course of Race Matters, and they actually appointed people to go out and reach out to Blacks and Latinos and have Black and Latino Bible studies in small groups. All of that came out of the heart work that God did in the course of Race Matters.
As was the case at UCSB, ethnic-specific fellowships have been created to serve as a safe space for Blacks and Latinos who experienced the racially-charged multiethnic fellowship as too exhausting and rarely healing.
The justice strand of the three-stranded rope is most directly addressed through urban projects. These are group excursions into the inner city for one to eight weeks, in which students engage in service projects, scripture study, and worship in order to reflect on their experiences of socioeconomic and ethnic “displacement.” According to the national InterVarsity Web site, these projects “share a common commitment to teaching certain values, such as exploring issues of justice, poverty, racism, racial reconciliation, violence, lifestyle, biblical (p. 74 ) community, and the ministry of the urban church.” The Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena, led by longtime racial reconciliation advocates Derek Perkins and Rudy Carrasco, is one of many sites where students are placed to learn firsthand about urban issues of poverty, racism, and violence.
In the Los Angeles region, as many as a hundred students spend an intensive six weeks working in an inner-city neighborhood each summer under the auspices of the LA Urban Project led by Kevin Blue. Blue has been a part-time staff member of InterVarsity for fifteen years and has been instrumental in pushing for more focus on social justice. One White staff member felt that the recent emphasis on urban projects is an encouraging step for InterVarsity's racial reconciliation mission:
To me it made a lot of sense that if you're going to be pressing forward in relationships you can't just say, it's about me getting to know you or eating tamales and going to a quinceañera. It can't just be me hearing your pain, but must be me taking that seriously and taking action on it, like organizing unions or something. You can't just take the parts that feel good but [you] have to ask, what does it take to bring justice? A lot of what makes race a loaded issue is social economic discrepancies.
Approximately 25 percent of graduates from InterVarsity in the Los Angeles region relocate to poor neighborhoods and continue in urban ministry.
Changes have also been made in recent years to improve the organization's support of ethnic identity development. With so much stress on forming cross-cultural friendships and on ethnic displacement, there were few opportunities for students to explore who they are among co-ethnics. Though the Race Matters structure provides time for students to break into ethnic-specific groups and talk about issues in the safety of their co-ethnics, it was felt that not enough was being done to “raise up” the students of color through ethnic identity development. In one staff member's view, “I think you're more prepared to come to the table and to talk about racial reconciliation when you understand what you bring to the table, when you understand who you are.”
At UCLA, ethnic-specific events are now held once or twice a quarter to provide space for bonding and growth in ethnic identity. These events are usually for a single ethnic group, but when the five Middle Eastern students had their “family” night, they cooked Persian food for the whole fellowship and taught them traditional dances. More recently, weekend ethnic identity conferences were started to bring students of the same ethnic background together from the entire Los Angeles region. Originally called Five-In-One conferences, they are now called Eight-In-One, as the number of ethnic groups that students (p. 75 ) break into during the conference keeps expanding. Over the weekend, students break into ethnic-specific groups for tailored biblical teaching for two days and join together for a shared worship service on Sunday morning. Johnny, a young Evergreen member who participated in InterVarsity at UCLA, described the conference as transformative: “The first one was the one that really transformed InterVarsity in L.A. I think everybody just got saturated in how much God really loves you as a multiracial person, as an Asian person, and every ethnicity. When we came together on that Sunday the church was like a circle. You had all these faces facing back at you, and it was incredible.”
The ethnic identity development strand of the rope has been influenced by Carl Ellis's notion of core cultural issues. 50 During the UCSB Race Matters meeting I attended, Ellis's idea was explained with an apt analogy:: Like an iceberg, we carry an unseen base of core cultural patterns, values, and beliefs that affect how we relate to others, often in unconscious ways. The goal of this teaching is to bring out into the open cultural differences that are obstacles to racial reconciliation and to counteract feelings of self-hatred. Because the idea of core cultural issues relies on an essentialist understanding of ethnicity, I wondered whether anyone in InterVarsity found it constricting to be fitted into a cultural box. While the staff members I spoke with agreed that this is a potential danger, it is not seen as a likely one, since everyone recognizes that ethnic identity is fluid. InterVarsity is not pushing ethnic authenticity tests, I was told.
The efforts of the Greater Los Angeles division to implement racial reconciliation in concrete ways have been recognized throughout InterVarsity/USA as innovative. The Race Matters and Five-In-One formats have been used at large staff development training sessions and by fellowships in chapters around the country, with mixed responses. At least within the Los Angeles division, Schaupp has seen impressive results from their focus on racial reconciliation: “What we were like in 1994 is totally different from what we are like today. Who we are reaching, who we care about, what we ask students to do, what students are able to do, and what they graduate with is phenomenal.” When Rudy Carrasco and Derek Perkins run urban work-study projects at their Harambee Christian Family Center, they have noticed that the more recent groups of InterVarsity students are coming in with a stronger biblical foundation, which helps them confront the hard social issues of poverty and race. 51 In addition to the one-quarter of InterVarsity graduates from the Los Angeles division who choose to work directly in urban ministry, many more graduates take their convictions for racial reconciliation into evangelical churches. The move from a college Bible fellowship to a church can be a frustrating experience for idealistic college graduates hoping to find churches as socially concerned and innovative as their InterVarsity experience.
(p. 76 ) After graduation, InterVarsity alumni are quick to learn how unique their college experiences were. Not only do few churches have the high level of diversity that college students in Los Angeles are used to, few have a strong commitment to either multiethnicity or racial reconciliation. Even for churches that do care about such things, the church as a multigenerational institution cannot easily replicate the intensive, experimental InterVarsity experience. Graduates wanting to continue that kind of intense religious journey often join the InterVarsity staff or other para-church organizations. Some may even start their own multiethnic churches, but InterVarsity does not encourage this. Though there are no records of what kind of churches graduates join, one staff person has noticed a trend of students of color joining ethnic churches after they graduate. She understands this return to the comfort of the ethnic church as a reaction to being out of their comfort zones for four years. Regardless of their destination, InterVarsity students are encouraged to raise awareness of the need for racial reconciliation wherever they find themselves. Alumni often discover that while they are newcomers to church life, they are much more advanced in their education and experience with racial reconciliation than other laity and even seminary-trained church staff. Given the few choices available to them, it is not surprising that Evergreen has become a popular choice for InterVarsity graduates in Los Angeles.
The Reconciliation Generation at Evergreen
New members at Evergreen are officially welcomed at a quarterly congregational meeting, and each one is introduced with a few words about why he or she wants to join the church. Two things struck me during the meeting I attended in October 2002. First, apart from one Japanese American couple in their thirties, all the new members were in their twenties, and second, they all pointed to the multiethnic makeup or racial reconciliation vision of Evergreen as a reason for joining. In the words of one Asian-Latino couple who had started dating through InterVarsity, “This is the kind of place we can be at home.”
Evergreen has become a common destination for InterVarsity alumni and is home to at least eight InterVarsity staff members. Pastor Ken's address at Urbana 2000 brought him a lot of attention in InterVarsity circles, and he is well known to the staff of the Los Angeles division. Alumni at Evergreen find a lot of resonance between Ken's teaching and their InterVarsity experiences, not just in terms of racial reconciliation but also in terms of promoting women in leadership positions and engagement in social outreach. One young woman explained that she found a subculture at Evergreen that is very close to what InterVarsity (p. 77 ) stands for. Indeed, there is a kind of InterVarsity subculture at Evergreen. Like many intergenerational churches, Evergreen has had a hard time integrating new young adults into the church. They are not, in the words of Pastor Ken, the primary owners of the corporate identity and culture of the church. Many more come as visitors than join as official members. The 2004 church survey revealed that the proportion of those who attend services but are not involved had increased from 12 to 42 percent since the previous survey in 2002. 52 Those young adults that do join officially often stay on the margins of the decision-making circles of the church until they are older.
Several people spoke of the generational divide at Evergreen as if there were really two churches: a family-oriented, Asian-American church and a younger, outward-focused, multiethnic church. Holding these two churches together is Pastor Ken; he is the bridge between the older and younger generations. Ken does not agree that the divide between young and old at Evergreen is really so stark, and in interviews I heard considerable crossover in the values and priorities of younger and older members. Many of the older members fully support Ken's vision for Evergreen to become a model twenty-first-century church. They are the ones who put the money into the church envelopes to pay for the programs that give Evergreen its reputation as a dynamic, progressive church.
Still, it is the young people who are more diverse as a cohort, more comfortable in diverse settings, more educated in racial reconciliation theology and more committed to making it a reality. They are the ones who, in Ken's words, are foaming at the mouth for social change. One older member told me that he believes that until the young people become part of the 20 percent of the church that does everything, the church will never become truly multiethnic: “I think one of the signs that it will actually be working is when the people who are ethnically diverse join as members, stop putting their money in the tithing plates and start being involved in the ministries on a leadership basis.” There is no getting around the fact that the future of Ken's vision for Evergreen is dependent upon the successful integration of these young members into the church culture.
Though Evergreen's social mission and racial reconciliation focus appeal to young people, these are not the only draws. Evergreen is a full-service church with good worship, challenging teaching, friendly people, a beautiful sanctuary, and plenty of programs to choose from. Young people come to Evergreen because they believe this is a church where they will be challenged to make a difference and where they can feel at home. For a few, the Asian American setting may be quite comfortable, but most of the young people at Evergreen grew up in diverse settings and have diverse social networks. The ethnic church of their parents does not appeal to this cosmopolitan cohort, and when they graduate (p. 78 ) from college, they look for churches that are multiethnic. They bring with them not only a high value for diversity and experience in diverse settings but also skills for living in a diverse world, such as an awareness of the complexity and fluidity of ethnic identity, that many older members of the congregation lack. These skills make them the boundary crossers, bridging ethnic divides in families, friendships, and religious congregations.
The success of the racial reconciliation movement depends greatly on whether young people will continue to push at the boundaries of the current church structures. There is a good chance that their commitment to racial reconciliation may never get beyond the superficial, and that as they age they will become more conservative on social issues. Dr. Samuel Chetti, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles and an Evergreen member, reflected on the coming generation:
There is a space in the university where we allow ourselves the permission to push the boundaries and stretch the complexity and chaos, but the moment we become adults, earning, married adults, we end up reeling in those boundaries to a much closer level … . The percentage that experience racial reconciliation and enjoy it is very high, but five to ten years down the road, now it becomes a competitive issue—I'm now competing with Hispanics or Blacks or Asians—then [the students] are no longer in the Bible studies and in the dormitories talking about these issues. 53
Ken agrees that, for most of us, growing older means a shifting of priorities. Perhaps as they grow older, start careers, and begin families, Evergreen's young people will lose some of their zeal for social change and put their energy into family programs, as have generations before them. However, Ken believes that even as concerns and interests shift, the biblical teaching of racial reconciliation will still prevail upon them to make ethnic inclusion a priority. For the moment, youthful zeal for diversity and social change is strong enough to catch the attention of churches intent on attracting this demographic. Reconciliation of racial divisions has become one way for churches to also reconcile the generations and make sure that the next generation of evangelicals is successfully integrated into the fold.
(1.) After directing Overflow Ministries from 1995 to 2004, Salter McNeil founded a new organization called Salter McNeil & Associates, LLC, which is also a racial and ethnic reconciliation training, consulting, and leadership development company based in Chicago. She recently co-authored the book The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change.
(2.) Overflow Ministries newsletter, Spring 2003.
(3.) Hollinger, Postethnic America, 84.
(4.) At the time of the 2004 survey, 12 percent of respondents were married with children under age 18. This question was not asked in the 2002 survey.
(5.) Carroll and Roof, Bridging Divided Worlds, 7.
(6.) Ibid., 21.
(7.) Beaudoin, Virtual Faith, 27.
(8.) Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, 24.
(9.) Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity, 20–21.
(10.) Both of these positions have been widely held among conservative Christians since the early twentieth century. Premillennialism, the belief that the world has become increasingly corrupt before Jesus' imminent return to usher in a thousand-year period of peace, is discussed in chapter 2. Dispensationalism is the belief that world history has been divided into distinctive eras in which God has related to humanity in different ways. Many conservative Christians believe that we are living in a special dispensation, which began at Pentecost and will end with the rapture of the saved before God releases his wrath on a sinful world.
(11.) Carroll and Roof, Bridging Divided Worlds, 19.
(12.) U.S. Census Bureau, “Census 2000 Data for the State of California.”
(13.) Myers and Park, “Racially Balanced Cities in Southern California.” At the same time, in some areas of Los Angeles the neighborhoods are becoming increasingly segregated, and some school districts bus students to create more racially balanced schools. See Ethington, Frey, and Myers, “The Racial Resegregation of Los Angeles County, 1940–2000.”
(15.) Tatum, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” 52.
(16.) This trend should not be applauded uncritically, however, because as diversity gains currency it also becomes a new form of exploitation of people of color and may (p. 166 ) reflect a long-standing Western practice of exoticizing people of color rather than making a sincere effort to create an ethnically inclusive society.
(17.) Wuthnow, “Culture of Discontent,” 32.
(18.) Glazer, We Are All Multiculturalists Now, chapter 2.
(19.) For a review of these debates surrounding the adoption of new social studies textbooks, see Olsen, Made in America, 262 n. 33.
(20.) Robert Bellah offers a cogent analysis of why American culture has been so receptive to multiculturalism as an ideology in his essay “Is There a Common American Culture?”
(21.) Kennedy, Interracial Intimacies, 126.
(22.) Ibid., 36. Kennedy cites several small polls on racial attitudes on 544 n. 40.
(23.) Root, “Rethinking Racial Identity Development,” 206.
(25.) Beaudoin, Virtual Faith, 137.
(26.) Mary Waters explores this phenomenon in her book, Ethnic Options, chapter 2.
(27.) Cornell and Hartmann, Ethnicity and Race, 73–90.
(28.) Waters, Ethnic Options, chapter 3.
(29.) For an intelligent appraisal of the incident, see Kamiya, “Cablinasian Like Me.”
(30.) For an excellent study of how these pressures affect first-generation Americans in a California high school, see Olsen, Made in America.
(31.) Sociologist Herbert Gans uses the term “symbolic ethnicity” to describe the expressive feeling of ethnic identification that lacks actual cultural connection. See Gans, “Symbolic Ethnicity” and “Symbolic Ethnicity and Symbolic Religiosity.”
(33.) Salter McNeil originally thought that the reconciliation generation would develop out of today's college students, but she now believes that those in junior high and high school will be the ones to accept this mission. Phone interview by author, June 2, 2003.
(35.) Schools like George Fox University, Seattle Pacific University, and Houghton College have offices for multiculturalism that bring racial reconciliation experts to campus.
(36.) More accurately, evangelical fellowships can be found at non-evangelical schools, including Catholic and mainline Protestant colleges.
(37.) Busto, “The Gospel According to the Model Minority,” 171.
(38.) InterVarsity president Alec Hill, “Church,” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, June 30, 2003, http://www.intervarsity.org/news/news.php?item_id=674.
(39.) Alumkal, “American Evangelicalism in the Post–Civil Rights Era,” 206.
(40.) Alec Hill, “Core Commitment #10,” The President's Page, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, June 24, 2003, http://www.intervarsity.org/news/news.php?item_id=648.
(41.) Rudy Carrasco and Derek Perkins, taped interview by author, November 12, 2002.
(42.) This tension came to a head at an Urbana meeting in 1970, when the Black delegates, after hearing a moving talk on racial prejudice by Tom Skinner, asked that the focus be changed from missions to racism and poverty, and their request was denied. See Hunt and Hunt, For Christ and the University, 274–76.
(45.) Busto, “The Gospel,” 180–81.
(46.) Keith Hirata, phone interview by author, July 11, 2002.
(47.) According to Paul Tokunaga, who has been on InterVarsity's staff for thirty years and currently serves as the National Asian American Coordinator, there has been an increasing recognition that both multiethnic and ethnic-specific fellowships have strengths and weaknesses. Phone interview by author, February 26, 2002.
(48.) Washington and Kehrein, Breaking Down Walls.
(49.) Doug Schaupp, taped interview by author, November 14, 2002.
(50.) Carl Ellis is a nationally-known speaker and writer on multiethnic ministry, among other topics. He has led training workshops for InterVarsity staff across the country.
(51.) Carrasco and Perkins, taped interview by author, November 12, 2002.
(52.) Evergreen's 2004 survey of adult members, provided by the Evergreen staff.
(53.) Samuel Chetti, taped interview by author, July 1, 2002.