Thursday, July 17, 2008

Segregated Sundays

When I was a little girl I attended a typical Black Baptist church in Milwaukee. I remember bringing my Japanese best friend to Sunday school one morning and wishing I could die when everybody stared and whispered about her, not to mention the Sunday school teacher announcing to everyone that my friend was going to hell since she didn't officially recognize Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

Now many years later I wonder, is church still like that? I'm a bad judge because I've lived in New York City for so long where everything, even churches, seemed racially mixed. And now I live in integrated utopia, aka Mt. Airy, Pennsylvania where the gigantic Jewish synagogue behind my house has it's fair share of African-American and Asian worshipers.

So when I read a recent statistic that states that only 7 percent of America's churches are considered racially mixed, I'm left scratching my head. Where are these churches where "others" aren't allowed? I've read one theory that it's not just White folks who don't want ethnics in their House of God, it's also ethnics who don't want to diversify their holy houses either.

So, Meltingpot readers, do you worship in a racially diverse church? Do you know of a particularly welcoming congregation? I want to hear about it. Please share.



Kohana said...

I'm not sure if I've left a comment here or hi, I've been reading for a few weeks.

We just moved to Sydney, Australia, from Nashville, Tennessee (I know, I know, big move). Our church here is VERY diverse. Back in Nashville, we made it a habit to visit other churches than the one we called home, just to feel connected to the rest of the city. In several years of doing that, we only went to one church that was significantly mixed, and it was a purposefully "multicultural" church as its core vision statement. Other than a handful (literally, less than ten) of people crossing the color line, either way, we never saw a casually mixed church. Our church was moving in that direction, albeit slowly. We dreamed of a kind of city where people of different backgrounds worshiped together, and thankfully we have found that now, on the other side of the world.

Anonymous said...

I worshipped at a predominately Black church, but non-Blacks were welcome. There were a few interracially married couples and the non-Black spouses were accepted.

Honestly, I enjoy being in an all-Black and/or all-African American setting sometimes, but not because I want to exclude other people. I have friends of other ethnicities and races, but I find it comforting to be around people who look like me and share my culture. Also, it’s nice to have a respite from navigating the PC/multicultural stuff.

Regarding your anecdote about your Japanese friend, as you no doubt know, it’s uncomfortable when people stare about you because you are different, but it’s not necessarily because they disapprove of you; they may just find you interesting and can’t help but stare.

As for the Sunday school teacher saying that your friend was going to hell, I assume that your Japanese friend was not Christian, and, right or wrong, proselytizing and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and personal Savior are mandated by the Bible. The act of “spreading the good news” and trying to convert people means that non-Christian beliefs are wrong. This is the core of Christianity and and there is no way around that.

yvonne said...

Still stunned by anonymous' comments. I have to say that this is the main reason I consider myself a spiritual person rather than a religious one--the notion that anyone whose faith doesn't mirror your own is automatically wrong and worthy of hell has never seemed charitable, christian (small 'c') or humanitarian. But I admire and deeply respect those who honor their religion/faith without disparaging and proselytizing to others. I'm startled that the Sunday school teacher would address a guest that way. And such comments aren't exactly a ringing endorsement for considering a new religion. That said, though there is a lovely and integrated church in my neighborhood on 20th and Chistian Street (St. Charles Borromeo), most of the churches I see are as monoculutured as the average hair salon. ;->

Anonymous said...

There is a racially diverse church that holds services at Hunter College in Manhattan. I've never attended a service, but I've seen the members when I've gone to campus to study.

I dunno if the other Anonomous was saying that it was OK for the Sunday school teacher to make her friend feel bad (I hope not!), but that kind of thinking IS a big part of Christianity. Like yvonne, I don't like it and struggle with finding a way to blend my religious past with my more spiritual present. I wonder how much of what is written in the Bible can I ignore and still be a good Christian. In a way, it's the same with other cultural issues, how much change can a culture accept via new ideas and people and still be considered authentic?

Me said...

Hey People,

Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate this conversation very much. As a part of a bicultural, biracial, multilingual family, I am always looking for houses of worship where my family will not stick out and will be welcomed with all of our varying beliefs.

Please come back to the Meltingpot.