Thursday, June 24, 2010

To Change the World?

This year is the 20th anniversary of The Christian CommunityDevelopment Association. CCDA is one of many Christian groups of folks working to "change our world".

Those of us in the movement have been inspired by John Perkins and Wayne Gordon and many others to address injustice in our society as Christians, motivated by what is often called a Christian worldview. . . . we sense a call to leave the world different than we found it.

So how's it going?
James Davison Hunter, who wrote a book that impacted a lot of us about 20 years ago (Culture Wars) has a new book that raises important questions about what it means to effect change in our world. His new book is called "To Change the World, the Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World".

For many of us (whether we admit it or not) "worldview" thinking that has been advocated for by folks like Chuck Colson and James Dobson has shaped our approach. We think that if we can just get enough people to think the right thing, we can effect change.

Now I realize that these 2 guys are not often called upon within CCDA as role models. . . but we have clearly absorbed some of their approach in what might be called a "hearts and minds" campaign. Hunter argues for new ways of thinking about culture, institutions and the nature of power. He then constructs a response that he calls "faithful presence".

Whether we agree with Hunter or not, it's pretty clear to me that we at CCDA believe in what a guy named Wolterstorff calls "World-formative Christianity". We think we can and should change the world at CCDA. . . and for us it's grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In a conversation with my friend Rudy Carrasco this week, we chopped it up about engaging a bunch of CCDA folks to reflect on the book and to present posts here on the City Grace blog.

Our goal is to spark a conversation and healthy debate about who we as a CCDA movement are trying to influence, what we could be doing differently, where we are falling short and where Dr. Hunter's book helps us or falls short.

We are also scheduled to have a workshop at the conference this year, hosted in Chicago, at Sunshine Gospel Ministries to discuss the book and the ideas that come out of our blog entries this summer. We've invited Dr. Hunter to join us for a conference call to interact with some of our feedback. . . as of now, his office has him set to join us.

Rudy and I are in agreement that we ought to be thinking carefully about what we do and how we do it at CCDA. We should be open to (and bringing) critique and healthy debate to this movement. There are many sub-topics we can debate such as the nature of justice, power, equity, and freedom . . . and of course what programs, advocacy, congregational life and other "practical" elements can/should be done.

But how do we actually effect this change? let's talk about it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

High Standards and Diversity

Leaders within Evangelical institutions often say to me things like "we want to be more racially diverse, but we just find that our high standards won't allow us to do so. . .". Denominations looking for pastors and schools looking for students are among the most common.

I have been thinking about institutional power, oppression and issues around social justice that beg the question about what we as believers in Jesus Christ should recognize, and if/how we should respond to them, and how we can call others into the Micah mandate.

I visited Jubilee Youth Ranch this week and had a great time spending time with the staff there. One of their staff members is a young man who grew up at a ministry like ours in Pasadena called Harambee. As we spoke and talked about getting inner-city kids into college we told me his story. He had been the "poster child" for Harambee. He had good grades, didn't get into too much trouble, but still, for him college seemed an impossible and scary thing.

Until he visited Nyack college. He found that this evangelical school had aprox 60% non-anglo student body. They set up a summer program for HS youth, who, even if they hadn't completed their HS diploma, could be admitted to college! Having graduated HS, he thought to himself, "If they'll do that, then they must be really ready to work with me too!" Clearly they were (and are!) serious about providing sound biblically based liberal arts education for the growing non-white world.

If you came up with a line up of Christian Colleges and universities who use the "wish we could be more diverse but must be committed to excellence" mantra you'd find that maybe one or two are schools can compete academically with the top non-Christian schools. Wheaton maybe? All the others are neither competing academically at the highest levels, NOR addressing the fact that the future of the evangelical church is primarily non-anglo by enrolling, educating, equipping our non-white brothers and sisters. Nyack is a rare exception.

Nyack has high standards and will likely effect and equip the future of the US evangelical church far more than the its counterparts that lack this form of commitment to diversity. That is a high standard of excellence in my mind, that comports with the Micah Mandate.