Transethnicity Study

I had a meeting this morning at a local church that is known for its emphasis on transethnicity. That is, they understand the importance of a multicultural community, and their membership is quite diverse, but they want to encourage respect for cultural/racial/ethnic differences while also transcending those differences in keeping with a Kingdom perspective that emphasizes a shared identity in Christ. 

The meeting kicks off a study we are conducting on this church’s model of transethnicity in particular. One student working on the project is going to complete his dissertation on transethnicity as an organizational identity, which it is in this case.

We are asking people in the congregation and lay leaders to complete a survey. We also anticipate interviews with some of the pastoral leadership, as well as visits to Life Groups to allow additional people from the congregation to share their experiences. We are particularly interested in why people were initially drawn to a transethnic church, as well as why people choose to stay in a transethnic church.

It is interesting to think about transethnicity as a novel concept that contrasts somewhat with the broader multicultural movement. Some experience the multicultural movement as emphasizing cultural or ethnic or racial distinctives but that the conversation can at times begin and end with an awareness and perhaps even a celebration of those differences. Transethnicity appears to be a different way to engage people interested in some of what the multiculturalism movement offers.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this church’s model is understood and experienced by people in the congregation, lay leadership, and pastoral leadership, and to see what it might bring to a mainstream understanding of multiculturalism.

A Question With Only One Answer?

Perhaps you’ve seen the answer Miss California gave to the question about marriage. She stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The problem with the question was that it only had one “right” answer. It was the politically correct answer. I’ve never seen such backlash for someone answering by giving her honest opinion. Apparently it was an opinion held by many others, judging by the applause in the background. It is an incredibly divisive subject to be asked about in this venue – one designed for soundbites and not substantive reflection and nuance.

I’m not sure what to make of Perez Hilton. Obviously, he felt passionately about the topic. He seemed absolutely outraged by Miss California’s answer. Check out his comments about taking back his apology and calling her various derogatory names. Unbelievable. Her convictions apparently cost her the crown. To her credit, whether you agree with her opinion or not, she stood by her comments and by her convictions. I don’t think she took this tone, but it reminded me of the saying: If you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question.

It raises for me the larger question of whether we are going to be able to coexist in our culture. We are a diverse and pluralistic society. By definition, we are going to disagree. It isn’t diversity if we all believe the same thing. I remember reading one author years ago refer to the idea that “diversity with substance offends” (or close to that). I remember thinking that it was as if we had to be reminded that diversity actually refers to differences (of opinion, beliefs, values, and so on). The reaction by Perez is a good illustration of how out of touch some segments of our society are with other segments of our society. I think I would have to say the same thing if Miss California acted surprised to have lost the crown over her answer. It raises the question: Can these segments coexist, even when one segment will be offended by the other segment on one topic and vice versa on another topic?

Integrative Approaches – 4


The faculty picked up the other day with Chapter 4 of Integrative Approaches by David Entwistle. This chapter is titled “Windows on the World: Assumptions and Worldviews.” Entwistle gives us a classic definition of a worldview from James Sire:

A worldview is a set of presuppositions, (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconscious, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of the world.

Entwistle briefly reviews animism, polytheism, pantheism, monotheism, modernism, and postmodernism. He then discusses a Christian worldview by framing it within what is commonly seen as the four acts of the biblical drama: creation, the fall, redemption, and consummation.

What’s interesting to me is to reflect on the practice of contemporary psychology. Psychology emerged as a scientific discipline in the context of a modernist worldview with its emphasis on scientific progress. We are now as a field reflecting in some instances these assumptions while in other ways reflecting assumptions found in postmodernism, including the assertion that there is no objective truth. Also interesting is that many in the field may not even know which worldview they are operating from, as we can sometimes float between them based on the topic we are discussing or the project we are undertaking. (The multicultural movement in psychology, for example, reflects more postmodernist assumptions, which makes sense if you think about what it means to recognize different cultural assumptions and values.)

Another thought that came up in the discussion is that some folks will attempt to create a sharp distinction between religion and science, suggesting that religion is not tied to reason or logic, that it is subjective, and so on, while science is rational/logical, objective (reflecting a modernist optimism surrounding science). In doing so they create intellectual space to do their work as a psychologist but then can fail to see their own worldview in practice (because, of course, they believe or want others to believe that they are just “doing science”). In our field the common worldviews are naturalism and secular humanism. These become a default assumptive framework, a frame of reference for understanding human beings, behavior, morality, and so on. But it is rarely acknowledged by those who adopt the framework. To fail to recognize how these valuative frameworks function in a person’s practice of science is a significant concern, particularly if this is the only approach that is considered legitimate and is constantly used and contrasted with religion.

Breaking All The Rules

By now you’ve seen Susan Boyle shock the judges on Britain’s Got Talent, the UK equivalent of American Idol. She sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, a fitting choice in this context. I agree with the judge who said that the audience was against her – I imagine she included herself in that indictment. If I am honest with myself, I felt something like that too – a kind of perverse anticipation that she would be laughed off the stage. I don’t like that in myself; I didn’t like seeing it in the audience, and I suspect it is why we delighted in seeing her performace in such a stark contrast to that anticipated failure. The judge called it a “wake up call,” but I wonder what we are waking up from… The idea that someone like Boyle could have such a beautiful voice. We ofen cheer for the underdog, but we also don’t mind seeing people embarassed in their failures, and we find it entertaining. We have become accustomed to being entertained by what this perfomance could have been, what we fully expected it to be, to seeing people humiliated.Do we see how we are changed by how we choose to be entertained?

Psychology & Christianity Integration

anthology This summer I will be teaching the Integration Capstone course. This is a final course for fourth-year students in our program. Historically, the instructor has selected maybe two current integration books for the class to read and discuss over the length of the course (5 weeks). I was thinking that it would be unfortunate if students left without having read some of the key articles that have been written on integration over the years. So I got to thinking about the recent edited book titled, Psychology & Christianity Integration: Seminal Works that Shaped the Movement. The articles were suggested by a core group of people involved in integration – key readings that they found particularly helpful in their own understanding of integration. Authors of the seminal works include Nicholas Wolterstorff, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Stanton L. Jones, Peter C. Hill, C. Stephen Evans, and a host of others. It covers the relationship between science and religion, types of integration, models of integration, integration in research, and applied or clinical integration. So there should be something for everyone.

National Day of Silence

The National Day of Silence is scheduled for April 17, 2009. This is a day intended to draw attention to the issue of bullying and harassment of sexual minorities in the schools. Most supporters will be silent on that day; others who cannot be silent because of various mandatory activities will apparently wear red.

If the DOS is controversial, so too is one reponse that has been endorsed by a number of conservative organizations: the ‘Day of Silence Walk Out.’ This is the idea that students walk out on this day in protest.

Another approach to this topic was launched last year. It is referred to as the Golden Rule Pledge. You can read more about this alternative, as it focuses on treating others as you would want to be treated.

I can appreciate the concern to respond appropriately to the DOS. Do Christians support it in light of the social justice issues involved? Do they reject it because of what they see as a political agenda? And I can appreciate attempts to respond constructively to the underlying issue of harassment and bullying, which I have been witness to in my work with youth. While I have worked with a number of adolescents who experience same-sex attraction who tell me they fit right in with their peer group, enjoy social support, and so on, others go to school and experience a significant amount of harassment through name-calling and bullying. The topic of harassment and bullying of sexual minorities is not a grey area in and of itself, but  it becomes more complicated to some when it is tied to events that people experience as politicizing the issues.