[Today’s guest post is from Nancy Le. You can follow her on Twitter, but read her post here on race and the Church first!]
Race, Culture and People Making Problems
There’s a problem in the church for interracial couples. Add cross culturality to it and there’s a real problem.
Twenty three years ago I got pushed out of ministry because I chose to marry an immigrant from a third world country. Us people were supposed to help them because they needed our help. We dang well for sure better not associate with them though. They were not the same race as us: Caucasian. Anyway, what does the church do with interracial couples? Where do they fit in? Unfortunately, not in many places.*
In the interest of full disclosure, meeting someone who is a client, falling for them, getting engaged and then married in less than six months is not wise, and could possibly get you kicked out of ministry anyway (but only if you are female because a male marrying an Asian female has it made and that’s okay). However, I was an adult, already graduated from college, and I thought I was making adult decisions. We’ve been married for 23 years, so I’m thinking at this point I was right. Sugar muffin tells me he was right too.**
When I met my husband and got married, I was so naïve. It was the ‘90’s and I absolutely thought racism was dead. I had grown up in a fairly large, prominent city with different races. We then spent some time in Amish country. My family, both immediate and extended, were transplants from another part of the country. In college the majority of my friends were from other countries, and my college had a large percentage of international students. I was very used to different races and cultures. I thought that life was a melting pot. However, I lost friends, lost my job, and had relatives make comments about how my children would be “black.” (My husband is Asian and I’m white. Everyone knows if you mix tan and white you just get tan! Geez, check your color wheel.)
Jealousy – ancient and modern
When reading Tim’s post They Want to Ruin My Marriage recently, all the implications of my marriage upon my experiences in ministry were reeling in my brain. He cited these verses:
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. … The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. (Numbers 12:1, 9.)
Moses married a woman from Cush. What does that mean? It means she was of a different race and a different culture. (Some scholars, but not many, debate whether this Cushite woman was Zipporah or a different wife of Moses. Zipporah was from Midian (Exodus 2); Cush is almost always accepted as the Ethiopian region of Africa. It is most widely accepted this refers to two different wives. No matter for purposes of this discussion.) Moses’ biological brother and sister criticized him because they were jealous, but turned that lust for power away from themselves and used his interracial/cross cultural marriage as an excuse to murmur … grumble … complain … attack.
This same kind of pride is happening all over the Church right now. Thus we are in a time in world history where we are going through the “culture wars” in Christianity. Anyone who is different from the status quo is up for derision: cross cultural couples, gay people, feminists, egalitarians, intersex people, transgender people, liberals . . . if you color outside the lines of what has been the status quo in White American – often Patriarchal – Evangelical Christianity you may find yourself up for criticism and derision in both subtle and blatant ways. Things have become complicated and disheartening.
In that Exodus passage, the Lord’s anger burned against Aaron and Miriam and He left. I think that at the very least that means God himself walked away shaking his head face palming. At the most He walked away and didn’t come back for any conversations with Miriam and Aaron. I think Numbers 12:1-2 pretty much encapsulates what racism is.
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” (Numbers 12:1-2.)
It’s the criticism of someone else because you are so dang blasted jealous that you weren’t picked to be God’s mouthpiece, and that He instead picked someone of a different race from you. Don’t be so self-absorbed.
There are all sorts of people in God’s kingdom:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:28-29.)
and God’s got plenty for everyone to do:
God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:18-20.)
Let us celebrate the differences in our God-created diversity and uniqueness as we come together to be one in Him.
*I know some get tired of discussing what’s wrong with the church today, as opposed to appreciating it for its beauty and longevity, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people got tired of hearing from those protesting in the 60’s. (Can’t the world just settle down and be done with this mess?) The church has to be different, or why else should it exist? Jesus was different, very different. The real church is the bride of Christ, which are its people, not a building or organized institution. But His people need to start acting like the head over heels in love girl who is about to marry someone whom she is totally brain drugged up on while everyone around them watches from afar and says, “Have mercy, they must be in love, because they are actin’ craaazy!” That’s the kind of love the church needs to have for everyone, all the time. There is redemption in my own story: I was asked for forgiveness fifteen years later.
**I do not call Sugar Muffin Sugar Muffin in real life, but a friend of mine (ANGIE!) used that term, and I am going to use it every chance I get on social media.