The Most Segregated Hour

segregatedMartin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Certainly when he said it, there was a very specific set of circumstances that (supposedly/specifically) don’t exist any more. More about that another time. This is about the church today. Among the details that Dr. King meant that most definitely still exist is that our churches still look very monochromatic.

Unfortunately this is not just a white problem. In my own town that we moved to because of its beautiful diversity we have clear examples that I know exist throughout our country. One mile from my house, is a several hundred-member Korean church. Two miles from my house is a several hundred member black church. Less than five miles from my house are many Latina churches. To my knowledge all of them are almost or entirely monochromatic, often times to a greater degree then surrounding Anglo churches. So this is not just a white problem anymore.

Some have asked, “Why is this a problem? Isn’t this what happens in every major city in the United States? You have China Town and Greek Town; Little Italy and many other pockets where people formerly from the same locale seem to congregate. So why is this a bad thing?” While this may make sense deductively, didactically it does not.

For the Church, the standard has never been about what is happening in the culture around us (whether good or ill). We are always called to the standard and spirit of the Scripture. Without doing an exhaustive study here, I think it is clear (especially in the books of Acts and Romans), that the heart of the gospel is inclusion. I will grant you that this was mainly about Jewish people beginning to understand that the gospel was for all people, but how could there not have been a certain undertone of Jewish nationalism involved (i.e. racism). So shouldn’t the gospel also seek to nullify that as well? I know this is hard work. I also know it is doable. They do it in the schools. My kids have friends that are literally from all over the world. Shouldn’t the church look the same? It’s something to work toward. May 11:00 (or whatever hour you worship) be the most integrated hour of Christian America.

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2 thoughts on “The Most Segregated Hour

  1. So, Rob, you tend to be fairly active in your faith – what are YOU going to do to make this a reality? Will you attend one of the black, Korean, Latino, or other “ethnic” churches there in Duluth?

  2. Rob, I don’t think it’s a simple “problem” to solve because I’m not sure the “problem” is easy to state. I agree that we should be unified as Christians and that Christians should cross cultural boundaries, but I don’t think that means eliminating culture- which is what would happen, at least in the worship experience, if we tried to force people with differing cultural backgrounds into the same worship sercies. Go to a latino, asian, or anglo service and the culture will be evident in the way those groups “do church”. And it is all reflective of who they are and how they exalt God with their voices. Integrating these would necessairly cause some cultural expressions to be lost, and that would be sad. All of it is part of the tapestry of the body of Christ.

    I agree that the fact I have NO IDEA what the service is like, or even if I’d be welcome, at the asian church in the strip center across from my apartment is a problem- but I’m not sure what the solution is. I wouldn’t want to forsake the important relationships I build on Sunday mornings for the sake of “integration”, because I think knowing and being known within the body is important, and even one Sunday missed can take a toll.

    It’s hard to take a cue from the NT because it was just a different situation altogether. Those identifying as Christian were small in number and on the “outside” of established norms. They clung together for survival- this is simply not the case in the US.

    Is perhaps the problem more closly aligned with corporate Christianity being lived out in a single hour per week for most people? If there were more hours to give, couldn’t more of those hours be spent crossing cultueral boundaries? I don’t know- I think this is not an easy problem to define, much less solve.

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