So I read this blogpost by a reformed African-American pastor, Thabiti Anyabwile, responding to a question as to why African-American pastors didn’t show up for a conference called Together For The Gospel. I thought it was a fair response, but one follow-up comment got me fired up. The comment was posed by a white reformed pastor (most likely attender of the conference):
Those sorts of questions (as asked in the post you discuss) always make my brain itch. Is there a quota? I think similarly to you, when I see complaints about the percentage of blacks in (say) the GOP. Show me hordes of black voters being deliberately turned away by the GOP, and there’s something to talk about. Otherwise?
Similarly here. What solution (other than yours) wouldn’t be itself patronizing or tokenizing? Who’s stopping blacks from attending? If someone is, there’s a problem needing addressing… but I’d be stunned unconscious to learn that anyone was. Otherwise, what’s the proposal? A breakout on “Spike Lee and the Gospel”?
Hm… actually, now that I mention it…
I don’t know if it’s because I’m still processing my relationships, experiences, and learnings from being with CCDA this past week, but I couldn’t pass up the need to respond (even though I know that nothing good ever comes from the comment sections of any post or YouTube video for that matter).
Here’s my response:
The myopia of this particular response deeply troubles me. I’m praying that my thoughts make sense as I respond to your blatant majority-blinded perspective.
Do you see that to simply say, “what’s stopping minorities from coming?” IS the problem? It’s a majority question that fails to consider what it’s like to be a minority. It’s easy to say there’s nothing stopping them from coming when you’re the majority, Dan, when most attenders look like you, when the furthest you have to stretch out of your cultural comfort zone is which hymns you’ll sing.
In a historical vacuum, your question might have some weight, but given all that has separated blacks and whites, majority from minority, for you to simply think that it’s a matter of minorities not wanting to come is ignorant at best. While certainly not endorsing a tokenism of any sorts, there needs to be intentional and hospitable invitations opening up seats at the table for minorities to join the conversation. Unless the majority makes that effort as part of living out the Gospel of reconciliation, you, as a majority, will continue to think that you run the place, and we minorities can come as long as we become like you.
Your comparison with a political party is deeply flawed. I think you’ve lost something when you liken blacks not joining the GOP to blacks not attending T4G…
As a reformed, Gospel-driven, Korean-American pastor, it’s exactly this kind of sentiment that has given me a distaste for T4G as an event. While I respect the speakers and have been blessed in the past, the ethos of T4G seems to reinforce the “minority-majority”, “normative-other” dichotomy. It’s troubling that even in responding to Thabiti’s well-written response, you’ve demonstrated exactly why I stay away (Spike Lee and the Gospel? Really???).
There’s also the challenges of cost, marketing, and a whole bunch of other factors. For someone in the majority to say (and I certainly don’t attribute Dan’s comment as indicative of the conference leadership), “you can come if you want, no one’s stopping you” isn’t the Gospel I love. I hope you don’t do evangelism that way.
May God give us more insight and sensitivity in this journey of reconciliation!