Saturday, September 26, 2009

Adoption, Ethnicity and Worship- Part I

I can remember the first time I watched the movie Losing Isaiah. I cried throughout the movie, first for the plight of the birth mother (played by Halle Barry) in the abandonment of her new-born (already drug addicted) son, then for the plight of the white woman who adopted and in essence “saved” the child who had been thrown away into a garbage can. After some years the birth mother got “cleaned up,” found out her abandoned baby was alive, and then wanted her child back- a child who had solidly become a part of a white family. The movie centered around the issue of ethnicity in cross-cultural adoption (in this case white versus black). The birth mother's attorney believed that a black child should be with his black family, yet within the white home the point is made that in the eyes of the child, color is not what matters but love, a love that is given through the adoptive mother and the family. Though the issues raised by the movie were pointed and heart-wrenching, the movie offered up no real solution for the issue, ending with the child “divided” between both the birth mother and the adoptive mother.

Sadly, the church of Jesus Christ has also often been plagued by these same polar sides when it comes to looking at ethnicity within the church. On one side, churches tend to think that mono-ethnicity is best when it comes to worship, fellowship and church growth (it certainly is easiest!), and therefore the leadership and DNA of the church is made up of one singular ethnicity which expresses itself in both a preaching style and worship style that reflects that ethnicity and culture (even when the church is located completely within another ethnic group). Each different church, of course, views their own expression of worship and style as either “historical” (and thus a-cultural) or culturally inclusive, as opposed to viewing itself as intentionally mono-ethnic in its expression and thus culturally exclusive.

Often, churches that are “open” to different ethnicities attending their churches can not see beyond their own cultural bias for their own expression of the historic faith. If someone from a different ethnicity comes into that church, it is expected for that person to “conform” to the style of church/worship that forms the identity of the church, leaving that individual to either “yield” to the dominant worship and teaching expression or to leave and find a church with similar cultural expression (it is supposed in this situation that this person has had contact with a specific ethnic expression of Christianity as opposed to a “new” believer).

On the other side are churches that want to be multi-ethnic. They often seek to create a contemporary worship style that each individual ethnicity can rally around and more easily “conform” to. Often, these churches are made up of first generation Christians who are drawn to these churches, those who have not been a part of a church made up of their own unique ethnic expression. Unfortunately, the individual culture and expression that God has granted the various “ethnic” cultures are either lost or blurred within the newly created expression.

What is to be done by the church today in such a confusion of “models”? What is the way forward and what are the biblical and theological foundations to keep us on the right track? And what does all of this have to do with adoption and the doctrine of adoption...