Tag Archives: ethnic diversity

Missional churches should establish schools

I whole-heartedly agree with the proposition that churches in the inner city should start schools. Upper/middle class people have as one of their highest priorities education for their children precisely in order to establish them in a lifestyle that is not poverty-stricken, so obviously this should be a high priority to share.

What should happen next is a search for a workable model. If instead, as has happened here, possible directions are foreclosed based on the same thinking that contributes to the existing situation, then progress is difficult. Old liberal saws, as correct as they might be about locating the problem counterintuitively in reproduction of the class structure, do not contribute to solving the problem in real-time with minority or inner city people. That story might help correct the problem at the school board but not in the ‘hood. The question is then, what works in the ‘hood. The problem will be solved only WITH the people.

What works is the nexus of a robust faith with real scholarship in developmentally appropriate ways, and a little capital. Surprisingly, CDCs and schools are profit centers in many inner city churches and support the aging white congregation! And note, pulling a community out of poverty requires more than reason.

Examples: Word of Faith Christian Center in Detroit for years had a school that worked. BTW, it didn’t depend upon giving from some moribund white denomination. I was a Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister serving in Detroit MSA but I have no success stories from that mileu. Liberalism is itself tinged with racism, as you will hear from Black intellectuals. If go around the country I think you will find the same thing. Black leaders formulate pride, use evangelicalism, and raise a community. The liberal, mainline churches, ineffective in so many ways, at best reproduce pockets of elitism rather than true mission.

Go right ahead and hate evangelical discipline or prosperity message that gives people a framework for believing they don’t have to be poor no more, but to do so will shut down your avenues of progress.

Coming into my freshman college class even the middle class white students from better public schools are grossly un-prepared for college work. Worse, some of the minority students are so un-prepared for the social milieu that they come to only a few classes before they drop out or are referred to the police. There is a much bigger problem here than only academics or only racism. There is a fundamental problem of inability of most people to see the problem – in 3D.

The church needs to have a real faith or else it’s mission is awfully wan. Sweet subtleties and the consensus against any moral stricture required in an upper middle class context of competing spiritual traditions is NOT what will work in the ghetto were survival from gunshot wound is the first priority of young people, and the second is some compass of hope. Real faith communicating clear gospel good news and a straight path.

That becomes a real foundation for a real life, and then we can get onto vocation and thus scholarship. That may be too simple for some, but that is what will work, has worked.

Honoring diversity — really

What was I saying about liberal concern being a bit self-absorbed?

I went to a presentation by the Downtown Austin Alliance, whose mission is to improve property values. They do this by asking downtown businesses to pay an extra tax and then providing extra security and clean-up.

A question came why this group did not take in the neighborhood east of IH35, (traditionally a minority neighborhood), closing with an accusation of racism.

The response was that the people in that neighborhood were typically unhappy with rising property values. Their concern is to keep gentrification out. The answer could have been also that that is and has always been an established Hispanic business district, mixed with homes, and the leadership there has no interest in being subsumed into “downtown.” The answer could have been, why ask them to pay extra tax for something they most certainly don’t want.

The response could not have been an answer to the charge of racism, but the judgement of the audience might have been in that area. It is all well and good to be sensitive to issues of equality, fairness, justice, and diversity. However, hurling around charges of racism is probably the reverse of helpful.