Churches and the Dangerous Ministers of Multiculturalism
There's a danger in churches that embrace multiculturalism — rather than using truth to influence culture, they look to the culture to define truth.
Recently, a friend sent me a text after returning from church with his family. He had been a member of the congregation for two months and up to that point had been enjoying the sermons immensely. But then something strange happened that Sunday morning. One of the pastors, a young black man, decided to preach on the issue of race and criminal justice. My friend and his wife were so upset with the overtly leftist overtones in the message that they refused to take communion.
After getting the text, I placed a call to my friend to get some additional context. He described the sermon as one that endorsed the basic claims of Black Lives Matter without actually mentioning the group by name. I decided to follow up on the call by going to the church website to see if they had an article or blog post on the issue. Sure enough, they did. I read it and found two things that disturbed me enough to urge my friend to consider finding another church. I was also motivated to write a column warning readers about the dangers of similar churches.
The two specific problems I found on the church’s website were as follows: 1) The pastor claimed that the targeting of minorities for disparate treatment is an “undisputed fact” in our culture, and 2) The pastor described the church as one that aspired to be “multicultural.” The first of these two errors is minor. The second one is not. One cannot grasp fully the first error without a proper understanding of the second. Nonetheless, I will start with a critique of the first statement.
The claim that the targeting of minorities for “disparate treatment” within the criminal justice system is an “undisputed fact” suffers from only one flaw — namely that it is demonstrably false. The claim is disputed often, and rightly so. Within the context of police shootings of blacks, which was the specific context of the black pastor’s sermon, some basic statistical facts would cause any reasoned observer to reject the claim of disparate treatment.
It is true that blacks are disproportionately victims of police shootings. Although they are only 12% of the population, blacks constitute 25% of the victims of police shootings. But there is a pretty simple explanation for that: Blacks commit nearly half of the violent crimes in America.
All of that violent crime tends to bring the perpetrators into contact with the police. It is hardly disparate treatment to say that consequences are attached to the way you treat others. The black pastor may complain about how he “lives in fear” of being shot every time he is pulled over by a white officer. In reality, he has a much greater chance of being a victim of “disparate treatment” by another black man who wishes to kill him — sometimes merely for the “crime” of wearing the wrong colored shirt in the wrong part of town.
Given that black criminals commit nearly half of the violent crimes in America, one could say that the police are using considerable restraint with black suspects. After all, if only a quarter of the victims of fatal police shootings are black, and half of violent crimes are committed by black criminals, then they are actually under-represented as victims of police shootings.
Further, the data show that black criminals do not return the favor by showing a reciprocal level of restraint towards law enforcement officers. Consistent with their overall involvement in violent acts, black criminals are responsible for over 40% of the cop killings in America. It bears repeating: Blacks only make up 25% of the victims of police shootings, but black criminals are responsible for over 40% of the shootings of police.
It is now worth turning attention to the overarching question of why the pastor asserts that the targeting of minorities for disparate treatment within the criminal justice system in an “undisputed fact.” The answer to that question is pretty simple: It is because he’s the pastor of a “multicultural” church.
Multiculturalism doesn’t mean what you probably think it means. Every church is “multicultural” in the literal sense. Even the relatively homogeneous church of my youth was made up of people from different cultures. There was one black family and one Asian Indian family. There were also dozens of states and several regions represented in our congregation. Even though it was predominantly white it’s not as if people from other cultures were banned. All people were welcomed.
But that is not what “multicultural” means in the present context. When a pastor specifically claims that his church is “multicultural” and he infuses that term into the identity of the church it means something very different. It means that he is a truth denier and a slave to political correctness. Put simply, multiculturalism has come to mean an acceptance of cultural relativism. And that by necessity involves a rejection of the idea of absolute truth. Try squaring that with John 14:6.
In the final analysis, the multiculturalist does not care whether black men really are the victims of targeting by white cops. The multiculturalist only cares whether blacks perceive that they are victims of “disparate treatment.” If they say they are then his commitment to being “multicultural” obliges him to nod in agreement — or should I say nod in appeasement?
That is the problem with multicultural churches in general. They are not dedicated to using truth to influence culture. They are looking to the culture to define truth. It’s not the approach that was used by Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, it’s the polar opposite. But being a member of a “multicultural” church does have its advantages. It helps the follower’s self esteem and helps him retain popularity in “the community.”
In other words, it helps him claim to follow Jesus without risking cultural crucifixion.