Editor’s note: This is a post written by Daeshik Kim. Daeshik and I are in the process of trying to launch a collaborative blog/website/magazine/newsletter and it’s still in its developmental stage. We have an idea of what we want the medium to represent — it’s just a matter of getting all of our ducks in a row (can someone explain this saying to me?), like, is it a blog, website, magazine, newsletter..? And choosing a name that fits what we want to do. We have a name in mind, we just might not be able to purchase the domain. Apparently, Dae caught the writing bug and wanted a platform to share some of his thoughts. We hope to keep you updated when this project goes live. Dae was able to recruit some great writers with vast array of thoughts and writing styles. But until then, here’s Dae.
I started working for my University (a Christian one) in the Multi Ethnic programs about 3 months ago. The job itself has been great, working with students of color has always been a desire of mine. The one’s I particularly work with are the one’s who would have never imagined being at 4 year college. These students receive a special scholarship because our university sees something in them, even if that’s the first time anyone ever has (including themselves). Sounds like a pretty sweet, safe gig, right?
I’ve learned pretty quickly that nothing is sweet and safe in the world of higher ed. Within the three months I’ve worked there, I’ve seen lawyers and the mothers who’ve hired them due to outrageous hashtag movements, on-campus armed bank robberies, and best of all, Fox News. Yup, we as a mid-sized Christian university matter so much that we get to be on Fox News. Earlier this week our university chaplain stirred up some drama by announcing that our Veterans day service will not be conducting presenting of flags as well as singing (pledging?) the pledge of allegiance.
Full story here (well at least the Fox News angle).
I shared this story with one of my former pastors and his response probably resembles most of our responses.
“Who cares? It’s just one service, just do the presentation. There are bigger battles to fight”
To some degree I agree. Is it worth standing up for something that might get your school shut down?
Or at the very least, lose your job?
I started thinking about that and instantly imagined the pressure our Chaplain got from both sides.
To not present the flags due to the belief that we are not worshipping our country, flag, or traditions during our chapel service got Fox News the material it wanted.
To present the colors and pledge would probably have Huffington Post (or the Stranger) write a clever piece on how our idolizes and supports all violent activities ever committed. Either decision you go with you are confronted with protesters feeding the ears of eager journalist.
So why did the Pastor’s response sound so easy to do, but realistically impossible for a university chaplain? The answer is actually quite simple, he’s a pastor of a local church. A local church that resembles a lot of our local churches in the United States: comfortable sub-communities that isolate themselves from the rest of the world.
Most of our churches will probably call BS on that last sentence and proceed to show me their pictures of global mission trips and joint church services they’ve participated in.
However, no matter how many “extracurricular” activities we may have participated in, the Western local church has done a successful job creating a mini community that consist within the church’s campus.
I believe that it’s a safe bet that too many of our churches won’t even know the names of the families who own homes next to their campuses.
The major benefit I have come to realize in establishing an isolated community within a community is that you can actually say “Who cares?”.
You can say statements like, “It’s just one service”.
Most of our congregations probably are like-minded or on their way out because they are not.
The church has devolved into a safe-haven where you have the privilege to choose what you want to talk about and what you want to fight for. We can have every opportunity to “pick your battles”.
The reason why this won’t fly at a University level is that no matter how hard you try, you cannot fully isolate yourselves and create that small absent community as a university. I’m sure the effort is there with creating school culture, establishing nicknames, and preaching school pride. But every decision that a university makes, it will affect the community at large. So for my chaplain, you cannot just choose not to fight.
My first reaction to all of this is to never go into Chaplaincy, especially for a school. I’d rather sit in that privilege of being able to choose what my church feels comfortable addressing.
But the more I thought about this, I started to see how problematic that this line of thinking can be.
I feel that that we, as a church, may have lost the need to fight for anything — except one another when it comes to local church business matters. Most of the dramas within our churches are because we can’t agree how we should spend X amount of money on X ministry/program or we fight amongst our Christian circles making mountains out of molehills because Starbucks introduced plain red cups so they’re waging a war on Christmas and we get more worked up on this “war” on Christmas over an actual war taking place in Syria.
We aren’t wrestling with #blacklivesmatter (or worse, don’t understand the need to).
We aren’t addressing different laws that are being passed that continue to oppress the vulnerable.
We are far more comfortable (even choosing to be comfortable) putting distance between ourselves and the things that are happening in the world. The refugee crisis is not our problem because it’s thousands of miles away. I can choose to ignore it or I can choose to show how much I’m affected by it by posting on social media, “My thoughts and prayers are with the Syrian Refugees.” I’m not saying that’s wrong. Our prayers and thoughts should be with them. But something is missing when that’s all that we do.
Something is lacking when we’re just comfortable hash tagging things in the comfort of coffee stores with our toasty Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
Sure you can say to me, “Hey, it’s better than nothing.” But I don’t think that’s what the Gospel is about: it’s better than nothing.
If we, as the church, are going to start caring about these things, we need to start by being a part of the community; being involved in the community; by meeting our neighbors where they are; interacting with them, establishing relationships with them.
But that leap is scary, uncomfortable, and unsafe. It’s also very unpopular.
And those words tends to be the furthest from our minds, visions, thoughts, and prayers when it comes to our modern American Church.