“Multiethnic reconciliation is all too rare in mainstream culture and the church,” says the introduction to the article Our Transnational Anthem in the August issue of Christianity Today. The article is written by Orlando Crespo, the director of La Fe, InterVarsity’s ministry with Hispanic students. It encourages believers to develop a clearer biblical understanding of ethnicity.
Christianity Today chose Orlando to focus on ethnicity in response to the question that drives its Christian Vision Project, “How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?” Commenting on the uproar that developed over the recent popularization of a Spanish language version of our national anthem, Orlando asserts that ethnicity is not a mistake but “a result of God’s creative intent.”
He suggests that followers of Christ who attempt to be colorblind lack appreciation of God’s creative cultural diversity. “If God begins with a cultural mandate for us to fill the earth, doing so by means of the rich diversity of ethnicities and cultures, and if Scripture ends with all ethnic groups worshiping God, then living a vibrant ethnic life in the here and now is something deeply blessed by God,” he writes.
He notes that the ethnicities of some of the Bible’s key personalities were crucial to God’s plan for his people, such as Moses (Hebrew-Egyptian-Midianite), Mordecai and Esther (Persian Israelites), and Paul (a Jewish Roman citizen). And he observes that Pentecost affirms the value of every culture and language.
When he wrote i>Being Latino in Christ, an InterVarsity Press book, Orlando said that coming to terms with his own ethnic journey had made him a better follower of Christ. “Many are missing out on this area of their lives because they think Christianity is a-cultural,” he says. “Our ethnic identity does not have to compete with our faith; it enriches our faith because it is part of God’s plan for our lives.”
In the article he encourages white American Christians to develop a deeper sense of their own ethnic heritage and identity and to become more committed to ethnic engagement with others. In so doing they can avoid a common affliction of those “who have become aware of the history of white privilege in America: immobilization by shame, guilt or apathy.”
Orlando also asserts that being a white American Christian is not an ethnic handicap. “White identity is invisible until it engages actively with other cultures and discovers what other cultures are reacting to and why,” he writes. “So it is essential for whites to enter into real relationships and partnerships with non-whites, even to the point of feeling out of place.”
The editors of Christianity Today note that InterVarsity is “an evangelical organization that has gone farther than most in living out the biblical example of interracial partnership on America’s university campuses.” One of InterVarsity’s core commitments is Ethnic Reconciliation and Justice.
The article has now been posted online. Click here to read the article.