What It Means to “Be In Christ”
Dr. Kenneth Young presented a compelling workshop called “What it Means to “Be In Christ” at the Do Justice Conference. Dr. Young is a systematic theologian at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul.
The workshop took an anthropological and sociological approach to looking at how the body of Christ is made up, and what it looks like when it is functioning for all people. Young began by identifying the trouble with multiculturalism. Young explained how most Christians have their priorities in the wrong order. Most Christians place family of origin and ethnicity as our primary source of identity.
“Being in Christ is a collective experience. We are caught in this individualistic look in Christianity and it limits God.”
Whereas “Sonship in Christ” is experienced as our secondary source of identity. Young pointed to how we rank our source of identity, as a large part of the problem for why multiculturalism doesn’t work in the church.
Young explained the complexities of different cultures and people that make up the body of Christ. One of the main focuses was on how European Americans have to be able to know their history and what makes up their culture. When European Americans think they do not have anything to bring to the table, they are often defensive and not able to accept what others bring to the table. Christians (especially European American Christians) need to get in touch with their history and their culture, which is hard work, in order to be able to be in Christ.
“What is stopping us from being multicultural in Christ?”
Instead Young focused on how the body of Christ is collective, and that everyone can come to the table and be in Christ without being threatened, because we are secure in Christ.
Young posed this question to the audience, “What is stopping us from being multicultural in Christ?” Explaining that he believes the main sin that is stopping us from multiculturalism is idolatry and putting ourselves higher than others. When European Americans do not understand who they are, they believe they are neutral and expect other cultures in Christ to assimilate to their culture, believing that is what it means to be in Christ. Although, Young emphasizes, this is not God’s intended vision for what it means to be in Christ.
Concluding the talk Dr. Kenneth Young explained that once European Americans are able to understand who they are and what they bring to the table, it creates an equal ground for all to approach. People can then recognize that the body of Christ is a collective combination of multiple cultures and everyone is allowed to bring their whole selves to the table without being threatened.
Recommended resource: The Trouble with Racial Reconciliation: Why John Perkins’ Theological Approach Works
“…the main sin that is stopping us from multiculturalism is idolatry and putting ourselves higher than others”
Takeaways from Workshop attendees:
“I like that he (Young) pulled in some sociological and anthropological concepts to help explain unity and disunity in those things instead of simply putting an out of context scripture reference in and saying Jesus will fix it. I wish more pastors were equipped to pull in what we learn from sociology and other disciplines in this work.”
Pastor Edrin C. Williams, Sanctuary Covenant Church
“I enjoyed that there was audience interaction and that Young adapted based on the group as any good instructor does and I think that made it unique.”
Jennifer Nordstrom, Northside Achievement Zone