As I am weaving together the principles that describe Political Jesus, I see how theological openness and nonviolent politics are connected, and how both intersect with this next principle, Cultural Intelligence. A commitment to theological openness (relationality+honesty) means that, as persons committed to a personal God, we have a duty to discuss all relationships. Since anti-racism is very much a part of nonviolent politics, Cultural Intelligence must be seen as a defining value in this space.
Also pejoratively mocked at “political correctness,” the quest to attain cultural intelligence is an on-going process for all persons. As a Christian, I understand Christ Jesus as the best Teacher of anti-racist praxis, the Person who defined justice for us, and the One who establishes the norms by which we are to be reconciled across cultural boundaries. Just as main-liners and post-evangelicals make that people just turned off by “hellfire and brimstone sermons,” a number of Christians do not like to read or hear about Christianity’s race problem. In fact, they would probably prefer the former. The fact is, studies are now showing now more than ever, that U.S. American Christians of various cultural backgrounds believe in “separate but equal” as a way of life. In short, Christians are resisting the Kingdom of God, the worship service at the New Creation where every nation, tribe, tongue, and people group are praising our King Jesus.
While these realities can seem intimidating, there is hope, but that’s the thing about hope. Once a person catches hope, she catches something that places herself in conflict with the world. So people can be filled with hope that in their enthusiasm, they can be labelled as “angry” and “impatient” by others. One of the things I have learned from other writers and my friends is that if Christian anti-racism is a part of Christian discipleship, justice and hope must be valued equally. Not only are Christians empowered to redemptively use the sciences of this world to combat the practices and institutions that divide us, but also in following Christ, we must start to faithfully live out the Kingdom in the here and now.
If a congregation is to apply Cultural Intelligence, it will have many implications for evangelism, missions, discipleship. It starts with a self-awareness, but it cannot stop there. We can’t say hey, we’re a Star Wars Church, we shall stay Star Wars church only for geeks and blerds. No. No no no no no. This is not what Jesus demands of us with the Great Commission. The Body of Christ is not to be a country club where people gather to share in their special interests (cultural particularities). If we just remain stuck in self-awareness mode, we are probably going to end up in the idolatrous territory of self-glorification. As Soong Chan-Rah argues in Many Colors:
Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, “By engaging in relationships across the cultural divide and learning from others, we create the possibility of expanding our cultural worldview.” It is this expansion of our worldview that is the creation of space within ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to move. This space creation has a biblical term; it is called repentance. A people of repentance will not be simply guilt-ridden persons who offer apologies after wronging offended parties. Rather the truly penitent work to do better, to change actual practices for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Cultural intelligence involves the hard work of keeping vigilant; since it is a life-long process we can choose to grow through. It means understanding the complexity of culture, power dynamics, the power of words, as well as the power of just being present and listening to others. Pastoral theologian Emmanuel Lartey developed a term I have found most useful, that of interculturality. (for more, see Lartey’s In Living Color: An Intercultural Approach to Pastoral Care and Counseling, specifically the first 2 chapters). Where as cross-cultural and multi-cultural approaches to reconciliation and justice assume conflict and natural, irreconcilable difference, interculturality values the diversity of human experience found in possible universal, culturally-specific, and individual uniqueness. The assumption is quite Trinitarian in nature where every human person is 1. Like All Others 2. Like Some Others 3. Like No Other. And just like that, I have moved back into theological openness; from my point of view, an intercultural theology is necessarily trinitarian, reflecting the glory of our Triune Creator.