One of my favorite work responsibilities is visiting one-on-one with our board members. Last week in Miami I met with a Haitian pastor and local board member. Our conversation moved freely from family matters to church work to local theology. Near the end of our time together we started discussing cultural realities in Miami. For him what is happening in Miami is a precursor to what the rest of the country will face in the coming years.
In his words Miami is a city with a disappearing majority culture. Only 18% of the population is Anglo. All by itself this is a fascinating statistic. What is even more interesting and to be honest, somewhat alarming, is reality is impacting Anglo churches. As Anglo churches have lost influence and power they have become more theologically conservative and much less interested in having anything to do with people of faith who believe differently. In their minds any church group that doesn’t see the world exactly the same as they see the world should be viewed as unsafe, too liberal and probably not Christian.
I walked away from the conversation hoping his assessment was wrong. The more that I reflect on our time together the more I suspect that his conclusion is correct. As the Anglo church losses its influence and power rather than embrace a new reality, it seems to be entrenching itself in a strange form of conservative theology that leaves no space for other perspectives.
When the church moves towards a fear-based, you’re-going-to-hell theology, everyone loses. Conservative theology and politics share a cut and dried vision of the world – you are either with us or against us. Slogans like “no-compromise” and “stick to your guns” energize these folks. From a certain perspective these sounds good. The problem is that it is not a sustainable way to live or believe.
If the disappearing majority culture (Anglo) is going to survive and thrive it will only come through a willingness to engage people, beliefs and politics that are different. This is not easy or simple. Recognizing that a belief or understanding is wrong looks a lot like flip-flopping or compromising on the issue. Developing the courage to compromise requires humility, love, faith and hope. You might even say that compromise is the most Christian thing any of us can do. When this happens we will not have to mourn the disappearing majority culture but rather celebrate the in-breaking of the kingdom of God.