Be more than surface level

Be more than surface level
written by Morgan Chitwood

There’s more depth to diversity than an annual missions trip

More and more people today are realizing the value in being culturally intelligent, yet one might wonder if we are truly experiencing diversity the way Jesus desires for us to experience it, even here on campus.

For example, one might say that they love Mexican culture, yet their only follow-up comment is “Mexican food is great.” Others may say that they have an understanding of another race because they have that one token friend or they went on a global mission trip. All of this is only touching the surface of learning and understanding culture.

In Hall’s Iceberg Model of Culture, only around 10 percent of the “culture iceberg” is exposed. This portion is the observable part of culture such as dress, food, languages, and festivals; the external parts. However, people are more than just surface level and are packed with values, beliefs, perceptions, assumptions, etc.; the internal parts. Whether we are talking about an ethnic group or a local subculture, as Christians, we are called to move past the external tip of the iceberg and dig deep into the internal parts and I have had to discover what that looks like in my own life and the positions of leadership I have been given.

I got hit with reality at a young age when my dad told me that if I was to truly become culturally aware, the composition of my closest friends needed to reflect this desire. Unfortunately, this was not reflected in my “culturally aware” friends, which were majority white and whose time was spent among those of equal socioeconomic means and in comfortable, safe environments (for them, white areas). I learned that if I have a love for culture, it doesn’t need to be proved to others by going overseas. In fact, my impact could be much more beneficial to create meaningful, substantial, and diverse relationships within my own community here in the U.S.

In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul was visiting the church in Antioch when he found out that one of the apostles, Peter, was being prejudiced toward people of a different race and nationality. Peter ate with the Gentile Christians but when James and other disciples who were “the circumcised” showed up, Peter abandoned his Gentile Christian friends for fear that he would be associated with them.

Every year, hundreds of minority students leave Christian universities, including North Central, because of their negative on-campus experiences. Many of these students leave feeling unnoticed, unvalued, disrespected, and misunderstood, excluded. Not only do these students leave the institutions, sadly many of them also walk away from their faith.

As a leader with Mosaic, the North Central multicultural student association, I encourage you to intentionally branch out from your comfort zone and to create a community of friends varying in color, class, and location. Don’t simply remain on the tip of the iceberg — but be submerged underwater. Throughout Scripture, Jesus emphasizes that it is through our unity as believers that we will show to the world that Jesus is Lord (John 4:1-15; 13:34-35; 17:20-26). How can this be accomplished when the very group of people who are called to unity are turn- ing others away from Christ because of their disunity?

We are called to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5). Don’t go all the way to another nation just to take a picture with an international child to share on social media and then continue living comfortably in the North Central community that resembles you. Instead, when you go to other nations, go into our city, go across the street, and go across your dorm hallway, not with a mission to save but with a mission to listen and to learn from diversity. Living a life that reflects the beauty and the diversity of God’s creation will shape you, your faith, your perspective, and perhaps even your direction.