September is always "new books month" in non-fiction -- the time when publishers trot out their heavy-hitters for the fall season. So this month, I'll have several guest blog posts from authors, including this one by megachurch pastor David Ireland. His new book The Skin You Live in: Building Friendships Across Cultural Lines (which, can I just say, has one of the coolest book covers of the season) aims to teach Christians to think multiculturally.
That multiculturalism includes politics, where many of us -- and I count myself in this group -- can be blinded by our partisan prejudices to the larger theological and ethical issues involved when we cast our vote. It goes beyond political correctness to get to the heart of who Jesus was. --JKR
"Our Next President: A Cross-Cultural Ambassador?"
by David D. Ireland, Ph.D.
Suppose we choose our next president on the merits of being cross-cultural?
Consider the office of president as that of a cross-cultural ambassador. Generally, the role of ambassadors is threefold: they represent our nation’s interests, are respectful of the position of the country to which they’ve been sent, and maintain healthy connections with members of their assigned countries to maximize home-court goals.
Thus, it behooves our next ambassador…I mean president—be it Mitt Romney or Barack Obama—to be cross-cultural.
Why? Because the three functions of ambassadors are identical to the biblical requirement God places on His servants.
Paul says: “And he [God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:19-20). Therefore, one of God’s main interests is peacemaking and reconciliation. Our next president must uphold these values.
Reconciliation encompasses the social and harmonious interactions between members of different races, cultures, and even political ideologies. Since God’s servants are to be cross-cultural ambassadors, shouldn’t public servants be held to the same standard?
1. The president must represent God’s view of diversity.
To reflect God’s view of other races our next president must embrace an enduring definition of multiculturalism. James Breckenridge—a professor of systematic theology at Oral Roberts University—defines multiculturalism as respect for diversity, concern for various cultural groups, provision of equal opportunities, and the requirement for a just balance of power among the many groups that constitute the United States . Clearly, this definition supports the golden rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Our next president should practice this rule in his public and private life.
2. The president must respect the views of others.
To actualize the biblical cross-cultural view toward others our next president must live above the mundane view of being politically correct or tolerant. On the surface, these ideologies promote fair treatment of others, but they deceptively allow inequities to exist—especially in areas like pay scales of women and minorities. There is no way one can respect the views of others while sitting idly by as they are financially and vocationally short-changed. The president’s role is to represent the people, be a voice for the people, fight the people’s enemies, and provide opportunities for the people. An unwillingness to reach across all aisles—Republican, Democratic, or ethnic aisles—demonstrates a breach of one’s ambassadorial function.
This kind of insensitivity shows that many so-called people of faith still live by an inappropriate definition of multiculturalism. As Jesus taught, multicultural practices should be wholeheartedly embraced by society on the merits of justice, ethics, and love (1 John 2:9-10).
3. Our next president must maintain a healthy connection to the American mosaic.
The only way our next president can avoid the snare of tolerance is by applying love to every American; in the same way God demands that His servants apply love to all of humanity. Jesus’ mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself” is applicable to every area of society. The practical outworking of love is demonstrated by championing equity in immigration standards, job opportunities, education, and housing. Loving your neighbor as yourself is also expressed by funding opportunities aimed at balancing the locus of power and authority within our society.
When you cast your vote in November, consider not only the candidates’ promises to improve the economy, protect the middle class, and cut taxes—all important issues—but also ask yourself which presidential hopeful fulfills the requirements of a cross-cultural ambassador.
David D. Ireland, Ph.D., is the author of The Skin You Live In: Building Friendships Across Cultural Lines and senior pastor of the 7,000-member Christ Church in New Jersey.