The Red Couch: Disunity in Christ Discussion


To learn more about “Disunity in Christ,” please read the introductory post. Don’t forget to peruse The Nightstand, which contains resources for those wanting to read more on the topic.


I read a lot. Diverse authors and loads of contradictory perspectives swell from my bloated bookshelves. Some I agree with, some I disagree with, some make me think so hard I’m not sure where I land but often I read nonfiction books nodding agreeably with the passages that reinforce what I already think, scratching notes in the margins of things I disagree with.

Sometimes I love how the language plays, rolling off the page like sticky syrup, words, concepts, and images trapped in my mind.

Often though, I’ll read books and think of someone else who would really benefit from reading it. And usually it’s not because I think they’ll find the words pleasurable. It’s because I think they’re ignorant and uninformed and if only they read this, then they’d really understand. It’s because I think they’ve got it all wrong.

I want to believe I have an open mind but I always scan new books first to see who endorsed it. The church has camps and the Christian publishing industry is no exception. I like to think myself open-minded because I’d read it regardless of my prejudices but I can’t deny they exist. I can’t deny that sometimes I crack the cover of a book knowing I’m going in looking for those red flags that prove they’re not like me, not like the real church, not like Jesus.

The irony is I long for reconciliation and diversity within the church. So maybe it was arrogance to think that Christena Cleveland’s book Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart would be a great read to recommend to others, but as I read on, I realized that my response isn’t so unique.

We often bypass the need to assess our own biases and preferential treatment of our group ideologies in favor of an “us” versus “them” mentality. My desire was to have others read it, others who don’t seem to make any effort to relate cross-culturally, others I have lumped into one collective group. I didn’t want to apply those same standards of evaluation to the areas of my life where I do the very same thing. And this is exactly what Christena is getting at.

Outgroup homogeneity, or categorizing everyone on the outside of your specific group as the same, is a huge barrier to loving well across cross-cultural differences (p. 51). Cleveland digs into many of the ways we knowingly and unknowingly cling to our cultural perceptions, biases, and group mentalities that further divide the body of Christ. As a social psychologist, she taps into the roots of our division. Not only do we categorize those outside of our group as different than us, and all the same as each other, we categorize ourselves as better, something Cleveland calls “the gold standard effect.” (p. 70)

As I read, I kept thinking of all the groups, people, cultures that have excluded and marginalized me. Of being a third-culture missionary kid at the throat of the Himalayas. Scraping dahl and rice into my mouth with my tiny hands, squatting to go to the bathroom, and living with the watery sway of rice fields on the horizon, I had no idea that Nepal wasn’t home until we came back to America. But when we came home, our former way of life no longer fit. Our experiences in the American church left us confused, frustrated, and eventually bitter.

I was the girl whose parents had snagged an old run down bargain house in an upper middle class neighborhood where the white neighbor kids wore designer labels and I lurked shame faced in hand-me-downs and Goodwill bargains before grunge was in. I remember “ching chong China girl” being chanted at me on the playground as they pulled their blue eyes into a grotesque slant. I remember being one of the only Asian girls in a sea of white faces, throughout school, in church, at blogging conferences.

They were the white girls in ankle booties and skinny jeans, with their organic almond milk lattes and Instagrams filled with pearly white-teethed children lined artistically and filtered in golden light. They were the ones whose homes looked like Anthropologie  and Pottery Barn and all things affluent. They were the vacuous and pretty Christians comfortable in suburbia in their monocultural churches, messing about with tidy theology, a good health plan and a 401K. I couldn’t imagine they would get me at all, or want to.

And I was positive they had nothing to offer me if they did.

I remember my Korean roommate in college prattling on in her native tongue and I realized I am too white, too mixed, too other for them also.  I had no idea what they were saying, and their prayer meetings that would go on for hours at a time, below the knee length skirts and peter pan collared shirts were as foreign to me as the words they spoke. And when they fermented kim chee in the fridge, the pungent smell floating out and permeating our entire apartment, my white roommates would gag and plug their noses and comment about how gross their food was while opening windows and flipping on the fan in disgust. And I was so glad they didn’t lump me in with that kind of Korean, even though I loved kim chee my entire childhood.

I didn’t want to be seen as less than or weird, something Cleveland mentions when she speaks of “cutting off reflected failure” or CORFing. (p. 89) We try to maintain and balance our self-esteem by associating with groups we find comfortable and affirming of our identity as well as those we see as higher status while shunning or disparaging groups we see as lower status.

I hated that I never seemed to fully belong.

So I hung on to the belief that I was special and different and so very misunderstood and everyone else was the same and therefore easily dismissed.

In an attempt to escape judgment and rejection from others, distancing myself from groups and making them a sea of white faces or Korean faces or any other kind of face helped. They were a bodiless blur, a mirage of sorts, and no one was an actual person. And the more I pulled back the more my biases were reinforced and solidified.

I still do it. More than I care to admit. I can name my prejudices, that visceral response to clusters and pockets of society. That tendency to want to say, that’s just like them to do that and think that and be that. That moral superiority that comes from thinking I get it and they don’t.

I feel it in the city I live in, in the blogging community where I write,  in the homeschool community I belong to and the church I love. I carry it with me.

Admitting we’ve got work to do in the body of Christ is such a monumental step to having unity in the church and part of that is recognizing and naming the ways we divide and then doing the hard work of digging up the hidden things that break unity.

Halfway through the book, I began thinking less of who needed to read this book and more about the things I needed to confess. I started thinking of the people who have broken through my stereotypes and prejudices because they have names and stories and I now call them friends. I think of the ways I’ve learned from them and how I cherish those relationships. How they show me a little bit more of Jesus.

I started thinking of all the ways we see each other when we truly stop to look.

Questions to Consider:

  • Do you see ways in which outgroup homogeneity (“we are unique, they are all the same”) affects how we make assumptions about people? When have you had unfair assumptions made about you?
  • Do you think it’s easier to focus on differences rather than similarities in cross-cultural settings?
  • In which groups do you tend to focus more on similarities and which groups do you tend to focus primarily on differences?
  • Have you ever associated with a group because of the status you might receive being a part of it? Have you ever dumped a group because you felt they were making you look bad?  Do you think BIRGing (basking in reflected glory) or CORFing (cutting off reflected failure) are factors in who you’re more likely to associate with?
  • Cleveland gives examples of wrong Christian and right Christian and her realization that her right Christian looks and acts and believes exactly like her. Do you think there is such a thing as right Christian and wrong Christian on the basis of theology, orthodoxy, or orthopraxy? If so, what are the things that make us unified in Christ?
  • Have you ever believed your group was fundamentally right or the best? How did that make you feel? How did that affect how you saw other groups?
  • How does dominant majority culture contribute to the ways we see minority cultures and how does that power differential affect how we live out the gospel to marginalized people?
  • What else stood out to you from the book?


Our February book is The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan. Come back Wednesday, Feb. 4 for the introduction to the book. The discussion post will be Wednesday, Feb. 25. We’ll also be announcing the Second Quarter Books on Wednesday, Feb. 18. For ongoing discussion each month, join The Red Couch Facebook group.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Alia Joy
I’m the daughter of both a book lover and a storyteller and in that I was destined to be a writer. I collect words at, dance to the good songs, and believe even the most broken stories have a redeemer. I live in Central Oregon with my husband, my tiny Asian mother, my three kids, a bunny, and a bunch of chickens. Sushi is my love language and I balance my cynical idealism with humor and awkward pauses.
Alia Joy
Alia Joy

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  1. Thank you for sharing this Alia. Cleveland’s book definitely had some
    convicting parts for me as well. I completely identify with the
    transition from calling out people who in my mind who should read this
    book and then realizing that I was exactly one of those. The idea of
    outgroup homogeneity and the wrong Christian and right Christian is what
    has stuck with me. I have been living that some lately after moving
    from a larger city to a much smaller conservative town. Trying to find a
    church home and then building relationships here has challenged both
    those ideas. Cleveland’s writing gave words to different emotions and
    situations I have found myself struggling with and helped to realign my
    vision to the body of Christ as a whole as opposed to people who
    believed and acted similarly enough to me.

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    Dear Alia,

    It seems upon closer perusal of this post and the one to which you linked that perhaps I’ve jumped in on a book discussion; but as a new reader to She Loves Mag and one who has so loved your writing in other posts, I felt it might be ok to say a little hello and a great, big thank you for such a transparent, sometimes painful, and deeply insightful post. First, I am so terribly suffered for the pain you have wrongfully endured. I can’t begin to fathom it. I’m so, so sorry. Second, I live in St. Louis (of which the suburb Ferguson is a part), so disunity in Christ has been much on my heart and mind. Similarly to what you have discovered when you began reading Cleveland’s book, I have presumed that Ferguson is not about me. But upon much closer examination of the dark crevices of my own heart, I realize it is. Because, after all, I’ve had Black friends (I’ve had friends from other ethnicities as well, but mention this because of the particular people tension and divide which Ferguson represents)…..after all, because I’ve had dear Black friends, actually, I didn’t think prejudice applied to me. But sad to say, if I’m honest deep down in those deep, dark crevices which the Lord is exposing, I am. And it’s an ugly sight, Alia. And I don’t like what I am seeing. Cleveland’s book has been eye-opening for you (and I must read it!) just as John Piper’s Bloodlines has been recently for me. He approaches prejudice from a Biblical perspective, and there is simply no room for this evil in the Body of Christ–the Bride of Christ, the Church. Jesus laid down His life for people of every “tribe and nation.”
    As a European American, in the ethnic majority (at this time) in America, I have not experienced the kind of vicious, mean-spirited treatment that you have. I am so, so sorry for this. I have experienced a little vicariously, as I sit and listen and lament with my half-Hispanic niece who suffered such ugly discrimination in school. She has felt as if she has never completely fit in anywhere. She’s not White enough to feel White and not Mexican enough to feel Mexican. I don’t know how to help but to love her as completely as I know how. I, myself, have gotten some small taste of being on the outside, when I worked as a minority White in the inner city with mostly Blacks for four years, lived in mosty Black neighborhoods for a # of years, and also, say, if I express a spiritual or political view unlike those I am around. Actually, that happened not too long ago when I responded to a blog. The author, based on the assumptions *he* made from reading my reply, pigeon-holed me into what he classified as right-wing conservative. I’m far more complicated than that simplistic designation. And isn’t that the bottomline? We are NOT our ethnicity, our race, our gender, our intellect, our worldview, our status, our income, our neighborhood, our denomination, our appearance, our taste in clothing (or in my case artificial hair color!!). We are unique, God-made individuals made in our Creator’s image, fully worthy of respect and dignity, because He made and loves us, and because He gave His very Son to die for us. And if our creative, Creator-God loves diversity, then so must we. And I am realizing that while discernment can be a good thing, judgmentalism (and rush “surface” judgments) are most assuredly NOT. You can’t tell a book by its cover. And you can’t tell the contents of a book if you don’t take the time to sit down with it, read its pages, and savor its words. I want my life to be an open book. And if that is so, I need to be willing to sit and “read” others as well. I think I may be starting to ramble, and I need to run, but not without thanking you again for sharing such a wonderful, heartfelt post….and to be willing to write about your life and all you are learning. May the Lord richly bless you, Alia, as you continue to share His truths so transparently.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      Thanks for jumping in Lynn. It’s great to have you here. Yes, you should absolutely read this book. It’s been hugely eye opening and convicting because I often thought I was on the “right” side of these issues, being open minded, slow to judge, discerning etc. But truly, there are dark and hidden things in us all, and in some people they’re just so much more evident, which makes it easy to say we’re not like that. But I’ve been pigeon holed too and yet I’ve done it with ease when categorizing others. Sometimes I think my biases are well deserved because they’ve earned it with their ignorance. But I often take the weakest argument from another camp and use it as a justification to write off the whole group. I’m coming to terms with the ways I’ve done this/ do this confessing how prideful I can be.
      I think it’s interesting how Ferguson has made you reevaluate your own prejudices. Ones you didn’t even know you have. I think in many ways it’s a wake up call to so many people because it disrupts our ability to keep these issues off of our newsfeeds, out of our line of sight. We have to willfully ignore them or justify them or embrace the fact that we may not see the full picture because of our own biases and lean in to really listen to the pain our fellow brothers and sisters feel. Either way, it displaces us if we allow it to. I pray it will be a catalyst for so much more reconciliation in the church.

  3. Sandy Hay says:

    Alia, your discussion is terrific. Our backgrounds are so different and you fill in gaps in my understanding that are most important. thank you. Now…In my past huge assumptions were made and probably still are between military officers and enlisted personal. And then further in the US Air Force between pilots and nonpilots. and so because I had friends among both groups, the rumors did fly. I think at first differences are the focus. But I have learned having traveled lots of the world, that I’ve had to take a deep breath and get over that fast. Because of my life experiences, I now notice more when I’m in a homogeneous group. i don’t think the same anymore . I don’t notice the same anymore. …. I definitely wanted to be associated with a group of the “in” crowd in high school….many years ago. And eventually once I knew more who I was and more importantly who I was in Christ, that didn’t seem important. Not that I haven’t tried this again through the years but more importantly I realized what I was trying to do and stopped…… i have come down to the conclusion that my faith in Christ and others’ faith in Christ might never look the same. Bottom line, Jesus loves me this I know, all the children of the world . ……. Of course I’ve been in a church or two and I was positive we had “it”, whatever “it” was I doubt if I could verbalize. My husband is positive that his way of seeking Truth is of a much higher level than any church . So I live with this (46 years of it). ……. All we have to do is read the headlines in any 1st world newspaper and we can readily see how this dominant majority culture pushes its agenda for or against minority cultures, depending on which puts them in the best light. Sad….. A quote i’ve come back to is on page 18, “a good friendship involves a healthy tension in which the friends challenge and encourage each other .to draw closer to the heart of God. Each friend uses her strength to help the other friend grow stronger. Friends who share their different ideas about faith and life can help us to avoid some of the nasty effects of group polarization…Essentially, they draw us out of our own world…”.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      I’ve never really thought of the dividing lines in the military because I’m not at all familiar with it myself. I do think you’re onto something so important that Disunity in Christ covers, how when you are aware of of what you’re doing, you can stop it. I think so much of the reason we are divided is that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. So much of our bias goes unspoken and unchecked. Yes! I love that quote. I think of the people God uses to draw me out of my world. I’m so thankful for them.

  4. One of the things trying to be diverse taught me is that people from different cultures are in fact different. I mean, we all want love, security, and happiness. But I stopped trying to place people inside of the western viewpoint. So I think seeing how people are different is easier. But I am trying, not succeeding a lot, but trying to just accept those differences without judgment. That’s hard.

  5. I feel like I have too visceral of an emotional response to write a coherent comment here. I just…feel the pain in your words and story. I think I need to dig back to my earlier experiences of being a minority in an almost all white Christian college and seek some healing. Thank you for your words.

    • Oh, Cindy. I’m so sorry to hear this has brought up pain for you. Praying peace over you right now. We are glad you are here.

      • Thank you Leigh! Sorry, I didn’t mean to unload some baggage here in the comment section. Alia’s description of being the only Asian girl in a sea of white faces triggered something.

        But to make this not all about me, ahem, here are some thoughts. I have lived cross culturally my entire life, and have observed that people long to connect and therefore capitalize eagerly on similarities. However, much of those similarities are PERCEIVED and not real. Both sides will do this, and a relationship builds on fundamental misunderstandings. It will work well for a while, but sooner or later, either a conflict will brew, or one dominant party subsumes the other. I’ve since come to the conclusion it is far more helpful to ASSUME differences, instead of seeking after similarities. Our longing to belong and connect must be based not on homogeneity but a shared vulnerability.

        • I’ve experienced that. It’s funny. In college, I always tried to put myself in situations where I was the only one. And for a year, I served in the Vietnamese community. And trying to minimize their differences to fit my perspective was not making me more open-minded. And we did end up having conflict. A year later, I also found myself surrounded by people from the Middle East and India, mostly Muslims. By then I had learned a lot, but I still felt myself questioning, “Why are the women always separated from the men?” or “Why is there no alcohol?” It’s so better just to accept and love the differences.

          • Alia_Joy says:

            I love your perspectives about relating cross culturally and accepting differences as inevitable and therefore accepting it without trying to make it fit your own cultural ideas. I do wonder if they way we share vulnerability across cultures is also different.How do we get to that point where we assume differences and don’t find them offensive or inferior to our way of doing things?
            Do you think it’s easier to accept differences when they are cultural/race oriented/nationalistic rather than ideologies because we assume that Indians or Asians or Middle Eastern customs and culture are just a different way of doing things but not necessarily wrong whereas political or theological difference within Christendom have a definite right/wrong Christian feel?
            I know many people who would be horrified by offending another culture and tip toe around those differences trying to be sensitive and not appear racist but would think nothing of tearing apart someone who chooses to think differently, believe differently, practice their Christian faith differently. Is there a difference?

          • Thanks for the questions. I think they are really complex, and would love to know your answers. I can only speak from personal experience, but I can definitely say views on love and how we define it, are different across cultures. And so I am willing to say how we would show vulnerability and openness would be different.
            Getting to the point of assuming differences just comes with time. I found the biggest mistake I made in those past situations was not listening enough and seeking to understand enough. Yet the more I put myself in those situations, and took the time to think about my behavior, the better at accepting people’s differences I became. I also find remembering to see the person as just another human helps.
            I definitely think for some it’s harder to accept differences within Christendom. The way we communicate with God and how we view him is so apart of how we view ourselves. To me, people take it so personally if you insult their view of God, you might as well insult their race. And Jesus’ commands were very simple: pick up his cross, repent from sin, follow him, be like a child, don’t judge, spread the gospel. He didn’t put a lot of limits on how we were to achieve those things, but we’re creatures of habit. So we like the way we choose to worship, and may not be interested in trying to understand another’s way.
            So answering your third question, I don’t think there is a difference.

        • Alia_Joy says:

          Shared vulnerability. I agree with that so much. How do we get there? Especially when there is always so much misunderstanding coming to the place we feel safe enough to be vulnerable. If you ever unpack your experiences about college, I’d love to read or process them with you. I’m sorry it triggered all that but I’m also grateful you shared here and I so appreciate your voice online.

  6. Leah Kostamo says:

    Thank you, Alia! Your questions at the end, if answered honestly, are a nudge toward revolution in the church!

    • Alia_Joy says:

      Thank you, Leah. They’re hard to answer honestly because it uncovers what all of us have in our hearts, the desire to divide and isolate and belong and judge. But wouldn’t it be something if we came with confessing hearts and committed to being a church who really loved well across dividing lines?

  7. Thank you for this honest post, Alia. I got the same impression from the book. I think of myself as aligning with the marginalized, but often it’s because I’ve framed that as the “noble” thing to do, and can then look happily down on those who aren’t as enlightened me. Cleveland made me squirm, too. But it’s good to be aware of this, and keep reaching towards the hard thing of loving others, even if they don’t immediately appeal to me.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      Yes, it’s a wonderful squirmy kind of read. I was so convicted, in a good painful way. I think I align myself with the marginalized too but rarely focus on how I’ve contributed to the same kind of divisive thinking in my own life.

  8. I think there can be something healing in finding a tribe to belong to, especially after suffering such painful rejections. The hard part is realizing when you’ve healed adequately enough to move into more discomfort with people who are different vs staying comfortable with your group.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      I agree, and I think finding your people can be a truly healing thing. Honestly, I feel in many ways blogging has introduced me to that tribe but when I break it all down I see that even in this online world, my ideologies and thoughts and beliefs don’t align perfectly with any one group. I fit it and stick out and yet I find because of the commonality in our love for language and purpose and story and the way God is working distinctly within them, even if the narrative is different from my own, I’m more apt to receive it and listen instead of just writing others off as less sophisticated in their beliefs.
      I think having people who have my back when I write hard stuff or engage in hard conversations makes it easier. I don’t think having safe places or comfortable places does a disservice to unity with others as long as that homogeneity doesn’t become one’s only group and identity allowing them to never engage the discomfort of those who think differently.
      And I do sometimes wonder, even in my safe places, if there isn’t a level of superiority and pride in the way we think of ourselves verses how we see others. It’s why I can’t help look at the endorsements to see whose side people are on. 😉 I wonder if that’s inherent in any closed group. I wonder if attaining a sense of belonging, you almost have to create exclusion of some sort.

      • *nods* yup. I’ve had a few embarrassing spots over the past year where I assumed the labels that were so definitive in one section of the country are not quite the same in other parts of the country. I’ve had people say ‘you keep saying conservative and liberal – what do you even mean by that’…..which has been a hard but good corrective to realize how quickly and easily I try and slot people into where I think they should go.

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with tribes per se. The problem is when we start pitting our group against other groups or elevating our own importance over another. Sometimes we need solidarity and to be with people who understand our POV and that’s a good thing. Especially if we’re in need of healing. But I would also see this within a bigger picture of being part of other tribes or having relationships with people who are different from you, whether demographically or politically, et al. The “tribe” and the “other” both have a role to play and need to be prioritized. Does that make sense?

  9. oh gosh. This really stirred me. The ‘we are different and unique, they are all the same” really spoke to me, and the line about checking who’s endorsed the book also pinched me, cos – ouch. i do that.

    I always love hearing about your background and experiences as cross-cultural cross-swords. The funny thing is – I know that we are different in terms of background, but as you describe those experiences, the feeling left out, wanting to belong but wanting to assert my individuality – I feel close to you, and similar to you.

    i love the way that you pull together and unite, even while talking about disunity.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      It’s so interesting because I think when we like someone or find something relatable in them, we tend to purposefully look for additional similarities or places for connection as opposed to when we assume someone is distasteful or different in a negative way, we then highlight those differences to put distance between us and them. I think more people feel other than we know, in so many ways. There is no limit to the ways we distance ourselves from others and if that is true, then there is also no limit to the ways we can find common ground. I’m always delighted to share common ground with you, friend.

  10. Alia, you never fail to lay bare your heart in such a way that makes room for others to do the same. That is a gift, my friend, and I am truly thankful for it.

    So much of what you’ve spoken to and brought into the light reminds me of what was stirred deep in me when I read Enuma Okoro’s essay in The Atlantic about why she wasn’t going to watch 12 Years a Slave with a white person. ( )
    I was struck dumb by her assertion that to accept what is the same in me and in someone of a different race is not the same as unity. Not that those things can’t be points of connection. But that is not where it ends. In order to truly be moving towards reconciliation and healing, I need to engage with others on issues and details and experiences that are hard and uncomfortable. It cannot be all about me. I cannot claim that I am unified with someone of a different race simply because they have “come to my way of seeing something.” There has got to be that kind of dialogue and interacting with and pushing through in ways that I am challenged. In ways that mean I am moving towards them. For too long, I only saw the “coming to me” side of reconciliation. My prayer, now, is that I would focus more on the “going to” side.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      It’s tricky and people are going to say and do the wrong things. It get awkward especially where race is concerned because America comes with so much baggage in those regards and everyone has a story of why their perspective is the right one complete with whatever data backs up their ideas whether it be bible verses or news reports or studies. We inform our biases and reinforce them so often I doubt we know we’re doing it.

      I often feel that way having conversations with how white Christian blogging culture often is. Or how it feels living in Central Oregon which is decidedly monocultural. And I sometimes feel like a token in a slot and not an actual person. And I feel that same need and desire from others to put them at ease with their place in it all.

      Sometimes it’s so exhausting and I don’t want to show up at all. I loved Austin Channing’s post on the difference between sympathy and solidarity because it expressed some of the fatigue I’ve felt. I think a lot of people sympathize with the idea of needing reconciliation and diversity and unity in the midst of it all but far fewer are willing to displace themselves and their comfort to seek it out. It’s always easier to keep a distance, maintain biases, judge others, and assume I’m superior and they need to come around to my way of thinking.

    • Great thoughts, Holly. I’m curious about what the “going to” side of things might look like for you. I think many of us benefit from talking about the practical side of things and then holding each other accountable as we put them into place. It’s often easier to talk about reconciliation than to live it out.

      • Ahh…holding each other accountable…practical side of reconciliation…my cheeks are warming to the call for realness and I appreciate it greatly. You are absolutely right that it is far easier to talk about reconciliation than to live it out. I think, for me, that “going to” needs to look more like it did in my past. It needs to be, quite literally, a stepping out of my regular rhythms into ones that don’t feel as tidy. For the first years of our marriage, my husband and I attended a predominately African American congregation and then lived in community with other families in an African American neighborhood in Atlanta. We, quite literally, moved towards those with whose experience we were not familiar. Those were rich, stretching, hard years. I might be in a different season in my marriage and in my life but I do still believe that seeking out relationships with those who look and think differently than me should be a priority. Perhaps attending another congregation in which I am the minority would be good again. Joining the local chapter of the NAACP is another idea. Seeking out the thoughts and opinions of those of a different race on a myriad of issues and topics, not just the hot button ones… I could go on.

  11. fiona lynne says:

    I really appreciate your vulnerability here. I confess to having similar thoughts at the outset to books with this topic, although often the reasoning goes “that’s just a problem they have over there in America…” Which of course is painfully untrue but it’s an untruth that’s comfortable and easy to hide behind. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      So interesting hearing from someone not submerged in “American Christianity.” I totally agree that there are things that are unique to the American experience in regards to some of our culture and history, but I love how Cleveland gets at the heart attitudes we all have and the roots of our differences that cross nations and cultures and ultimately live in each of our hearts as we navigate our own prejudices. I think it’s easy to deflect responsibility in these hard truths. I know I did, considering myself to be all about unity and diversity as a person of color. But this book was very convicting. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here.

  12. Wow. This is both painful and powerful, Alia. Thank you for sharing more of your personal experience. I appreciated reading that.

    There’s so much to ponder in Christena’s book–I’ve really liked the perspective she brings, even her sense of humour on this hard topic.

    Growing up in South Africa, my whole cultural group thought we were “fundamentally right or best.” It’s so gross to admit, but so important. That experience, however, has made me the woman I am today. I am horrified that it was at the expense of my fellow South Africans. I am grateful, I don’t have to see the world like that any longer.

    • Alia_Joy says:

      Yes, I can imagine growing up in South Africa would have a huge impact on how you saw others based on which “side” you were on in the dividing line. I’m curious, at what point did you begin to see differently and why? I have some friends from SA and each of them recounts a point where they began to see that their cultural group might be missing out on the whole story by only knowing their own experiences. I’m always curious what brings about that heart change.

    • Idelette, I’ve learned so much from the way you’ve talked about your experience growing up in SA and how your ideologies changed. Thank you for be willing to talk honestly about it.


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