What if Moses was Egyptian? [The Lack of] Faculty Diversity at Christian Colleges, Seminaries, and Universities
I had an AMAZING time yesterday hanging out with 4 Christian Brothers of Color who are also professors. It was really special because we’re all quadruple minorities with a quadruple consciousness. First of all we’re followers of Jesus. Next, we’re People of Color who love Jesus within the framework of a largely white evangelical culture in America. Third, we have all chosen to focus our lives upon the fight against racial injustice and we often find ourselves misunderstood. Finally, we are also Professors of Color in a white academy.
In addition to our shared intersectionality, I was also struck by how GIFTED and TALENTED my colleagues are. They all beat the odds and surpassed tremendous socio-economic, racial, and political barriers to get where they are. They are urban African Americans and Latinos, and they received their Ph.D.’s from top-flight universities and seminaries. On top of that, they all possess incredible spiritual giftings and could easily serve as senior pastors of thriving congregations capable of radically changing the world. And, most importantly, they love Jesus and they love people. I was so privileged to break bread with them last night.
As positive an experience as light night was, I woke up this morning feeling really angry. Not at them, but at what I see as a glaring, blaring racial INJUSTICE in our Christian universities, seminaries, and social justice organizations. My friends have jobs at great institutions, and yet, it was so clear to me that they are tremendously undervalued by the Church in America. Christian colleges, universities, seminaries, and social justice organizations should be breaking down their doors with offers to serve as tenured professors, deans, provosts, chancellors, and executive directors. R1 “secular” universities and elite liberal arts colleges should be doing the same thing, but that is a topic for another day.
It makes me so mad.
Why is there such a lack of racial diversity at Christian colleges, seminaries, and social justice organizations in the United States?
I believe that many white Christians in America don’t understand the profound biblical importance of cultural and gendered diversity. From a biblical perspective, every individual uniquely reflects the image of God. The Bible teaches that “God created human beings in his own image” (Genesis 1:27, NLT). Every person holistically, and uniquely, reflects God’s image in terms of her/his: (1) individual personality, gifts, talents (Psalm 139: 13-16); (2) cultural heritage (s) (Revelation 21:26); and (3) gender (Genesis 1:27). In other words, when you look in the mirror you are staring at a beautiful and unique reflection of who God is. This uniqueness encompasses all of who you are—your personality, gifts, and talents; your ethnic background (s), and your gender. Together, these traits make you uniquely you. You are beautiful, special, and unique, unlike anyone that has ever lived or ever will walk this earth. By God’s design, you are valuable and uniquely reflect who He is to the world. [For more on this, see, Jesus for Revolutionaries, the free E-book: http://www.jesusforrevolutionaries.org/book/preview/]
Based upon this biblical truth, my friends would bring a unique and profound package of God-given perspectives and giftings to any college, university, seminary, or organization. Their distinct cultural backgrounds, giftings, talents, and urban life experiences make this so.
Guess who’s missing out by not hiring them?
To use another biblical analogy, my African American and Latino professor friends are unique and critical parts of the Body of Christ. St. Paul says that every follower of Jesus makes up a unique part of His Body and that each part plays a distinct role:
“Our own body has many parts. When all these many parts are put together, they are only one body. The body of Christ is like this…You are all a part of the body of Christ. God has chosen different ones in the church to do His work.” 1 Corinthians 12: 12 ,27-28.
And so, some of us are fingers, some are hands, some are feet, etc. What’s more, St. Paul says that, because of God’s ordained diversity, we all need each other. The hands needs the feet, the feet need the legs, the legs need the arms, etc.:
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you.’” Some of the parts we think are weak and not important are very important.” 1 Corinthians 12: 21-22.
By not hiring a critical mass of Christians of Color, Christian universities, seminaries, and social justice organizations are missing out on the benefits of God’s ordained diversity. Even worse, they are failing to It’s like they’ve been walking around for decades without the indispensable arms and limbs which God’s unique Children of Color represent. The really sad thing is that many are unaware of this reality, and, even worse, uphold the unbiblical model of “color blindness.”
I wonder what the story of Moses and the Exodus would have looked like if it was told using the “colorblind” model which characterizes the human resources approach of many Christian colleges, seminaries, and social justice organizations. I think Moses would have been Egyptian.
Instead of appointing Moses, a native son of Israel, to organize God’s people in spiritual and national liberation, I think our American church might have appointed an Egyptian from the upper middle class suburbs of Cairo. We would have overlooked the distinct perspective and skill set which Moses brought by virtue of being an Israelite raised in Pharaoh’s court. Instead we would have picked an Egyptian who had “studied” the Israelite community of Goshen as part of their M.A. thesis at Cairo University and who did several summer abroad trips in which they built some houses and painted some walls. These educational experiences and service trips would have been highly laudable to be sure, especially in light of the extreme prejudice which most Egyptians probably held towards the Israelites. This person would even be a great potential ally in the Israelite struggle for spiritual liberation. But, should they lead the whole movement in place of Moses?
Frankly, this is what it feels like to be a Person of Color in the evangelical church in America. Instead of being recruited as professors, administrators, and leaders of Christian non-profit organizations, people like my friends get passed up, over and over again, by well-intended suburbanites from the plush neighborhoods of Cairo.
And when someone from Goshen does end up getting hired, they are often viewed with suspicion or tokenized. They also sometimes end up getting fired for rocking the Egyptian status quo too much, or too directly—even though they are simply speaking from the personal, ground floor reality of life in Goshen!
What often happens is that Egyptian administrators from Cairo University want to hire people from Goshen who think exactly like them. In other words, they want to hire someone from Goshen who is “Goshenese” on the outside, but Egyptian on the inside. They feel political pressure to hire someone from Goshen, but they don’t want their Goshen hires to embody the ideas and perspectives of Goshen itself. Can anyone say Ted Cruz?
I’m sorry that this is so harsh, but it is true. I know I speak for a lot of people who might not have the public platform to share their frustrations. I hear you brothers and sisters of Goshen. I hear you.
As Goshenites, it is easy for us to become embittered. On other hand, it is easy for Egyptians to be well-intended, but at the end of the day to just not understand the bitter realities of Goshen.
I’m thankful that God did choose Moses after all.
I’m also thankful that God is the God who desires to bring reconciliation between Goshen and Egypt. This is why Jesus came--to tear down the dividing wall of hostility between cultural groups, people of different socio-economic backgrounds, and the genders:
“[F]or in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ.” Galatians 3: 26,28.
Stated another way, in the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The goal of social justice is God’s ‘Beloved Community.’”
In the Hope of the Beloved Community of Jesus,
P.S., if you're in L.A. be sure to join us for Jesus for Revolutionaries: The Gathering, on May 31. Topic: Liberation Theology! http://www.jesusforrevolutionaries.org/gather/upcoming-events/