Tony’s Summer Reading – Part 3: Books from a different cultural perspective

posted in: Book Reviews, Tony Thompson 1

In my previous blogs I talked about the value of reading and gave some details of the general books I read over the Summer. Most of the books I read were from a Christian perspective and I start discussing them now.

Over the last few years I have tried to read as much as I can by Christian authors from different cultural perspectives from my own. Three of the books I read this Summer fit that category.

It was a joy to find a book written by Arab Christians leaders with contributions from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine amongst others. Their reflections on the church in the Middle East and the Western church was challenging and stimulating. In some cases, shocking. I would recommend you read the book.

I have written two blogs specifically on this book, so I will not say anything more now. Watch this space.

Another book seeks to identify ways that western Christians have consistently misread the Bible. I found it insightful. Some of the areas it identified were not new to me, but many were. I have also written several blogs based on this book that will be published in due course. It too can be purchased from amazon.

The third book was written by Ben Lindsay, a young church leader from an Afro-Caribbean background leading a predominantly white church in East London. It is called “We need to talk about race”. In many ways it parallels the popular secular book, Why I’m no longer talk to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge but from a Christian perspective.

Ben believes that many people of colour struggle to feel integrated and included in white majority churches and that 

Too often minority groups have shied away from expressing the reality of their experiences because they do not want to come across as victims. They do not want to be defined by those experiences and they tire of defending themselves to majority groups who accuse them of self-indulgent navel gazing, and question whether their views, experiences or struggles are real.

He talks about specific challenges that minorities face

I recognize that it is human nature to compartmentalize people. We develop biases and stereotypes based on our experiences or the images presented in the mainstream media. People of colour live with the effects of these stereotypes on a daily basis. 

One of the biggest battles for people of colour is to find and then keep our cultural accent – an expression of our cultural heritage. 

He defines the privileges that white people have

Privileges such as not worrying about what to wear because you’re not going to be racially profiled by the police or be a victim of mistaken identity. Privileges like not seeing your physical presence as a constant threat to women, who automatically cross the road or hold tight to their handbags on approach. Privileges like not having to overcompensate when finding positive images of your race in books, films and art for your children because of the lack of representation in mainstream media. Privileges like being able to discover your family history and legacy with ease. Privileges like seeing people who look like you in the highest employment and leadership positions. I could go on.

He talks about some of the issues we have spoken about as a church, for example

there is a huge difference between churches being diverse and churches being inclusive. Attracting black people to church isn’t difficult. For many of us, as black people, church is a major part of our life and heritage. Creating inclusive communities, however, where black people feel that they are a valued part of the culture, not just observers, is more complicated.

This is something that is a very high priority for us. 

Lindsay’s also speaks directly about the issues of race within the church. 

Elevating our togetherness over our differences can result in ignoring the specific issues related to a particular people group. Equally, raising our individuality over our collective identity as Christians can result in tribalism, subcultures and division. 

For racial reconciliation to be achieved, for radical solidarity to be realized in the UK Church, black forgiveness of white racial wrongs cannot be the only answer. White confession and repentance also need to happen. Confession and repentance for denying racism exists. Confession and repentance for a lack of impetus to correct racial inequality in the Church. Confession and repentance for ignoring the repercussions of overlooking white privilege. These racial wrongs have to be recognized and addressed. Whether it’s the white church member who constantly forgets or mixes up a black person’s name on a Sunday or banter that is actually racist, many have gone straight to the forgiveness and reconciliation responsibility of the black aggrieved and failed to acknowledge the obligation of the white offender to repair the relationship. 

I recognise that this speaks directly to me, I have been guilty of issues remembering names and banter that I subsequently realised was racist. I suspect we all have things to repent of.

He reminds me of the greater cost for minorities.

While structural and organizational issues can cause integration fatigue for people of colour, subtle micro-aggressions from white majority culture can make leading in a church environment even more difficult for a black person.

Amongst his many recommendations are

With the rise of the far right globally and the spike in hate crime nationally following the vote to leave the European Union, now is the time for the Church to shine a light on the darkness of racism.

Does church growth, slick worship, generic social action programmes, a cool website and overseas mission/church planting trump making local connections, listening to the needs of local families and developing projects/programmes in partnership with the local community? I believe the Church can be a major force for societal and structural change, but we are going to need to engage with and listen to the people who are suffering injustice.

I can just say amen to this!

I would recommend you read the book, it is available on our bookshelf or via link below.

Or if you do not have time to read the book, try this blog that he has also written.


Written by Tony Thompson

  1. Kelwyn

    Hi Tony,

    Having quickly read through your article, I feel compelled to say a few words about a couple of points. And I hope by saying these things anyone who read my comment may benefit greatly.
    A) Reading Bible from another prospective – Having recently reminded the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Koine Greek, it was strange how this is hardly ever mentioned in churches, and passages were not taught in the said languages. Instead western churches (or the ones I’ve been in) always stick with the easy option – English. With translation versions used based on which ever the pastor/speaker prefers. What I’m shocked is how little we pursue this, while Muslims are disciplined and they make efforts for anyone to learn to read their Quran written in their own language. This competition and comparison is the least of the problem though, because the biggest problem is truth of Bible hidden in the written Hebrew of the Bible itself. How many western Christian actually know that Father God wanted his son to be called “Yeshua” and not “Jesus”? Why is this so important? How many of us realized that the meaning of “Yeshua” means “to deliver, to save”? If you ask anyone what does “Jesus” means, most probably won’t know neither know its origin. But if you ask a Jew what does the name “Ye(ho)shua” means, they would know. That’s the big gap we western Christian wouldn’t know compare to others or most importantly, a Jew who reads the Bible as well. Therefore I call for all pastors to start teaching the Bible in Hebrew. It would be amazing for people to learning Hebrew and read the Bible in its original language and learn all the things we never learnt in English bibles. And please don’t allow laziness. Even I myself as a bilingual asian had only gain and advantage of having an open mind when reading the Bible. Still it doesn’t come anywhere close when starting to read the Bible from a Jewish (Hebrew) point of view. A good starting point for anyone to understand the difference between English and Hebrew Bible, is perhaps Passion translation (which I don’t use nor know well of) or One New man Bible (translated by an American and a Jewish professor from Israel).

    B) Discrimination problems in churches – racism is less visible in the world, perhaps more true in England than other places. However underlying racism will always exist. Especially “unconscious/unintentional” racism. This “unconscious/unintentional” racism is sadly so embedded in the western culture, and quietly yet deeply encouraged in popular in our popular culture, going from media to music to films to all sorts. How often do you see the villains in films always have a foreign accent? (Where “foreign” is subjected to who the audiences is) I’m pretty sure my own personal Asian accent is less preferred/desired compare to others for singing worship band purposes because of this unconscious rejection to “weird sounding” accent. Ask any British what they think of German language. Most would say it sounded ugly. Yet it’s merely a language. Why such a strong reaction towards it and fail to admire the contrast and difference compare to English? Very very picky and not well capable of enjoying “different”.
    Now racism isn’t all there is. I believe things such as (physical) size discrimination, personality discrimination and others now exists in our society. People with small physical size are not deemed “big” enough to be a leader. Neither can a person who doesn’t speak a lot apparently. However, why did God chose David, the smallest and youngest of his brothers? Why did God chose Moses, the meekest person in the world? Churches don’t do this though. And I can see that because churches do absolutely not see things/people the same way God do. Yet we call ourselves “follower of Christ”, claiming we learn and do whatever God do. It’s extremely discouraging and hopeless when said churches do not listen either. I’m talking about the people as well, and not just the elders/leadership team. I must admit it is one of the main reason why I do not step up and take on more responsibilities in churches because of these weird discrimination going on. It goes not just against the people from minority race. But even to the British people themselves! All because people are different, with different personality, preference, interests, accent…so on and so forth. I think this is extremely difficult to fix. Because for people to overcome this, is ultimately stop consuming any negative influence such as popular films, music and all, and then to learn how to be logical and have authority over one own thoughts, ignore negative emotions and be better disciplined. Having a thought is one thing. But letting which thought influence your actions and behaviour, is entirely another. All of these are unfortunately big weaknesses of people living in the western culture. And have heavily influenced them on how to interact with people who are different. Different characters, different culture…etc.

    I’ve heard all kind of excuses for these things, ranging from “it’s only natural to be like that” to “God is fine with it all, otherwise it wouldn’t happened”. Ridiculous. But it is what our society is like now. People in the minority such as I don’t bother speak up much, because even when we do we are not heard nor listened. And then we are the “quiet people” that are not considered leader-worthy. And then the cycle begins.
    Wisdom of God hardly exists in churches or in people these days. It is not talked about, not mentioned, and definitely not been considered much. The ways in how God thinks or sees are not taught in churches. Yet it is something we should all learn so we can become better believers and please God while still surviving in this world. Overall, having the heart alone is not enough to solve this “cultural difference” issue at all.

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