This month I have taken editorial responsibility for Christian Fiction Online Magazine's Multicultual Fiction Column. I'm thankful for the opportunity, but I'm also challenged that what I intend to do with this column may have its own backlash. Why?Evangelicals need a constructive dialogue on race and culture. This whole episode has revealed a pretty major gap among evangelicals in our awareness and ability to deal with issues of race, culture and faith. Some ongoing, big picture questions:
- Is there still a race problem in America? Many seem to believe that racial and cultural sensitivity is only a problem for those who perceive it to be a problem. Is that true?
- - How can Asian-Americans be a strong voice in the evangelical world? Clearly, this is a growing group, yet oftentimes without much of a voice. This question should also encompass African-American, Latino, Native American, and bi, multi-racial Christians.
- - What is the role of culture? Are we to be culturally neutered because we are all God’s people and therefore we put aside our old culture? Or is there a place for cultural expression and celebration? And what could a healthy expression of culture in the evangelical context look like?-Professor Dr. Soong-Chan Rah's Exploring the Next Evangelism
- Traditionally Multicultural columns have been designated to spotlight works written by authors of other ethnicities.
- Most readers skip the column, because they assume the content doesn't speak to them, but only people of color, so including white authors would be pointless.
- Their is a stigma that the column is a PC(political correct) ploy and isn"t edited with the same weight as the other columns.
- People, especially Christian people don't change.
However, in my opinion-- it appears that Professor Rah agrees --Christian Culture should not entirely follow mainstream culture. Just because the world does it one way doesn't mean we have to do it their way. Not that we are a counter-society or a counter-culture, but instead a beacon for all ethnic enclaves to seek when they need light. And let's be honest, the world is pretty dark. So our magazines, newspapers, even our publishing houses shouldn't want to emulate them, especially with marketing.
Unfortunately, sin, which is separation from God, has made the world okay with separating each other based on race and ethnicity for centuries. But should we do it?
A couple of years ago I was very disappointed by the lack of publicity for Sharon Ewell Foster's Abraham's Well. Although the book won many awards, I was shocked that it didn't final for The Christys. For those of you who don't know about the Christys publishing houses nominate in-house books they believe were the best written that year. Abraham's well was brilliant and well written. It spoke of race and religion during The Trail of Tears and Antebellum. It took a hard look Protestant American History and its role in Slavery. Its publisher took a big chance publishing this book, but the risk would enlighten so many people about the Power of Christ and how He will make a way out of anyway. So I was disappointed about the marketing efforts for this book and also disappointed that the publisher and other reviewers like me didn't get behind this book. To me, it appeared as if the publisher was ashamed of it. It appeared as if the publisher was more concerned with how mainstream society felt than how the body of Christ would be edified by shedding ourselves of this past blight.
Moreover, I believe that is the problem with Christian publishing. We don't know how to market, because we don't want to deal with that demon of cultural exclusivity & racial privilege. But I also believe we can share what 's so special about us without dividing us, without stating that one culture is better than the other and without accusing our brother and sister in Christ of racism.
Education and humility on both parts is the key here.
I have said for years on this blog that publishing houses should contract with marketing consultants for projects that require cultural expert input. (I'm available and I know many others.)
The world wants us to change, but the Christian World must change.
Thanks to God and his invention of New Media we have the opportunity change, to get to know one another and appreciate one another better than we ever have. It is also a great opportunity for Christian writers to touch more people than missionaries ever have been able to. For instance my Twitter Reach on average is 12,000 people per impression. That means every tweet I send out on average 12000 people read it. (Of course my tweet reach for Glee is off the charts. )
My objective for the MF column at Christian Fiction Online Magazine is to showcase redemptive stories of inclusion. Be it an author writing about Amish, Biafran, Korean-Baptists, schoolgirls chopping it up in China, or an around the way girl from Bankhead I want to talk about it. I want us to see another manifestation of God thorugh it.
Of course, the column will be an extension of this blog, since we spotlight those type stories here anyway. But also I hope to have frank discussions on Christian fiction publishing and entertainment news and feature writers, playwrighters, screenwriters and podcasters from all over the world.
I hope to be a part of the change in our industry and our faith, and I hope you come along for the read.
Now I have a question for you. What do you do to invite readers who don't look like you into your writing world?