Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 27

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 1 2015 THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST IN US: OVERCOMING THE COGNITIVE AND EMOTIONAL ANTECEDENTS TO DISUNITY Christena Cleveland∗ Political scientists Naomi Cahn and June Carbone point out that American churches are increasing in ethnic, cultural, and theological homogeneity as America becomes increasingly diverse. They note that in the 1960s, when geographic boundaries rather than culture largely determined church membership, the typical American churchgoer attended a neighborhood church.1 Consequently, the diversity of the church congregation reflected the diversity of the neighborhood. To the extent that the neighborhood was diverse, the church was diverse. However, today’s churchgoers tend to shop for churches that express their individual values and are ethnically similar, rather than those that are geographically close. American society has engaged in an Evangelical spiritual consumerism that some scholars pejoratively call “Burger King Christianity.”2 As a result, individuals who, albeit unconsciously, manage to leave home without interacting across cultural lines can easily evolve into churchgo ers who continue to maintain these divisions in culturally homogenous churches. Indeed, in Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith point out that over 90 percent of all American churches are composed of congregations that are at least 90 percent racially homogenous.3 In A Community Called Atonement, Scot McKnight suggests that the same processes that contribute to ethnic/racial homogeneity in the church are also contributing to DOI: ∗ Christena Cleveland is Associate Professor of the Practice of Reconciliation and Director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School; 1. Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010). 2. Carl Raschke, The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 162. 3. Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 136. 26