Subcultural Church: Reverse Discrimination?

Do you think subcultural church planting could be viewed as an ecclesiological form of reverse discrimination?

In the civil rights movement, reverse discrimination is a common term used to describe policies or acts that discriminate a dominant or majority group in favour of a group historically discriminated against, with the aim of redressing imbalances. However, reverse discrimination has been subject to much criticism on the basis that “discrimination is discrimination” and reversing it still leaves many barriers in place.

In my experience with subcultural cell groups it takes considerable affirmative action and reverse discrimination to preserve the subcultural identity of such groups within a multicultural context. You can’t just invite anyone, you have to discriminate if you wish to preserve that identity. And who knows what you do with the second generation, who may have different interests to their parents.

Over time I came to see that approach as very problematic. It encourages too much “Jesus and” thinking when what we should be aiming for is “Jesus only” thinking. Where is the freedom in Christ?

If we were to be totally indiscriminate, churches in multicultural contexts would tend to become multicultural churches. I have come to see that the answer to discrimination against minority subcultures within mainstream churches is not reverse discrimination, it’s Jesus inspired indiscrimination.

One thought on “Subcultural Church: Reverse Discrimination?

  1. I spent a significant number of years in the 1990s researching subcultures of the 1940s onward. In the middle to late 20th century, perhaps it made sense to emphasize contextualization for specific subcultures, and also to promote the “gathering of tribes” to get some cross-pollination going. But the world has changed dramatically since I produced a major case study on subcultural formation and contextualization in 1997, and I’m not so sure that separate is helpful/better any more. Still thinking about it …
    I suppose that not all subcultural gatherings or movements are isolative. However, it is indeed ironic to consider that any isolated, subculture-only churches might actually become “contextual” groups that hold no countercultural message for anyone else in what is becoming a multicultural mainstream. Wasn’t/isn’t part of being Christian subcultural or “alternative” supposed to be embodying a lifestyle of more radical values that confront and counteract the weak, immoral, or amoral values of the mainstream? Wouldn’t it make more sense in the unfolding global multicultural era to avoid isolation and instead promote intercultural engagement? It doesn’t mean individuals and groups can’t have any cultural distinctives, or that they have to join in with everyone else all the time, but that they actively seek to contribute their robust “Kingdom cultural capital” to those who need what they’ve got in order to fill in spiritual gaps? Actually, in a multicultural world, I think it’s important for all of us to consider what we can learn from diverse expressions of discipleship, especially from Christians in countries and cultures who have faced social situations we haven’t. We have much to learn from them … and hopefully, also they from us.
    Just some random thoughts as it looks like I’ll be picking up a major study of subcultures for the first time in a decade, in preparation for the Global Roundtable that coincides with the Slot Festival this July in Poland. Will you be there, Matt?


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