Counseling the Culturally Diverse

Counseling the Culturally Diverse

This week I’m beginning a course on multicultural counseling. I can’t wait to jump in.

One of the textbooks we’re using is Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice, 6th Edition (Wiley, 2013), by Derald Wing Sue and David Sue. Here’s a bit of the description from the book’s product page:

Filled with numerous examples, authentic vignettes, and practical case studies, Counseling the Culturally Diverse, Sixth Edition remains the best source of real-world multicultural counseling preparation for students and an influential guide for professionals.

The first chapter (which is as much as I’ve read so far) begins with the personal (and professional) journeys of two readers of the book, as well as the author’s own such reflections. From the reflection questions on the very first page, readers of this sixth edition get the sense that they, too, are in for a challenging and invigorating journey. The first reflection question is:

In what ways do our personal reactions to topics of race, gender, sexual orientation, and oppression have to do with counseling diverse clients?

Then there is:

Who are you as a racial/cultural being? How often have you thought about yourself as a man/woman, White individual/person of color, or straight/gay?

The underlying assumption behind the question is that those in so-called majority statuses in each of the above categories will not have thought as much about such identities as those in minority statuses have. Indeed, this not having to think about it characterizes what folks refer to as white privilege, male privilege, and so on.

Self-understanding around issues of culture, the book suggests, is essential to the development and effectiveness of a counselor/therapist.

Finally, the author says,

[The book’s] goals are to enlighten you about how counseling and psychotherapy may represent cultural oppression and to provide a vision of change that is rooted in social justice.

I hope to have a chance to report more about the book in the future. (And if any of you reading this post has read Counseling the Culturally Diverse, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or via this contact form.)

The book is here at Wiley and here on Amazon (affiliate link). In both places it’s available in print or electronically. Via Wiley, you can look at the full Table of Contents here (pdf) and read the first chapter in full here (pdf).

Magnificent Monograph Monday: Review of The Post-Racial Church

Kenneth A. Mathews (Old Testament) and M. Sydney Park (New Testament), professors at Beeson Divinity School, attempt in The Post-Racial Church to “better equip the church in answering why Christians claim that the gospel and the Christian church are the first and last best hope for peace in a racially diverse world” (25).

To help readers understand how churches can more faithfully reflect “the wonder of God’s human kaleidoscope,” they work their way through the arc of the Old and New Testaments to reveal God’s plan for reconciliation. Reconciliation, they believe, “can only be fully and finally achieved by a Savior who redeems and transforms the human state” (57). Their call to racial/ethnic unity in the church is an unabashedly Biblical program. They write, “Genuine unity must be predicated upon a commitment to the Lord God, not based on anything or anyone else. Otherwise, the unity is circumstantial, which means that it is superficial and fragile” (72-73). They ground their call for ethnic unity in the Church firmly in Scripture.

Mathews writes the introduction and chapters 1-4 on the Old Testament, addressing God’s design in creation, his covenant with Noah and then with Abram to bless all nations, as well as God’s heart and provision for the immigrant among the people of Israel. Park traces the New Testament development of the theme of the inclusion of all people in God’s covenant. She explores Jesus’ stories concerning reconciliation, as well as how Biblical characters like James, Peter, and Paul came to grips with a deeper understanding of God’s desire for trans-ethnic unity in the Church.  (Park’s interpretation and application of the Prodigal Son parable opened up new understandings of that story that I had never considered—despite having already heard and read it many times.)

The Post-Racial Church is excellent in the thoroughness with which it treats Biblical texts that have to do with multiethnic reconciliation (and reconciliation more generally). In this sense, it greatly succeeds in being what the book’s subtitle claims it will be: A Biblical Framework for Multiethnic Reconciliation. Even though the introductory chapter clarifies what the authors mean by various terms they use, the phrase “post-racial church” as such is not really explored in the book itself. “Kaleidoscopic Church” or “The Post-Racist Church” would have been more fitting titles for the book. (So if you, like me, express skepticism at a Church or any institution being “post-racial,” don’t let that stop you from checking out this book. The authors don’t actually advance that we be “color-blind” or “ignore race” as part of their thesis.)

On the one hand the book at times felt a bit over-dense (especially the first half). But on the other hand, other books I’ve read about multiethnic church-building or racial reconciliation often give what feels like too short a treatment of Biblical texts on the topic. Mathews’ and Park’s detailed exegesis was in the end refreshing in this sense, and makes a unique contribution to the genre of book into which The Post-Racial Church fits. I also appreciated that they drew on the original Hebrew and Greek to further illuminate the texts they expounded. This made their work even more compelling.

Each chapter concludes with “Thought Provoker” questions, a high point of the book. For example, one question (p. 171) asks,

If loving our neighbors is a critical factor in our discipleship, and if loving our neighbors self-sacrificially serves as the litmus test for our discipleship, does the test prove positive for you and your church?

One could easily use this book in a small group discussion to great effect.

The reader who takes the time to work carefully through the authors’ guided exegetical tour through the Scriptures will be greatly rewarded. If indeed, as Park claims, “the proper understanding of racial reconciliation is possible only in light of God’s saving activity throughout human history,” then those who desire to join God in drawing all people to himself will want to avail themselves to the solid Biblical exposition that the authors provide.

(Per FTC guidelines, I note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for an unbiased review.)

Book Review: The Next Evangelicalism, by Soong-Chan Rah

Soong-Chan Rah writes, “As many lament the decline of Christianity in the United States in the early stages of the twenty-first century, very few have recognized that American Christianity may actually be growing, but in unexpected and surprising ways.”

In The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, Rah posits that mainstream evangelicalism in the United States has been too monocultural in its worldview–“white” and “Western,” he says. It has been “taken captive” by individualism, consumerism and materialism, and racism. This captivity is pervasive, he writes, as seen in the megachurch movement, the emerging church movement (which Rah rightly argues pays too much attention to just white voices), and through cultural imperialism. Looking at Native American, African American, immigrant, and multicultural communities, Rah offers hopeful alternatives for evangelicalism’s future.

Every evangelical Christian should read this book. Rah has the courage to say hard things the church needs to hear. His excellent treatment of racism, especially, should be preached from the pulpits and studied in small groups.

However, there are at least two key points where I take issue with Rah.

First, a distraction is Rah’s equating “white” with “Western” as he discusses the church’s captivity. But these two are not always synonymous words, and sometimes when the author uses “white” he really means (or should mean) “Western” instead. Rah mentions T.D. Jakes as a megachurch pastor who is emblematic of the church’s captivity to (“white”) numerical pragmatism. But Jakes is “Western” and not “white.”  And there are non-white sectors of the Western church deserving of Rah’s critique (for example, Creflo Dollar and other “health and wealth gospel” African American pastors should be included in Rah’s critique of Western consumerism and materialism). Rah’s arguments would have more force (and been more accurate) if he simply had referred to “Western cultural captivity.”

Second, I struggled to accept some final remarks: “The shift in American evangelicalism is well under way. The white churches are in significant decline.” I will grant the first assertion. But as to the second, Rah does not define further what he means by “decline” and provides barely any evidence of it that I could see. In fact, if he means numerical decline, he is using a standard previously rejected in his book. (Church health ought to be measured not by buildings built or number of attendees alone, he notes, but by taking the spiritual pulse of the congregation.) Is a Church feeding the poor?  Welcoming visitors?  Caring for the sick? (Etc.?) If so, Rah would say, it is a healthy church. By this standard, the predominantly “white” church at which I recently served as youth minister, for example, is very healthy. Members of that church, and of many others I know that are like it, might read lines like this and ask, “What decline?”

Even so, I don’t want to overly fault Rah for those objections. As a reader I do not demand that Rah say everything perfectly before I accept the force and truth of his overarching claims. All in all, The Next Evangelicalism issues a clarion call to the church to end racism, embrace the growing ethnic diversity of the body of Christ, hear voices that have been overlooked and marginalized, and more accurately reflect the church the Bible calls us to be.