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“Seriously,” was the first thought that came to mind. Not that I was surprised by the request–I’ve known of these antics. But I had hoped for more from this camp. Our Adventure Camp was wrapping up. What a great weekend as God did His thing and young and old were united under the banner of God’s grace and love.  But this was ridiculous.  

As we were checking out the camp director handed over a sheet that he wanted to be filled out. It was to share information on the ethnicity of our campers. Again, seriously?  He wanted us to document how many people of color we had with us so he could, allegedly, report how successful the camp was at reaching a broad range of kids on the color spectrum.

According to the ways of the world, this strategy is far from shocking.  Sadly, our society has substituted being politically correct for being genuinely kind.  We have developed quota systems and goals in order to motivate diversity within our organizations.  And the tactics are forgivable in light of the racism and elitism that we see and have seen in our country.  But it is forms like this one that deny fundamental truths and powerful, culture shaking realities.  For, if we were to fill out this form (which we will not be doing) we would undermine the message that we have been teaching and living with our youth.  God loves you because of how He made you.  And how He made you is how He wanted you (minus that persistent sinfulness, of course).  We talk often about having a biblical self-esteem.  That is to have a healthy knowledge of scripture that informs our self-image and self-understanding.  The world, too often, defines and sees people narrowly—by color, by occupation, by bank account…  But the beauty of our Father in heaven is that in His creation, He sees you.  He knows you personally, intimately and completely.  And He loves you!

Besides, quota systems don’t work as motivation for increasing diversity.  At best they are ill contrived and ineffective.  In practice they are offensive and manipulative.  Subtly speaking, such measures imply that the primary reason we are including you, o person of color other than white, is so that we can increase our numbers.  Perhaps it isn’t that subtle.  In truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what makes us diverse.  Not just in the color of our melanin, but in the diversity of His creation and as the ones who are made in His image.  The Good News knows no color boundary and has no need for creating such quotas to keep track.  As a white father to a daughter who is part Pacific Islander, it is forms like this one that offend me.  My daughter is so much more than a statistic to help you feel good about your diversity efforts.  The color of her skin is but a fraction of the beautiful creation that God knit together in her mother’s womb.  Maybe if you asked me to report on some of those other aspects of my daughters life I would be more willing to tell you about her beautiful skin tones.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. 28July2011 16:53

    Scott – I agree with much of what you say. Yes, the world “too often defines people narrowly,” and yes, God “knows (us) personally, intimately and completely,” and yes, most definitely, “the color of (your daughter’s) skin is but a fraction of the beautiful creation that God knit together in her mother’s womb” (beautifully stated). However, I believe that you have over-reacted to the camp director’s request to complete the form. You accuse the camp of “antics” and imply that the camp director and camp have devised the form for some kind of shady purpose, which you suggest is as base as “feeling good about one’s diversity efforts.” That comes across to me as being unfair and judgmental. My wife was a camp director for many years, and says that groups are routinely asked to fill out similar forms, for the camp to document the fact that they were not discriminating against anyone because of race or ethnicity, especially if they were receiving government commodities as part of their food service program. In that case, the forms were required for continued participation in such a program. She also said that she often felt uncomfortable making those kinds of determinations herself, and so she would ask the group leaders to do it for her.

    If such “tactics” are “forgivable in light of the racism and elitism that we see and have seen in our country,” then forgive them, politely decline, move on, and don’t be so quick to jump to the conclusion that such forms “deny fundamental truths and powerful, culture shaking realities.” I just don’t see how it even comes close to doing that. Seriously.

    Mark Bogen

    • 30July2011 10:23

      Thanks for your comments. You certainly make some valid points. I don’t believe the camp director developed the form on his own, but that it was passed on to him to fulfill some requirement–governmental or other. But I think my point remains valid. That form, for whatever reason it was given, still undermines biblical Truths. These Truths are under attack in this world. Even in the church. So I want to be as intentional as I can to not have these Truths that we teach undermined–especially by a partner in ministry.
      If the form is to fulfill governmental requirements regarding discrimination, let me know that up front. I probably still won’t give you our numbers, but I’d be more than happy to right a letter stating that there was no discrimination taking place at camp (other than the forms that the US government requires 🙂 )

      The powerful truths and culture shaking realities to which I refer point toward a God who sees us wholly and holy. He sees you completely and fully. And all of you is important. Too often our world elevates one aspect of our persona and ignores or denies the rest of us. I would argue that race is one of these aspects that we elevate. This form, and ones like it, intentionally or unintentionally, make race the most important descriptor in ones life. As I mentioned, we work hard to help people see themselves as scripture tells us God sees us.
      My final thought comes, not from a realistic expectation but more of a longing for the incarnation of the Kingdom of God. We live in a wonderful country that has declared the separation of church and state. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of our church agencies and partners didn’t need to seek out the government for funding and support so that we could be autonomous. We would, therefore, no longer need to play by their rules but our rules. Which, of course, are His rules.

      Thanks for your thoughts Mark. And, please know that forgiveness is in progress.


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