dave ainsworth
san francisco, CA

husband, father,
christian pastor,
human being

Beards and Plaid Shirts

There is a really important article on Medium about "The Other Side of Diversity." It's written by an African-American woman about her experience as such in the technology industry. Silicon Valley is notoriously homogenous, made up mostly of men, and those mostly young, mostly white. Her post helps us think through what it's like to be the exception to the rule.

Some excerpts:

"I feel like I’ve lost my entire cultural identity in an effort to be part of the culture I’ve spent the majority of the last decade in."

"I did what I thought I had to do to survive in the environment. I once again donned the uniform to fit in. Jeans, “unisex” t-shirt, Timbuk2 messenger bag... I continued to lose myself for the sake of being included amongst my coworkers."

"I feel alone every day I come to work, despite being surrounded by people, which results in feelings of isolation."

"I feel a constant low level of stress every day, just by virtue of existing in my environment."

"I am constantly making micro-evaluations about whether or not my actions will be attributed to my being “different." I feel like my presence makes others uncomfortable so I try to make them feel comfortable."

Multiculturalism and the Church

This woman's experience should encourage every church to ask themselves hard questions. Do people feel the need to shed their culture in order to "fit in" at our church? How hard is it to feel at home in our church? What does it take to stick? Do you need more than an growing interest in Christ?

Before you answer these questions too quickly, take a look around. Does everyone like the same music? Do they wear the same brands of clothing? Are homes similarly sized and decorated? Do they post the same stuff on Facebook and Instagram? Do they all use Facebook and Instagram? 

Notice that race is just one factor in diversity. You can be multi-colored while being mono-cultured. Sometimes it feels like wearing plaid shirts and having facial hair is the clerical collar for Reformed church planting. What does that teach our churches? Do you have to afford a steady diet of cigars and micro beers to be a leader in your church? If so, you are united around something other than Jesus. 

"But that's what San Francisco loves?" Nope. That's what an up-and-coming segment of San Francisco loves. And a bunch of other people who want to be associated with the up-and-coming. "But you don't have to love those things to get involved?" Then why are older generations, women of all ages, and minorities not sticking and thriving unless they love those things, too.

We're all more cliquish than we think. If you're not a church planter, then your preferred stereotype is likely different. Other questions will be better? Does every woman love cooking? Every man drive a truck? Married at twenty-four? Every Mom stay-at-home and kid attend homeschool? Or careered with kid in preschool? 

A Huge Opportunity

"I arrived in the Bay Area in August of 2008. Being in Silicon Valley has been simultaneously great for my career but bad for me as a person." How many people in San Francisco share her experience? 

In the gospel of grace, the church has the power to be different. The Bible simultaneously affirms profound, deep, ultimate unity while requiring rich, creative diversity -- "from every nation, people, tribe, and tongue." Come as you are. No beard or plaid needed.

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