Book Summary – Beyond Colorblind

Pastor Grace Lung
Director of Centre for Asian Christianity

 Let’s be real. Australians are terrible at having conversations about race and ethnicity. One reason is that unlike our brothers and sisters from the U.S. who have had to deal with much more intense matters of racial division, we in Australia often lack the language, categories and nuance for intercultural and interracial relations. But I think a second reason is that we are afraid. We don’t want to offend people. And so we stay silent or just focus on the positives. We celebrate Harmony Day instead of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racism.  We have the picture of multiculturalism, but as Asian Australian scholar Jacqueline Lo laments, this is a ‘happy hybridity’ that masks structural inequalities, and encourages commodified, contained and sometimes tokenistic expressions of culture. This attitude is reflected in the church when we emphasize our individual spiritual identities in Christ but often at the expense of collective ethno-cultural formation.

“Perhaps…we bought into the secular world’s gospel of colorblind diversity as the answer to our problems of ethnic division. Colorblindness often meant polite avoidance or silence, inside and outside the church…Colorblindness, though well intentioned, is inhospitable. Colorblindness assumes that we are similar enough and that we all only have good intentions, so we can avoid our differences.” p.5

We may be tempted to think we are living in Revelation 7 already with all nations, tribes and peoples gathered around God’s throne. But in reality, we live in a fallen world, we are now and not yet. And so we often fail to do intercultural relationships well. Those who are not in the dominant culture often feel this the most acutely. Our secular world is catching up on the conversation with corporate diversity training and such initiatives. But what about the church?

Sarah Shin’s book, ‘Beyond Colorblind’ is a gracious, thoroughly biblical and practical book that serves us by helping us do intercultural and interracial relationships well. She provides a simple gospel framework to handle this issue which she calls, ‘Ethnic Brokenness’. 

The book is broken into two parts. The first is an exploration into ethnicity through the gospel framework of Beauty, Brokenness, Redemption and Restoration. She traces the theme of ethnicity throughout scripture and gives us biblical categories on how to talk about ethnicity and race. I especially found her breakdown of types of ethnic brokenness helpful: idolatry, ethnic and racial division, rejection of ethnicity, defining ourselves by our scars and self-punishment. Then, I was reminded of how beautiful the gospel is again as she demonstrates how Jesus can address and heal this brokenness and provide the resources to do interethnic relations well.  

The second section contains a pathway on how to steward our ethnicities. There are practical suggestions on how to do interethnic relations well at all stages: (1) Trust-building with ethnic strangers, (2) Cross-cultural skills in community, (3) Responding to cross-cultural conflict in community, (4) Prophetic Ethnic Justice, and (5) Culture Re-creators. Included in there are some helpful tips  about how to avoid cultural appropriation but rather honoring and remembering culture. 

Sarah writes from the multicultural campus context, and so this book will be particularly beneficial for those operating in multicultural churches or seeking to do so. This book is also an incredible resource for those who are figuring out why God created them to be part of a particular culture and how the gifts of that culture can be stewarded for his kingdom. This includes not only people of colour but white ethnicities too. 

“Real friends aren’t afraid of looking at a friend’s real scars. And the scars that people experience in their culture, ethnicity, and race are places that need the gospel” p.8

Let us go beyond multicultural attendance and hear each other’s stories of ethnic brokenness. Let us be prepared to repent if we have contributed to those scars, whether willfully, or more often than not, with neglect or ignorance. We are accountable to God for these collective sins of omission. However, let us also find the incredible hope that we have when we discover the resources of the gospel to help us in this endeavor. 

In line with our mission to highlight and amplify research and scholarship, we are encouraging people to engage with scholars socially located in Asia and the Asian diaspora through this series. These are not reviews, but attempts at summaries with some brief reflections for the purpose of introducing resources we believe will bless your ministry.

Given Asian Christian writers are less likely to get published compared with Anglo writers, please support the Asian Christian voice by considering a purchase of their book. It will no doubt encourage publishers to invest into a plurality of voices within the global church.


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