Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Evils of Racism, the Harm of Injustice,  and the Call to Something Higher Than The Identity Synthesis

Written by: on March 7, 2024

I am appalled at prejudice and injustice based on race or ethnicity. I did not come to this conviction initially from any social or political movements that were seeking to address it, but it was formed in me from my Christian worldview, stemming from the heart of God. In Psalm 67:4, the Psalmist writes “May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.”[1] This Psalm is incredibly important in understanding God’s heart for all people, because it takes the blessing God instructed Aaron to give to Israel in Numbers 6:22-26, and extends it to all nations. There is no room for racism in a life of one who follows Jesus. And yet, racism, racial segregation and insensitivity are still issues that the church must name, repent from, and address [2].

In reading Yascha Mounk’s “The Identity Trap”, he implores us to elevate the call to build diverse societies around more traditionally held ideals of universal  values and neutral rules, rather than making identity markers like race, gender and sexual orientation paramount, in what is referred to as the “identity synthesis” [3]. Because of his own background and ‘expert status’ in the field of Liberal Democracy, Mounk’s argument still draws us back to the collective good of the performance and values of liberal democracies which “outperform their rivals on key metrics that virtually every human being values [4].

In following the arc of the book, we encounter the Identity Synthesis’ appeal, origins, victory, and flaws, followed by recommendations for how to avoid, argue against, and even escape the identity trap. Mounk neither rejects his own story or identity [5], nor becomes callous to the “real ways in which categories like race, religion, and sexual orientation have historically shaped how people are treated [6]. In “The Wolf and the Lamb”, Eric Law addresses spiritual leaders in multicultural communities, arguing that we address systemic injustice by moving from an ethnocentric way towards an ‘ethnorelative’ one [7]. He argues we do this by not only valuing our own ethnocentricity, but have space to values others’ ethnicity as equal in value for mutual understanding and action [8].

In my life, I am called to learn from others across the diversity of the church and society, so that I might understand and respond to the heart cries in both Critical Race Theory proponents and critics alike. This calling means growing to reflect ethnorelative ways of healing systemic injustice, by seeking to reflect God’s love in all things. I must not use power or bias against any and all others, whether POC, marginalized, or privileged. And not simply for the betterment of society now, but in pursuit of one community from every tribe language and tongue worshipping God eternally [9] with the equity God calls for in Psalm 67.


[1] ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭67‬:‭4‬ ‭NIVUK‬

[2] For more, see Chapter 2 in Rah, Soong-Chan. Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for the Next Church. Chicago: Moody, 2010.

[3] Mounk, Yascha. The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time. Penguin Publishing Group, 2023. Kindle edition, 9.

[4] Mounk, 260.

[5] Mounk, 25.

[6] Mounk, 285.

[7] Eric H F Law. The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb. Preaching and Its Partners. St. Louis, Mo: Chalice Press, 1993, 36. Law credits Milton J. Bennett for the use of this term, describing the latter three stages of intercultural sensitivity. Bennett, “Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity,” in Cross-Cultural Orientation: New Conceptualization and Application.

[8] Law, 35.

[9] Revelation 7:9.


About the Author


Joel Zantingh

Joel Zantingh serves as the Canadian Coordinator of the World Evangelical Alliance's Peace and Reconciliation Network, and as Director of Engagement with Lausanne Movement Canada. He has served in local and national roles within the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, and led their global mission arm. He has experience teaching in formal and informal settings with Bible college students and leaders from various cultures and generations. Joel and Christie are parents to adult children, as well as grandparents. They reside in Guelph, Ont., situated on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and home to many past, present and future First Nations peoples, including the Anishinnabe and Hodinöhsö:ni'.

9 responses to “The Evils of Racism, the Harm of Injustice,  and the Call to Something Higher Than The Identity Synthesis”

  1. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Zoel,
    I enjoyed reading your post. Your post discusses moving from an ethnocentric way towards an ‘ethnorelative’ one as a way to address systemic injustice. What do you think this shift entails, and how can it be implemented in practice?

    • I will seek to answer both you and Jeff, whose great questions are asking for more info on ethnorelativity.

      I am not expert, but some starting points to move beyond desire or utopian ideals, and shift into practice include both personal and systemic changes.

      Personally, I highly value cultivating intercultural friendships and growing in Cultural Intelligence (here I recommend CQ by David Livermore (https://culturalq.com/about-cultural-intelligence/), or IDI (https://www.idiinventory.com/). Both relationship and learning help a person to walk alongside others with more empathy (Mounk, 146) which cultivates solidarity.

      Here’s an example this week. I co-facilitate a class with the Lausanne Movement called “Intercultural Leadership”. A student (they/them) was struggling to know how to safely and helpfully address racial, ethnic and cultural differences. I asked them to describe the habits they were cultivating, and they came up with this:

      “I think in general we acknowledge that cultural differences exist between us in the way we interact and look at the world and discuss what would make it feel safe to bring up cultural points spontaneously in discussion or to challenge the other. We ask curious questions of each other about topics like suffering or honouring parents or persevering through trials, etc. We ask about each other’s top cultural values as they come up in everyday life interactions”.

      This is meaningful because they are having normal, everyday conversations about all sorts of topics, and leaving room for probing followup questions that get to upbringing, or family systems and norms, which are often loaded with cultural pieces that people don’t always fully recognize. They hear and interact on culture as the water that another swims in by simply talking about their swimming.

      Systemically, in the Canadian context, some helpful themes impacting racial injustice are emerging. Here are two examples. Faith Today, a National publication ran an article last Fall trying to help faith communities address growing intolerance for minority positions (Sept-Oct 2023) and Tyndale University recently held a “Belonging in Intercultural Spaces” conference, presenting values for engagement including “assertiveness”, “restorative peace” and “self-awareness” among others (https://www.tyndale.ca/tilc).

      These examples get at the building blocks from which we can construct a better future, and apply in parallel ways to Mounks recommendations for thoughtful engagement.

  2. Jeff Styer says:

    I like the term ethnorelative, I teach students about ethnocentrism, I know have a new word to the idea that I teach, respect and understand other persons’ cultures.
    As a Canadian how have you seen the identity synthesis in your country? I’m not looking for your response to be a book, just a single example will help me understand. Thanks

  3. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Joel! Thank you for your post. I am glad to hear of how you have created ways of valuing identity, realizing the struggles within, and then creating an outward Christ-centered approach to try and achieve such. Do you see Mounk’s method of counetring the Identity Trap as a realistic method?

  4. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Hi Joel.
    Thanks for your thoughts, although I did need to look up what “ethnorelative” meant. I learned a new word this morning, and one that I like and will use!! When I asked my half-Korean wife to marry me, before she said yes, she asked me if I knew what I was getting into. This oblivious white man said, “Of course,” without thinking it through. 19 years later, I have witnessed racial situations with her and a lot of unpleasant things that I never had to think about. (and I would do it all again!).
    A huge part of me this morning while reading your and others’ posts is that without the love of God in our lives and without the example that Jesus set for us, I don’t feel much hope for society to come around and embrace those who are different from us.
    Please tell me I am wrong!!

  5. Debbie Owen says:

    Joel, thank you for highlighting Psalm 67. I long for the day when we are all glad and sing for joy because the people of the world recognize that it is the Lord who rules. And he does so with equity – now there’s a good word!

    What are your thoughts when you consider the nations of the world being ruled by God’s equity? (That can go in many directions…)

  6. Chad Warren says:

    Joel, thank you for your post. I am curious what is one key lesson learned from your call to learn from the diversity of the church and society?

  7. Elysse Burns says:

    Joel, every time I read your posts I think, “How can I get Joel to visit Mauritania?” Just last weekend, I attended a student event at Nouakchott University and some of the students presented their thoughts on ways to foster social harmony. It’s a big issue here and it saddens me. Although I am happy they are starting to talk about it.

    I appreciated the statements at the end of your post, “I must not use power or bias against any and all others, whether POC, marginalized, or privileged. And not simply for the betterment of society now, but in pursuit of one community from every tribe language and tongue worshipping God eternally.” So often we just want to “better” society, but the calling is so much higher than that.

    I imagine your work might feel heavy at times, as you seek to empower those who are marginalized. What keeps you encouraged in this work when you hit those barriers with people who don’t see the need for change?

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