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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Safe Spaces within the Church: When Segregation Still Pervades the Sanctuary

Written by: on May 16, 2019

The beginning introduction enraptures readers on a fictitious narrative that weaves in and out of the relativistic, nationalistic, and idealistic nature of the foundation of one’s American culture. Greg Lukianoff, attorney and author[1] and Dr. Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business[2] challenge their readers to understand that the very nation that stands for freedom is the very epitome of enslavement.

Society has always stemmed from a diversified perspective, and words have always held the power to unite or divide. However, they have always had the privilege of being spoken, masticated, and either spewed or adopted. “What is new today is the premise that students are fragile. Even those who are not fragile themselves often believe that others are in danger and therefore need protection.”[3] This produces a high rate of advocacy; however, it also presents a high rate of codependence. If one’s only preference is blame, then they’ll never own their own ideas, their own convictions, or their own actions. This also produces a stance of hierarchal redemption, whereby victimization is encouraged because it supports subjection and segregation of people groups.

According to Lukianoff, “Many university students are learning to think in distorted ways, and this increases their likelihood of becoming fragile, anxious, and easily hurt.”[4] Hence, according to the authors, one’s ability to think differently does not simply impact one’s future ambition, but one’s present perspective. Therefore, it is not positive thinking that protects our identity, but positive debate that grounds our purpose.

Nevertheless, which came first? The chicken or the egg? Those who are perpetuating an insular form of leadership theory within the classroom are not tied to one generation, but all generations. Hence, it is the quest to beat one’s drum more loudly than the rest.

Dr. Hayden Shaw, intergenerational expert, and author reveal:

Religious organizations spent ten years fighting over whether you had to wear a tie to church, and millions of Boomers just quit going. (Unlike previous generations, Boomers didn’t wait their turn; they dropped out of church or joined congregations that didn’t require ties.)[5]

In many ways, choices and differences have not always encouraged tolerance or diversity, but separation and stringency. However, Millennials and Generation Z are the specimens under the glass, because they are abiding within the walls of progress and navigating within the constraints of inclusive speech. For instance, “Few Americans had ever heard of a ‘safe space’ in an academic sense until March of 2015, when The New York Times published an essay by Judith Shulevitz about a safe space created by students at Brown University.”[6] According to Shulevitz:

Some people trace safe spaces back to the feminist consciousness-raising groups of the 1960s and 1970s, others to the gay and lesbian movement of the early 1990s. In most cases, safe spaces are innocuous gatherings of like-minded people who agree to refrain from ridicule, criticism or what they term microaggressions — subtle displays of racial or sexual bias.[7]

However, this type of separation is not just prevalent within secularity but within Christendom. The church mirrors the same image. For instance, the church is one of the only entities to perpetuate the idea of segregated learning and leadership. We have relegated groups for men, women, young married couples, dating couples, singles, children, divorced, and the list goes on. This type of isolation was not birthed from Millennials or Generation Z – it was birthed by Traditionalists and Boomers. “By the mid-19th century, Sunday school attendance was a near universal aspect of childhood.”[8] This occurred because children were given their own segregated space within the church.

The authors begin their assessment of today’s culture, by giving a defense of their research and emphasizing, “We are not blaming iGen. Rather, we are proposing that today’s college students were raised by parents and teachers who had children’s best interests at heart but who often did not give them the freedom to develop their antifragility.”[9] Yes, some within this generation might struggle to discuss the variant of perspectives with those who differ; however, if one looks at the curriculum of yesteryears, it’s evident that we’ve actually progressed when it comes to globalized understanding and diversified thought.

For instance, racial segregation was still legal until 1979[10], homosexuality was considered a mental disorder until 1987[11], and it’s been over fifty-years since students were forced to adhere to the Christian faith that was not their own[12]. Although safe spaces have become a phenomenon in many university settings, I don’t see this as a response to the student’s needs, but humanity’s preference for segregation. Therefore, antifragility is not tied to generational norms, but the personal bias that infiltrates our campuses, our communities, and our churches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]“About Greg Lukianoff,” www.thecoddling.com, accessed May 16, 2019, https://www.thecoddling.com/about-greg-lukianoff.

[2]“About Jonathan Haidt,” www.thecoddling.com, accessed May 16, 2019, https://www.thecoddling.com/about-jonathan-haidt.

[3]Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure (New York City: Penguin Press, 2018), 13.

[4]Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure (New York City: Penguin Press, 2018), 14.

[5]Haydn Shaw, Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2013), 21.

[6]Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure (New York City: Penguin Press, 2018), 21.

[7]Judith Shulevitz, “In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas,” www.nytimes.com, March 21, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/opinion/sunday/judith-shulevitz-hiding-from-scary-ideas.html.

[8]Timothy Larsen, “When Did Sunday Schools Start?,” www.christianitytoday.com, August 28, 2008, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/when-did-sunday-schools-start.html.

[9]Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure (New York City: Penguin Press, 2018), 41.

[10]William Celis, “40 Years After Brown, Segregation Persists,” www.nytimes.com, May 18, 1994, https://www.nytimes.com/1994/05/18/us/40-years-after-brown-segregation-persists.html?pagewanted=all.

[11]Neel Burton, “When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder,” www.psychologytoday.com, September 18, 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201509/when-homosexuality-stopped-being-mental-disorder.

[12]Jerry Newcombe, “50 Years Without Official School Prayer,” www.christianpost.com, June 20, 2012, https://www.christianpost.com/news/50-years-without-official-school-prayer.html.

 

About the Author

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Colleen Batchelder

I speak at conferences, churches, companies and colleges on intergenerational communication, marketing, branding your vision and living authentically in a ‘filtered’ world. My talks are customized to venue needs and audience interests. My passion is to speak with organizations and bridge the intergenerational gap. I consult with companies, individuals, churches and nonprofit organizations and help them create teams that function from a place of communication that bridges the generational gap. I’m also the Founder and President of LOUD Summit – a young adult organization that presents workshops, seminars and summits that encourage, empower and equip millennials to live out their destiny and walk in their purpose. When I’m not studying for my DMin in Leadership and Global Perspectives at Portland Seminary, you can find me enjoying a nice Chai Latte, exploring NYC or traveling to a new and exotic destination.

7 responses to “Safe Spaces within the Church: When Segregation Still Pervades the Sanctuary”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Colleen!

    You are way more intelligent and much better at words than I am. Thank you for your good writing.

    As I was reading your blog, I kept thinking of my experiences with segregation growing up in inner city Denver. Actually, my experiences were with forced desegregation. My parents bought a home one block from our elementary school. Imagine their surprise when us kids were not allowed to go there, but were forced to ride a bus 45 minutes to another school, all in the name of diversification.

    I am not disagreeing with your writing, rather I am trying to put my mind around how we foster diversity, without forcing it. I don’t think legislating diversity works. I think it works best when it is volunteer and encouraged from the bottom up, rather than the top down.

    Your thoughts?

    • Thank you so much, Jay! I’m always so blessed by your kind encouragement.

      I think diversity starts from the bottom up practically, and the top down ethically. For instance, a pastor or leader needs to assess their geography and figure out if their leadership is representing the people. If the leadership is all white and the community is highly multiracial, then there needs to be a higher rate of diversity within leadership. This is when the bottom leads the top.

      However, ethically, leaders need to start conversations and create space for diversity within their organizations. For instance, if leaders lead from the assumption that all the congregation votes the same then they have the potential to create a bias against those who don’t fit in with the majority.

      This can also cause congregations to simply imitate the pastor’s belief out of fear of retaliation or ostracization because it’s an expected norm and unspoken requirement of the community.

  2. mm Mike says:

    Colleen,
    Great job opening your post with the cross imagery. Yes, I agree with you. This new iGen phenomenon does not “own” their ideas, convictions, or actions. As a result, confusion, division, and chaos immerges in many social sectors.
    You have a good handle on this material and I’m glad to see you have clear eyes as you look past this problem and towards the future. Well done! Antifragility, a Satanic scheme, has successfully infiltrated many contexts. I encourage putting on Christ as a personal defense, buffer, and protection against this new recipe with old ingredients of division, distrust, and destruction.
    Stand firm,
    Mike w

    • Thanks so much, Mike! I really appreciate your great support.

      Yes, iGen, as well as all generations, have the potential to lean towards division or diversity. You mention the importance of owning one’s ideas. This is imperative. I wonder what we would find if we polled our churches. How many people would express differing thoughts or interpretations that vary from their leadership? If we allowed them to submit their answers anonymously, would they be more honest? Why? Why should congregants fear voicing dissent?

  3. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Colleen,

    People have always preferred being surrounding by people who largely looked like them, talked like them, thought like them etc. Higher education has traditionally been a place where that was challenged but in a supposedly ‘safe’ environment. The thought was that we were tasked with teaching college students the skill of critical thinking. It seems that the segregated communities has become more important than developing that skill. It will be interesting to see what the outcome it. How this next generation will come into adulthood and what freedoms or restrictions they will instill in their own children.

    • Dan,

      I wonder if the embracing of cognitive diversity is more prevalent based on geographical location.

      For instance, the northeast is highly diversified because there isn’t an option to be amongst people who are similar. Therefore, we’ve learned to see this as normative. I wonder if other parts of the world would benefit from a diversity-driven curriculum during high school.

      What are your thoughts?

  4. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Colleen, interesting post. I did not see that anti-fragility or fragility could be tied to prejudice. I have read a lot of generational theory but Im a little bit behind in reading about Gen Z. Im not sure I have it all down yet, but I do know that Gen Z and the millenials are not as alike as I guessed. I guess this the typical old person thing though. EVeryone is surpised by the next generation.

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