Monocultural multiethnicity: borg theology

In Star Trek, there were a group of aliens called the Borg.  They operated as a hive mind; a collective that adapted & assimilated thousands of species and incorporated the history, knowledge and technology of that species into itself.  Their catch phrase, “You are about to be assimilated, resistance is futile, we are the borg” was a pithy encapsulation of who and what they were.

What does this have to do with multiethnicity?  Well in some ways, the way multiethnicity is practiced looks a lot like the Borg; no matter how many new species were assimilated by the Borg, how many differing groups became a part of the collective, the Borg themselves never changed.  They became efficient,  pragmatic, and eminently adaptable, but they were also the quintessence of banality and non-existence.  What could be a vibrant integration of thousands of species became instead a horrible nightmare focused on nothing more than it’s own survival.

Well I don’t imagine that when faithful Christians push for inclusive multiethnicity they have anything like Borg assimilation in mind.  However, so much of what passes for multiethnicity is simply a lot of different looking people getting together and talking about multiethnicity while worshipping, leading, praying, and doing church like middle class White angst filled gen X-er’s.

Dpark puts in well in his comments on the fight to stay asian

“But you don’t know me. You don’t know Korean any better because of me. This multiculturalism thing is not all true. I mean the world is becoming a smaller place, and yes, there are wonderful opportunities here, but I don’t radiate my Korean-ness here and he doesn’t radiate his Hong Kong-ness here or her Pakistani-ness.”

The teacher interupted me. “But by you being here, we have a window for discussion. The possibilities are there. Even that was never possible before.”

I don’t know where my anger came from but it started to flow more freely. “A window? I know a Cuban. I don’t know what being Cuban is like. I know two African-Americans. I don’t know what being black is about. That’s not a window–that’s a peephole. When I’m here at school, you don’t know that I don’t speak English when I’m at home or what my life as a Korean is like at all. This is not multiculturalism — it’s uni-cultural with all the rest giving up what they have to have the opportunity. I’m not Korean any more, I’m just an American with a Korean face! Or at least I have to be if I want to be a part of this multicultural facade.”

Unfortunately what was true in that classroom is often true in the church.  One hard reason why may be that American culture, and consequently American Christianity, is more like the Borg than we want to admit. 

The tragedy of the Borg is that though they assimilated so many people, knowledge, technology and minds, but they did not assimilate their cultures.  The Borg remained Borg and so were never genuinely enriched by all that assimilation.  I fear the same for the American church, especially in this season of “multiethnicity.”  That all the trappings of culture will be absorbed, but the rich vibrant underpinnings that make culture real will be lost.

Author: elderj

I was born the fourth child and third son of godly parents in Nashville Tennessee. After leaving home for college I got involved with InterVarsity, then graduated with a degree in finance. After that I got a masters in history. Nowadays I spend too much time reading, writing, thinking, and occasionally doing my job.

3 thoughts on “Monocultural multiethnicity: borg theology”

  1. AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN. At our community, we distinguish between multicultural in composition (Borg Theory) vs. multicultural in expression and life together. The former is cake, the latter… ah, that where the rubber meets the road. it has to happen in all facets of expression, relating, and decision making… A Beginners Guide to Crossing Cultures, by Patty Lane, is a good place to start. And getting the church worship style/songs/lyrics/languages all mixed up is another key. That’s what we’ve tried… check out my blog for the Yeshu Satsangh- I think this is one example of a way forward.

    ElderJ- you the man to bring this up. This is just so utterly crucial.

  2. Yucan, I’ve read Patty’s book, and we had her come to provide some training for us in cross-cultural ministry. She’s good.

    And my bringing it up is about all I’ve done. I could do much more.

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