Why should intentionally promoting cultural diversity matter to Christians? I have one simple answer, or more accurately, one verse. Matthew 28: 19.
I didn’t always make the connection between cultural diversity and this verse since I am very light skin and have easily blended into the Caucasian culture. However, having a dark-skinned daughter taught me just how much we have excluded the nations from our messages.
I Am Thankful for the Progress in Christian Media
Before I delve into what I hope is constructive criticism of Christian media and influencers, I want to say that I am thrilled about how far Christian media has come. The choices for Christian families on movies, print media, and radio has increased significantly since I was a child.
My children have access to Christian apps, which in my view is one of the coolest things ever. These are things that were non-existent when I was a kid. However, despite my gratitude at the expansion and growth in Christian entertainment and educational tools, I do want to call attention to a problem I do not believe is getting enough attention; that is the continued use of mostly Caucasian people and culture, whether in movies, cartoons, print media, or the images and graphics we use online.
I don’t want to belittle the willingness and the heart that our Caucasian brothers and sisters have put into making better Christian productions. Much of that work has been Holy Spirit inspired, but this is an area that we can do better and I believe that for the sake of the gospel, we must do better.
My Eyes Were Opened When I Had a Dark Skinned Child
I became aware of this issue only recently despite my Latin American origins. For many years I was oblivious to the issues that dark-skinned people face because frankly, I am pretty light-skinned. As is common for most Hispanics, I have both European and indigenous blood running through my veins. Because the European side dominates, I am what many of my family members would call, “blanquita,” which means “little white one.”
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (ESV Version)
But I married a tall, dark, and handsome Puerto Rican and our oldest daughter is dark-skinned, just like her daddy. My second child was born looking more like me with much lighter skin than her sister. When we first introduced her to the world, I heard words that made me use every ounce of self-restraint in my body.
Family members would comment on how beautiful and “blanquita” she was. Those comments were offensive because it equated her whiteness with her beauty. Lest you think I was being overdramatic and reading into things, when my oldest was born not one of them had ever said, “Look how beautiful and dark she is.” Yes, I was angry for my dark-skinned child because I knew she would internalize those subtle messages.
When Your Child Wonders Why No One Looks Like Her
Fast forward several years later my oldest daughter asked me a question that unsettled me more than those insensitive comments by family members. While watching a Christian cartoon on a popular Christian app, my dark-skinned child asked, “Mom, why are there no people in this show that look like me? Why are there no people with dark skin?”
The implication behind my daughter’s questions was this, “Isn’t the Christian message for people like me as well?” It broke my heart to think about how excluded my child must have felt at that moment from Christianity. It hurt because I knew that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for all people regardless of their background or race, including her. (I would later write a children’s book so that my daughter would see herself in the Christian story that is now available on Amazon).
The most troubling part is that the cartoon that my child was watching was a re-telling of a Bible story in the Old Testament. It is more likely that most of the people in the Bible were dark-skinned because of the geographical region where most Bible events took place. Those characters could have been made to look historically accurate, but they were not.
Related Article: When Jesus Broke Racial Barriers: The Woman at the Well.
Why then do we not portray them as such and instead continue to use Caucasian characters?
As Christians, our reasons for doing so should go beyond any social justice cry to do so. We are called to share the gospel with peoples from ALL nations. If that is our purpose, why do we continue to exclude so many of them from the images that we portray and the stories that we tell? Shouldn’t they see themselves in the redemption message as well?We are called to share the gospel with peoples from all nations. If that is our purpose, why do we continue to exclude so many of them from the images that we portray and the stories that we tell? Click To Tweet
Being Historically Accurate Promotes Cultural Diversity
Just by sticking to the historical and cultural accuracy of Biblical accounts, we will appeal to a much larger audience than is currently the case. And if we portray a fictional story or an event, let’s tell the story of Hispanics or Indians or Native Americans or African Americans or Asians that are Christians.
This also means that more Christians from different racial and cultural backgrounds need to step up to the plate. We need to tell our stories and have movies, and books, and magazines, and apps that represent our cultures and our race and the way we look. Not for our sake, but for the sake of the audience.
Relevant Article: How did Jesus Treat Women?
I know that if my child who has had very little experience with racism and has been raised in a Christian home could feel so excluded, it makes me wonder how other non-Caucasian children feel to hardly ever be represented within Christian media?
In I Corinthians 9:20-23 Paul tells us:
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (ESV Version)
The onus is on us to make ourselves more like the cultures and nations around us, not the other way around.
Ignoring Cultural Diversity in Christian Media Stifles the Great Commission
If our goal is to spread the gospel to all peoples, then we need to do a better job of representing different cultures within Christian media. Kudos to those outlets, influencers, and churches that are making an effort in this area, and there are definitely many that are. However, in general, whether it is a small church printing bulletins or a large organization making a movie, we need to be more intentional about cultural diversity.
If we don’t, we are ignoring the nations. Paul may not have had print media, nor cartoons, nor movies, but in the most basic sense, he understood that he had to conform to the culture of the people that he was reaching in order to appeal to them. If we want to reach more than just the Caucasian population, then we need to re-think how we are going to portray the Christian message through images. Those images need to speak to people and children of different backgrounds and say, “Yes, Jesus died for you too.”Christian images need to speak to people and children of different backgrounds and say, Yes, Jesus died for you too. Click To Tweet