Theologian Michelle Lee-Barnewall reflects on her ethnic identity and her identity in Christ.
We live in a world where race relations receive near-constant attention. Conversations about race permeate our politics, schools, universities, sporting events, concerts, health services—and our churches as well. And yet in public discourse, complex and wide-reaching issues of race are often reduced to the simple binary of Black versus white.
But where does this leave other ethnicities that don’t fit into this reigning dichotomy? Asians, to take one example, make up around 7 percent of the American population and around 10 percent of the British population. Yet the public discourse about race often overlooks them.
As a British Singaporean, I am therefore grateful for Michelle Lee-Barnewall’s new book A Longing to Belong: Reflections on Faith, Identity, and Race. A New Testament professor at Biola University, Lee-Barnewall weaves her personal story as a South Korean growing up and living in the United States with a practical exploration of the Bible’s themes of identity, community, and diversity.
Part 1, “Created to Belong,” begins with Lee-Barnewall’s childhood, emphasizing her struggles to fit in at school as a South Korean growing up in Minnesota. I’m sure many children can relate to her experience of desiring to been seen as “normal,” fearing classroom mockery, and enduring the pain of rejection by peers.
Lee-Barnewall then dovetails her autobiographical anecdotes with the Bible’s teaching that we are created as intrinsically relational beings who are wired to yearn for community. Furthermore, as she points out, Christians are called to something greater than personal repentance and discipleship; we are called to be interdependent …