Why I Wrote, Right Color/Wrong Culture

Bryan Loritts sits down with Cormac Parker, the Executive Director of The Kainos Movement, to talk about his new book, Right Color, Wrong Culture.

CP:

Pastor Loritts, you’ve come out with two books this year- Letters to a Birmingham Jail, and your latest which is to be released September 2nd, Right Color/Wrong Culture.  Why did you write RC/WC?

BL:

There were a lot of things swirling around in my soul that served as the impetus to me writing RC/WC.  One was that I wanted to help bring clarity to the difference between ethnicity and culture.  I think the diversity conversation has brought a heightened awareness to issues of diversity, which is a great thing.  But the conversation needs to be pushed deeper to culture.  

What I mean by that is there is a difference between ethnicity and culture, a difference that many of us are not aware of.  All African American’s are not the same, neither are Whites, Hispanics, and any other ethnic group.  To state it bluntly- Carlton Banks (from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and hip hop artist Lil Wayne are both ethnically African American, but culturally as different as different can be.

CP:

Why is this important for me to understand as an individual, or a leader of a church or organization?

BL:

In my years in helping churches and organizations pursue their dream of becoming multi-ethnic I’ve seen well intentioned leaders (many of them white), say we need to get diverse, so let me hire a person of a certain minority, only to realize some months later that the person they hired isn’t really connecting.

Maybe two examples will help.  I once consulted with a white church that wanted to reach the growing Hispanic community around them.  In their zeal to engage, they had hired an Argentinian pastor.  That sounds cool, until you realize that almost 100% of the Hispanics were Mexican.  Our well intentioned white brothers didn’t discover until after the fact that there is a huge difference between these two cultures, and I was called in to help them clean up their mess.

Another example is a college was looking to hire an executive director whose job it was to expand the reach of the institution into the urban community- recruit people in what many would call the hood.  The college was white, so they said let’s hire an African American.  Well the African American they hired had never lived in the hood, was used to the finer things in life, and attended all upper middle class white churches.  The result was, that as he tried to make connections among the poor and urban sections of the city there was a severe disconnect.  He had no street cred.  It was like Carlton Banks trying to engage Lil Wayne- it just wasn’t going to happen.

CP:

This is a really good concept, this whole ethnicity and culture distinction.  But Pastor Loritts, do we see this in the Bible?

BL:

Oh sure!  The Bible has plenty to say about the difference between ethnicity and culture.  Take Acts 6, you know the controversy between the Hellenistic and Hebraic Jews.  The fact that Luke calls them Jews points to their ethnicity.  Hellenistic and Hebraic are adjectives that point to their culture.  So the conflict between these two groups was cultural, not ethnic.

I also think the running conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was at the deepest levels spiritual, but it was also cultural.  The Pharisees just refused to ease the grip on their cultural preferences.

Or look at Philippians 3, when Paul said that he was born of the nation of Israel (ethnicity) yet was a Hebrew of Hebrews (culture).  I mean it’s all over the place.

CP:

Is this book for a person who is not a pastor or leader?

BL:

Yes.  I really believe that RC/WC will enhance your personal relationships.  You will discover that within every ethnicity are three types of cultures, what I call C1’s, C2’s and C3’s.  C1’s (Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince) are those who have assimilated from one culture into another.  C3’s (Ice Cube) are culturally inflexible, they refuse to adapt or adjust.  What I push for is becoming C2’s, like Denzel Washington.  C2’s have the unique ability to become culturally flexible without losing who they are.  So as an individual you will find yourself assessing who you are as you read the book, and learning what you need to do to get there.  You will also think of your friends, and it will give you a new paradigm for how to engage them in a healthy way.

The ideal, I argue, is to become a Denzel Washington, C2.  That’s right, I believe that C2’s are made and not born, and I unpack that concept in the book.  If we are going to see more and more multi-ethnic churches and organizations, at the highest levels they must be lead by C2’s. 

CP:

Last question, I know that it’s written in a different form from most leadership books, can you explain that, and why?

BL:

It’s a Leadership Fable.  I’ve gotten a little burned out on the traditional leadership book that can be preachy, and give a whole bunch of principles in a didactic form.  RC/WC is a leadership fable, it’s a story that I hope will draw you in, and within that narrative you will see and learn the principles.  Already the feedback has been through the roof from those we’ve sent advanced copies to.  I know it will serve you well personally, and your ministry or organization as well.