Friday, February 10, 2006

The ghetto?

Boy, I'm sorry it's been a couple of weeks since I posted! Crazy times.

Recently someone anonymously posted a question relating to my choice of the word "ghetto" to describe the evangelical community in the US. She or he raises a good point--is this the right word? I went to dictionary.com to make sure I had a good handle on the word's origins and meanings, and here's what I found:

ghet·to ( P ) Pronunciation Key (gt)n. pl. ghet·tos or ghet·toes
1. A section of a city occupied by a minority group who live there especially because of social, economic, or legal pressure.
2. An often walled quarter in a European city to which Jews were restricted beginning in the Middle Ages.
3. Something that resembles the restriction or isolation of a city ghetto: “trapped in ethnic or pink-collar managerial job ghettoes” (Diane Weathers).

While I cringe a little at any connotative association with the evil ghettoizing of Jews or any other minority group, it's the third definition that I am working off of: something resembling (as in metaphorical) the restriction or isolation of a city ghetto. The interesting thing about this ghettoizing of evangelicals is that I believe we have done it to ourselves. We have thrown up the walls, we have built the barriers, that isolate us from the world at large. Maybe insulate is a better word than isolate, because I think we have mostly done this out of the fear of being sullied or compromised by contact with sinful humanity. Instead of being monkish individuals, we have cloistered in pseudo-communities that have the same outward practices to identify ourselves as members of the club, but who inwardly don't seem to have community with each other or anyone else.

It is time for believers to leave our self-imposed ghettos and move in the world as salt and light.

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