It is almost impossbile for a minority culture group to express their opinion so that it might be heard.
As the racially and sexually segregated can attest, it is an uphill battle. Sometimes a minority cultural group has to insist upon expressing themselves, at which point they might be called “uppity” or a witch with a captial B. But they persevere, because they recognize that their opinion counts and that they are an important participant in the process of communication and decison-making.
However, just as most women and blacks a half a century ago had learned that it is a more peaceful life to just keep quiet and stay in one’s place, so most of the lower class has realized this as well. And there is more at stake for the lower class than the racially and sexually oppressed, because almost without exception they are physically and mentally weakened by their poverty, which makes expressing a differing opinion almost impossible. If they do express an opinion, half the time they are ignored, assuming they are having a “mental breakdown”. Of course, sometimes they are having a mental breakdown, and sometimes they are just being socially inappropriate (as determined by the ruling class) but it is still humiliating to be ignored. It is stressful to share a rejected point of view. It pushes ones buttons to speak what you think to be clearly true and to be treated as if your point of view just doesn’t matter.
So the lower classes just don’t say anything.
This is where the ruling class must step in to welcome the lower classes to express themselves.
Who is the ruling class? Well, in North America, it is the middle class, the ones who have mortgages on their homes and make payments on their cars. To themselves they are simply the “normal”, the average folks.
So what can the ruling class do?
1. If you consider yourself “normal” then seek out those who don’t and ask them their opinion. And treat their opinion as if it matters.
2. In congregations, the lower classes need to be invited into membership. They need to be asked to express their opinions on certain matters and they need to be carefully listened to. And they should be sought out in matters that really apply to them– for instance in matters of benevolance, or in helping those they consider to be like them.
3. Also, those who consider themselves to be “less than normal” should be given space to allow themselves to feel normal. This may mean allowing them to be “socially unacceptable”. It may mean that some folks in the congregation will dress down to the level they can afford (homeless fashion IS in fashion!). It may mean that someone will create a space where a lower class group can be with their own. It may be that some lower class who have leadership gifts would be invited to take places “up front” in worship.
Whatever. Be creative. But let’s welcome the lower classes to be a part of us.
Or, if failing that, let’s have some of us give up our “normalcy” to be a part of them.
Note: SteveK posted this a couple days ago. For some reason, there were two copies of it. I saw this and as a helpful person with some editing privileges thought I would clean it up. To my chagrin, I accidentally deleted both in my attempt to delete one. I thought all was lost unless Steve kept a copy. Then today, to my delight, I found a copy of the post in my RSS reader. So, I’m reposting it and I apologize to anyone who has been inconvenienced (mainly Steve) – Katie