Chicago, Heaven, and Race

Christine and I lived in the Chicago area for 4 years while I went to seminary and briefly worked at a church before coming back to Columbia to work with a team to start The Crossing. Now, with 2 of my boys being Cubs fans (my greatest parental failure), we make it back to Chicago fairly often.

One of the things that I’ve always noticed about Chicago (and maybe this is true of all big cities) is how segregated it is. I don’t mean that people of differing races, politics, etc… don’t ever mix nor am I referring to some sort of government imposed segregation. Instead I’m talking about the segregation that appears to me to be at least somewhat natural and by choice.

The composition of the population of each Chicago neighborhood appears to be based on factors such as race, ethnicity, income, politics, etc… And rarely do people stray outside the imaginary boundaries. Whether you walk around Gold Coast, Lincoln park, Wrigleyville, Chinatown, or one of the other 77 officially recognized neighborhoods in the city, you find that people in those areas have far more in common than different.

Of course that’s not just true in big cities like Chicago but also in smaller cities like Columbia. The reasons for this self-segregation can be quite complex but one factor is the powerful attraction of homogeneity. That just means that we like to be around people who are like us. It’s not simply that we don’t like other people but that we are more comfortable (and it takes less work) being around people with similar cultural backgrounds, values, education, income levels, etc… Of course that’s not the whole story. There’s undoubtedly a darker side to homogeneity including our prejudices.

I’m not sure whether it’s worth arguing over whether the desire to be around people like us is right or wrong. In some sense it just is. Maybe in another post I can share some of the drawbacks that come from living in a homogeneous community. For now all I have time to say is that heaven won’t be like Chicago. Heaven won’t be homogeneous.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

In heaven we are going to live and worship with people who we have nothing in common with…except Jesus. The only thing that binds the people in heaven together is that we are all sinners saved by Jesus.

Now that brings me to race. In my neighborhood I’ve seen some Asian families but only one or two African American families. One of the problems with self-segregation in neighborhoods, churches, etc… is that I have to work hard to know people of a different race or ethnicity. I think that means that I miss out on a lot.

In heaven I am going to worship Christ alongside people of every race. If that’s my future, I’d like to start doing it now. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that the most segregated hour in America is 11:00 on Sunday morning. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I don’t know if it’s all bad or not. But I do know that it isn’t God’s design for heaven. So maybe if God wants us to have integrated worship in heaven we should do some small things now? Maybe we should start building some bridges to Christians who don’t look like us? I think that’s the heart of God.

I’d like to invite you to the Racial Unity Worship Service on Sunday, January 24. We are saying it starts at 5:00 but with people coming from other churches, it probably won’t get started until 5:15. We should be finished by 6:30ish. There is childcare for infants through preschool. Space is limited.

This isn’t a service put on by The Crossing. Lots of churches are working together. It’ll be a little messy. That’s okay. Christians worshipping together across racial and denominational lines. I think God will be pleased. We might just get a little taste of heaven.

One Comment

  1. nita loganbill said:

    when I saw “race” I thought it meant a 5k or more, I was excited! it would be great if we all thought race meant run and not divisions of people. they human race, true unity. not black. white. asian, hispanic, etc. I’m equally excited for this glimpse of hraven. I think I’ll bring chocolate to share, that too is a glimpse of heaven. true blessings to be upon thus evening.

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