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Aug 29, 2012 | EDOT Staff

Eric Law: Know Thyself, Then Reach Out


[Diolog Magazine] According to the Rev. Eric Law, founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute, “Most people think about culture as race and ethnicity, but I like us to think about culture as more than that. Culture is all the things that impact the way I see myself and the way I relate to other people and my environment—creation, my community, and so on.” 


For Law, perhaps the most important piece of understanding culture is for people to first understand themselves and to be authentic. That self-awareness removes much of the difficulty in getting to know and welcoming people of different backgrounds. 


Law’s notion of culture is pretty broad. In fact he said, culture can revolve around smallest details of our lives. Law says that people who wear glasses share a culture, and so do short people or tall people. “Tall people, short people literally experience the world at a different level,” he said.


“You’ve heard of northerners, southerners in the United States—west coast people. Why do we have these labels? Because there are differences. It’s a very different mindset, and all of those things shape us. Some of the basic ones are gender. Males and females do experience the world very differently. And age: my niece, for example, learned how to work the iPad at the age of two. What was I learning at the age of two? She learned a whole different set of skills because of her age and the period of time in which she grew up.


“So when I talk about cultural difference, I don’t mean just race and ethnicity. There are a whole lot of other things that make us different, and those differences can cause friction and tension. As leaders we need to learn how to deal with that and have skills to deal with that. Gone are the days when we assume the persons who are coming into our church have similar values to ours. That’s the ‘50s model of church. Today, I actually make the assumption that the person sitting next to me will most likely think differently, experience the world differently.”


Without the ability to articulate who you are as an Episcopalian, it’s impossible to understand and welcome people of other cultures to our churches. “If I don’t know who I am, I am going to be pretty fearful,” said Law. Our first reaction is apt to be: “I’m going to lose my church to these people.” 


Without a clear knowledge of our own faith and our place in that faith, being open to a more diverse group of people to worship with us will create a lot of tension. “And with that fear, that’s it. It will stop you. You have to first know who you are,” Law said. 


This makes a great case for strong, lifelong Christian formation in all our churches if we are to some day reflect the diversity that surrounds us in our communities and not the islands of white, brown or black congregations who usually gather on Sunday mornings. 


The Kaleidoscope Institute was developed to address race and diversity issues in faithful and constructive ways. Training is provided in the Diocese of Texas by Denise Trevino,