Book Review: The Diversity Culture

diversityI am finally writing my review of Matthew Raley’s The Diversity Culture for the Viral Bloggers Network.  I received two books at once and freaked briefly over the thought of reading and reviewing both within a month.  I had them both read on a three day vacation I took, but have let this one languish for a couple weeks before reviewing it.

I liked the book, then again, I didn’t.  I have always thought I come from evangelical roots, by Raley and others are convincing me that I was always a mainline person, with fundamentalist, then evangelical affinities.

Raley’s story, flowing out of his own story, is about “healing relationships as a way f showing Jesus Christ to Contemporary America.” (p. 16) Diversity Culture is set in Café Siddhartha, where each one  is several stereotype rolled into one.

Using the story of Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4), Raley makes some interesting and valid points for evangelicals who “have difficulty penetrating this culture’s ways, and seem to feel it was designed to exclude them.”

Raley does a respectable job of trying to draw evangelicals out of their absolute, fact-driven world into the world where everyone else lives – the world of relationships and brokenness and community.  Is this relativism?  “Is it relativistic,” Raley asks, “to hear someone out, or to participate in discussions that may not resolve neatly?”

My hesitation to recommending the book strongly is about what seems to me to lie beneath the surface.  The Diversity Culture reads to me as if Raley is hanging onto the assumptions that the evangelical worldview is the one true and accurate worldview, but that evangelicals ought to loosen their grip on it for the sake of building relationships and thereby bringing others to Christ. This worldview is from the Reformation and its progeny, not from Jesus or the New Testament era. We don’t need another book calling us backward to Calvin, Luther, and Locke.

Overall, it is a good read.  At only 166 pages, it is written well enough to be worth the time it takes you to read it.  Raley raises good questions, and is, I believe, headed in the right direction.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Diversity Culture

  1. You share many of the same thoughts I had and posted at Viral Bloggers. I like to read other’s reviews just to make sure I’m not missing something. Apparently, I didn’t. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the review, Steve. I have not read the book so I am commenting out of ignorance in the writings of Raley. It does seem that your review of his criticisms of ‘evangelicalism’ can also be said of ‘mainline-ism.’ I feel that I have stradled that line in my life however unintentionally.
    I have found in both an adherance, and even more than that a foundational response to modernity undergirding each. Neither is well positioned to speak in conversations that will not neatly resolve themselves. Both ‘inerrantists’ and ‘progressives’ tend to read Scripture with an end in mind before they even read. The inerrantist says “THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE WORD OF GOD AND WE(usually meaning I) CAN (usually meaning Do) UNDERSTAND IT.” The progressive, or mainline liberal seems to have the opposite yet just as dogmatic tact; “We can’t really uncover what was originally intended, but the best that we can really do is listen to leading scholars on the matter (even going so far as to vote with coloured beans as ‘experts’).
    I believe that both are so limited by modernity that it is necessary for a 3rd way to emerge. I believe a third way is emerging and the Gospel will carry on, as will the Church, because these are the promises of God. The human institutions and denominations must be sacrificed for this to happen. Therein lies the rub.

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