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Book Review: The Diversity Culture: Creating Conversations of Faith by Matthew Raley

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Time to ‘fess up – I am not good at witnessing to individuals with a pluralistic worldview. Though it was less than a scant three years ago that I found myself embroiled in the same beliefs, since being born again I’ve found it immeasurably difficult to put myself in the shoes of unbelievers and to see the world from their perspective. When I encounter those who profess multiple paths to God or enlightenment I find myself crying out in strident tones John 14:6 ("Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" [NIV]). Now there are some who feel I should take a softer approach, seeing these misguided souls as individuals who I can relate to before lambasting them with scriptural quotes.

Matthew Raley is such a one. On a mission to encourage evangelicals to engage without defensiveness The Diversity Culture: Creating Conversations of Faith with Buddhist Baristas, Agnostic Students, Aging Hipsters, Political Activists and Everyone in Between, he has penned a brief, though provoking, volume. In it he explores a Christ-centered model Christians can use to interact with the growing numbers of postmodernists at large in our culture. Integrating examples from modern media that exemplify the thought processes of the diversity culture, examples from Jesus’ life as related to us in scripture as he reached out to the Samaritan woman at the well, and a fictional interaction between a woman who represents the collective concerns of modern un-believers and a Christian seeking to move into relational conversation with this woman, Raley explores his premise at a brisk pace.

Raley’s lively writing brings the cultural backdrop of New Testament times into sharp focus and brings the scriptural narrative of Jesus’ encounters with unbelievers into sharp focus. Diving for pearls he seeks out principles for relational communication and the techniques that Jesus used to pierce the hardened hearts of his listeners. Of course, Jesus had a distinct advantage that we do not – He is God and knew just what to say — but as always we can learn from Him in all that He does. In his segments exploring hot topics for folks hailing from the diversity culture, Raley delves into a variety of topics that typically and invariably make evangelicals either tremble or rage: transgendered toddlers, same-sex marriage, and so on, encouraging believers to offer real help and guidance from scripture rather than drawing battle lines.

Though Raley’s language seems to target a distinct group of believers termed ‘evangelicals’, anyone with a heart for reaching the lost should consider investigating it. It would seem that the evangelicals Raley refers to are really any Christian holding to an orthodox understanding of salvation and a desire to reach out into a dying world for Jesus. With post-modernity sweeping across all of Western culture and Christians finding themselves increasingly alone in their worldview, this title is incredibly timely and relevant for believers.

I greatly enjoyed The Diversity Culture and fairly blew through it. I’m keeping it up on my shelf for another read through because as of yet I’ve been unable to move from my ideological battle position to a relational stance of building bridges of friendship and understanding. I can catch a glimmer of what he’s driving at, hear a faint echo in my heart, but for now I’m still counting on John 14:6. Keep growing a heart of compassion in me Lord, keep growing it.

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About Jennifer Bogart