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Cinco De Mayo and Worship: Appropriation or Appreciation?

“Friday is the day Mexican culture get appropriated by everyone- florists, classrooms, bars, social media. You don’t deserve the joy and beauty of tacos margaritas, brightly colored decor, if you are not ready to stand with and advocate for the people whose culture you are co-opting. #5demayo”

After I posted this, I got reposts and responses. (not all happy)

Along with being told by a white person that my statement was ridiculous, I was asked by another how this was different than St. Patricks Day. I responded:

“I agree with your reference to St. Patrick’s Day. We can stand with the collective suffering due to systemic injustice against Irish Americans that affect us still today. I do think that is why we recount the history and prayer…to educate. I do that every year and remind people it’s not just about beer and a green river (in Chicago).”

I also received the famous question that I get everyone asks me when about multicultural worship:

“What is the difference between appreciation and appropriation?”

Multiethnic worship acknowledges, honors and embodies the diversity of people in the local and global church. We don’t sings songs and pray prayers from other places for the purpose of creating multiethnic communities, we do it because it reflects the reality of the global church. We are one body, but many tongues tribes and nations. And how we do this matters. We can’t just take songs from people, we receive them as gifts and we honor them. We can appreciate or honor the image of God in other cultures as a way of standing with them #solidarity and learning from them #mutuality.

Don’t merely appropriate culture:

  1. Using a song, prayer, piece without knowing its origin or the story of the people it comes from.  (For a good example, check this out.)
  2. Choosing a song because it sounded cool, was accessible in a hymnal.
  3. Planning to use a song with no connection to the community it represents.

Appreciate and honor your brothers and sisters:

  1. Tell the story behind the song. They come from family!
  2. Share songs that have been gifted to you from friends from other cultures such as in our country as well as globally. You may have missions partnerships and you can learn one over Skype.
  3. Stand with them in their present experiences which have been shaped by the history and political responsibilities #ImmigrationReform #BlackLivesMatter #WeWelcomeRefugees
  4. Refuse to participate in worship practices that do not move to other forms of communion, solidarity, and hospitality with those who art you are taking.

Tacos, churros, and margaritas are delicious! But if my only connection to a community is wearing a sombrero and hitting a piñata, then those shallow attempts can tokenize and dehumanize instead of appreciate and honor. What does it mean to stand in the joy and suffering with our brothers and sisters around the world in worship…and not just when singing?

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