At Reformed Margins, we want to highlight the stories of ethnic minority Reformed thinkers. This week, Kevin Garcia, a blogger from Gospel District. Here’s his story!
“Why are you so naïve about the real world?”
My father would often ask me this when we would get into one of our regular debates. The subject could be football, basketball, politics, race, social issues; a myriad of subjects. At times these debates could get pretty heated, but I am thankful he taught me to think critically.
He would toss out that quote whenever I said that things “aren’t as bad as they used to be.” As he grew up he saw everything in light of race, but I was growing up in a different era and region. He grew up in California during the 60’s and 70’s, whereas I mostly lived in Oklahoma as a millennial child of the 90’s and 00’s. These family arguments overflowed out my home and into my school life where I was voted “Most Outspoken!”
My father felt that I was naive, yet those at school felt that I was too cynical about the current state of our country. It was an odd, yet necessary, tension. Some need to recognize the importance of emphasizing racial issues. Others need to be encouraged out of nihilistic pessimism through a focus on true progress that has been made.
I am a half-Mexican, half Native-American man, but I grew up surrounded by different cultures. I was surrounded by various black cultures in my neighborhood and school, but I became a Christian in a majority-white church. And even though I was the captain of the academic team, I was always running around and getting in trouble. Needless to say, these diverse interactions made me racially and socially conscious from a young age.
Further complicating things, I wasn’t raised in the Church. So once I came to Christ, my lack of a Christian upbringing pushed me farther to the margins. “Not fitting in” became the narrative that defined my life as I grew older and interacted with a diverse world.
As I grew in my faith, I became discontented with the Pentecostal theology I had been immersed in. I began to notice that “deep spiritual things” coincided with what song was playing during worship or what prophecy was given during the altar time.
I knew some very good and loving people in this culture but grew weary of strong political overtones combined with emotional manipulation during the worship services. I also became progressively frustrated by the lack of love shown to the poor and needy in self-professed conservative Christianity. I came to see only judgment and self-righteousness.
It was during this period that I was introduced to Reformed theology. At the time some forms of liberal theology seemed appealing. I loved the focuses on loving people, justice, and equality for all peoples. I sensed a passion amongst these people for loving others as Christ loved us. This seemed to be a group of people with whom I could finally fit in.
Then I started listening to conversations and teaching surrounding the person of Christ. It may not be true of all churches that are liberally bent, but I was especially uncomfortable when teachers referenced Christ as “helpful myth” rather than sovereign LORD. I loved what they emphasized but was concerned when they approached the core doctrines of who God is.
It was David Platt’s “Radical” that introduced me to robust theology wedded with a passion for thew less fortunate. While I have grown to disagree with some of what Platt argues, it was refreshing to hear a pastor speak against the modern idols of wealth and comfortability in America. He also appealed to me with his passionate appeals to the person and work of Christ. I had never heard such teachings about the Bible, God’s glory, Jesus, the Gospel, AND a deep concern for those in need. This led to me hearing other preachers associated with him. For the first time I heard the theology of John Piper, Tim Keller, Art Azurdia, Eric Mason, H.B. Charles, Lorenzo Elizondo (my current pastor), and many others. They discipled me in these doctrinal areas.
I was learning that simply living out moral principles was not the highest goal. Knowing God through his Son’s completed work was! I was learning that to know God as loving Father – above all things – gives the motivation for obedience instead of my obedience earning God’s love. This theology was now teaching me that simply living out moral principles were not the highest goal but to know God through his Son’s completed work was. I was learning that to know God above all things as loving Father is what gave me the motivation for obedience and that it was not my obedience that earned God’s love.
Reformed theology has given me a strong foundation from which I have been able to engage with scripture and society as a whole. It has encouraged me to love God more deeply, endure trials more honestly, and discuss my faith more confidently.