Woman #1: I look for culture everywhere because I celebrate all cultures, because I’m such a mixture of them.
Man #1: Yes, I have purposefully set out to engage with other cultures simply by learning a new language.
Woman #2: God has given me many opportunities to engage with different cultures than me, including my own family who adopted me as a black girl, my family’s way to fellowship and work with and meet people completely different than me. I’ve loved it.
Woman #3: I love asking questions. And I have people telling me stories about how they grew up and how it might be different.
End of Preview
John Fuller: Well, some really good ideas for yourself and your family about looking through a lens that sees a wonderful variety of culture, and races, and ethnicities that we can see and experience in our world today. I’m John Fuller. Jim Daly is out today, so, um, I’ll be carrying the load here. I think it’s fair to say, uh, to our guests, that we’ve made some really good strides, generally, as a culture and, uh, across the world toward equality and, uh, having a more pluralistic society. And, uh, we value and engage in positive ways with those who are different from us. There is, at the same time, still some work to be done, right? Uh, we have a lot of work to do in addressing some of the serious problems that still exist. Um, many Christian families are doing this well. They’re embracing diversity, they’re living out that biblical mandate to love, and serve, and treat others with respect, and with no regard to who they are, or where they came from, or what they look like. Uh, we in the Christian community, can be leaders in this. Uh, we have a biblical mandate, and we’ll get into that as we, uh, as we continue the conversation, to take the gospel to all tribes, all nations, all tongues, all peoples. So we’ve invited a couple of great guests to help us think through and apply some of these biblical truths. We have Dr. Danny Huerta, he’s, uh, a colleague here at Focus, the head of parenting and youth department here at Focus on the Family and is a psychologist and licensed clinical social worker. He’s got a private practice in Colorado here since, uh, 2003. And Trillia Newbell is joining us for the first time today.
Trillia Newbell: Yes.
John: She is an author, speaker, blogger, editor. And today, we’re gonna discuss one of the books she wrote. And it’s, it’s different for us, Trillia.
John: We don’t do lots of kids books, but I think the way that you’ve approached this topic can be a great, uh, conversation starter for families to discuss, uh, what we’re talking about today. So, the book is called Creative God, Colorful Us and it’s got some really nice paintings in it and some really good, fun stuff. Get your copy from us here at Focus on the Family. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
John: Well Danny, Trillia, thanks so much for, uh, being here today.
Trillia: Thanks for having us.
Danny Huerta: Thanks for the invitation.
Trillia: I’m really excited. Yeah.
John: So, uh, let’s just throw this out on the table, either one of you or both of you can address this. It feels to me, just from observation, that a lot of kids aren’t prejudiced, they just hang out and play with other kids. They see other kids. Somewhere along the way though, the culture or family impact affects how they see people and they get uncomfortable with people that aren’t like me. What do you think about that?
Danny: I mean, that’s developmentally normal, where there’s an us versus them, right? They don’t know the other child. In sports, we naturally see the other team as the enemy, rather than they’re kids that are playing a sport with us. And competitiveness, uh, leads to, uh, to some of that naturally. And then, as you… As they age in a culture that, uh, naturally struggles with this worldwide, uh, they begin to step into those, sometimes out of fear.
Danny: Out of competitiveness, out of scarcity.
Danny: And there’s a resource I want, and there’s two of us, and I’m in the dominate group, and so now, uh, you become my enemy, right?
Danny: And so, there are natural things in the environment that sometimes cause a child to begin to develop this internally.
John: Yeah. Anything to add, Trillia?
Trillia: Yes. I would add that also it’s learned. So, there are when… If you’re talking about prejudice and, um, racism, or any kind of negative, when they’re looking at someone, they’re watching the way their parents speak about other people, the way their community, um, responds to people. But I do believe that children notices differences very early.
Trillia: My husband is white, I am African American and when we look at … When my son was about two, he started to recognize that mommy and daddy look different, and he called himself peach. He called his dad peach, because he has lighter skin, and he called me brown. And so he would say, “Peach, brown,” ’cause he’s trying to relate and figure the world out.
Trillia: And so they notice differences.
Trillia: It’s when they put that, the negative aspect, or they, their sin nature comes out (laughs).
Trillia: Like the competitive-
Trillia: … or, or, hate.
Trillia: That some of that is natural as he has so eloquently said, and then other parts of it is learned.
Trillia: So they’re looking and responding the way their parents, or the people around them do.
John: Well, so let’s go to that, uh, to that…
John: … awkward moment when you’re in the store with your kids and they’re like, “Mommy,” or, “Daddy, why is that person,” and fill in the blank. And they say it loud enough for everybody nearby to hear it.
John: How do you lean into that moment and not shame the child for asking, uh, a question born out of curiosity?
John: Um, how do you explain that?
Danny: You know, it’s interesting the, the brain naturally prejudges, because it needs shortcuts, otherwise it takes too long to think about things.
Danny: And so teaching our kids that it’s not a wrong mechanism, but understanding what the question’s about. There’s no shame in that question, that person’s different, that’s true.
Danny: Hey let’s look at those differences and celebrate that.
Danny: What’s different and what makes you feel uncomfortable with that, what, what’s great about that? And it doesn’t always have to be negative. And a prejudice is a prejudging, and we have to figure out are we judging out of a pure heart or out of a heart that is prideful?
Danny: And so, if it’s prejudging with humility, what does that mean? Because our brain naturally does that. And so, that, that can be a whole conversation in itself there, John.
Trillia: I really love that answer. And I’m so glad he said it that way because it’s 100% accurate that difference isn’t wrong and that’s where we’ve gone, where we’ve gone wrong. And difference can be celebrated, it can be enjoyed. And so, if your child points out a difference, you can acknowledge it. Yes, that person does have a dot on their forehead. Why don’t we go home and look it up? Maybe we learn where they could be from.
Trillia: What is that culture about?
Trillia: That is a different response then, “Oh, oh, oh, don’t do that. Don’t point,” because it immediately makes it wrong that that difference is … There’s something negative about it and you shouldn’t point it out, you shouldn’t acknowledge difference. And, um, so I, I really do believe that if we can, as parents, or as adults, respond better, it will help ignite a curiosity in our kids and help them understand that it’s not wrong to ask questions.
Danny: Right, and if a person’s offended, we can’t control that, but we can control the conversation with our kids. And in that moment, if a child that’s innocent asks that question, and a lot of times the parents are reacting to the potential offense, “Oh no, I think I just offended someone,” we can’t control that, but we can certainly respond to our child.
Danny: And lean into that teaching moment just as Trillia was saying.
John: I appreciate that. So, um, let’s look at this matter of diversity through the lens of an adult who says, “Well, I, I’m color blind. I just see people.” Is that a good way to approach this sensitive matter of differences, cultural and, and ethnic differences? Or, or what would you recommend, Trillia?
Trillia: I would say no, that you’re not color blind unless you really are color blind. If you’re… (laughing) And there are, there are people who are actually color blind.
John: I had a boss who was color blind.
Danny: That’s true.
Trillia: Yes, but what people actually are trying to say is, “I’m not racist,” and so they’re… They say, “Oh, oh I don’t see color,” but you do. You recognize when I came into this room that I have dark skin, and that’s a good thing. It’s an okay thing, why? Because God has created me that way. I’m created to reflect God in, in the way that I, um, speak and think and act and to, um, hopefully, glorify him in what I do.
Trillia: And so, God’s created me. He thought of me. He knit me in my mother’s womb. We say those things all the time. Well, it, it applies to cultural differences as well. So, you should not be color blind. I often say, “You should be color smart.”
John: Yeah, I appreciate that part of the book. So, go ahead and explain what you mean by that, Trillia.
Trillia: Yes. So, what I mean by is that you get to know people, get to understand first and foremost, what the scriptures say about culture and diversity and people.
Trillia: We’ve already … We started this program thinking about we are to go and make, um, disciples of all nations. So there’s this beautiful mandate in the scriptures already. So, thinking about what the scriptures say, but also that we can… Um, it’s a part of really loving our neighbor, to get to know them and to understand and grow in our understanding of culture and people. And so, we don’t have to pretend like they don’t exist, that’s actually more offensive (laughs). Um, we can instead press into that and get to know people.
Trillia: So we don’t … Uh, that’s what I mean by color smart; understand history, understand culture, understand people, ask good questions and understand what the Bible says about differences.
John: Well, let’s go ahead. We, uh, I, I referenced that a little bit.
John: There’s the Great Commission, there are a lot of versus in scripture. Why do we look to the Bible as our guide when it comes to what culturally can be a pretty sensitive or even, um, divisive conversation?
Danny: Well, I love it when scripture talks about, about one anothering. I mean it’s all throughout scripture and it doesn’t say one another, just with these few people. It’s one another with everyone. Love one another, encourage one another, exhort one another, teach one another. Everyone has something to offer. And then Ephesians 2:10 is my favorite, “That we’re all God’s workmanship. His masterpiece, created for great things in Christ Jesus.” We’re created for Christ Jesus. And all of us, different races, colors, cultures, even homes have their own cultures. I mean, that’s just… God is a creative God. They created different flowers, different animals, different plants, different people. And that’s the richness of his creativity. And it creates a color and a richness to our experience together as humans.
John: I appreciate that, Danny. Trillia?
Trillia: Well, I’m just glad he mentions Ephesians 2, because Ephesians 2:1-10 is gospel, gospel, gospel. We are united to God. He has brought us to himself. And then, when you go to Ephesians 11 to the end, we see that the veil of hostility has been broken down in the body of Jesus Christ, making one new man, the Christian. So, we’re brought together. So, we see this beautiful picture of God uniting us to himself and to one another. But all throughout scripture, from Genesis 1 all the way to Revelation…
John: I was going to say, there’s a story art that God has created, and it begins in Genesis. We see the end in human terms in Revelation. And all woven through that is this celebration of different.
Danny: You know, what’s interesting is Jesus and Paul challenged the church on things similar to what we’re handling, we’re trying to handle in our culture today, which is division. And Paul talked about unity over and over again in the church. And unity together, different cultures, different races. And Jesus, challenged the culture of his time.
John: Well, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, although Jim is out today. I’m John Fuller here in the studio with my colleague, Dr. Danny Huerta. He’s in charge of our parenting and youth team here at Focus. And we’re also joined by Trillia Newbell, whose got a terrific book that we’re talking about today, Creative God, Colorful Us. And it’s really beautiful little chapter book that you can go through with your children or grandchildren. We have copies of that here at the ministry. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
John: Well, Danny, let’s go ahead and hear a little bit of your story. Because you weren’t born here in the States.
Danny: I wasn’t.
John: So, share, share about that experience and, and what it taught you.
Danny: Well, I remember the day that my mom, uh, had told me, “Hey, you need to learn English. We may go to America someday.” She was from United States. My dad is from Mexico, and I was born in Mexico City. I assumed we would live in Mexico City forever. And she said, “You need to say goodbye to your, your friends. We’re moving to America.” Then the panic button kind of set in, but I didn’t realize what was going to happen there. We ended up in Colorado Springs because Jim Erwin had talked to our family and our family wanted a Christian education for us as kids. And as I arrived, I, uh, the teacher thought I was a deaf mute in the classroom. My mom had to-
Trillia: How old were you?
Danny: I was eight-and-a-half.
Danny: And my mom was a teacher. She got a teaching job as a Kindergarten teacher at the school. And they didn’t have an ESL program. And, uh, they, uh… In the teacher’s lounge, the teacher came to my mom after a month and said, “Hey, I think your son is going to have to special school. I think he’s a deaf mute.” And that was… What I was doing, is I was drawing all over my sheets of paper. I didn’t know what was going on, and, uh…
John: You were pretty stressed out, I would imagine too.
Danny: I was pretty stressed out. I, I ended up, actually, with warts on my fingers, just anxiety was there. I didn’t know what was going on, and I, I was very connected in Mexico, and here I didn’t feel connected at all. But, uh, in the lunchroom, I got to sit with a girl from India, a girl that was left-handed, and then a boy that stuttered. He slowed everything down for me, so I could, I could really understand what he was saying.
John: So, his stuttering was a gift to you.
Danny: Oh, it was a gift. I loved Carl, that was his name. And, uh, I got invited to play some sports with the kids at, in the, during the lunch time. That’s where I started to feel a sense of connectiveness with the other kids.
John: Got your footing there. Yeah.
Trillia: So the kids invited you?
Danny: They did. They said, “Hey, you want to come play?”
Trillia: That’s so great.
John: Well, to be fair, Trillia. On the school yard, you look for the win. And, and if he’s good… I got it, right?
Trillia: (laughing) There you go.
John: So, tell us about your family of origin, Trillia. Because yours, it wasn’t a totally rosy picture.
Trillia: No, well, I grew up, um, in a really loving home, I wouldn’t say a Christian home. And my father experienced a lot of racism growing up in Tennessee. Um, and, to being beat once, and… Yes. So, he taught us, however, to love and forgive. And it was really an interesting, um, upbringing because of that, because he experienced such deep racism.
John: And that, so that racism turned into physical expressions of hatred…
John: … Towards your dad because he was black.
Trillia: Yeah. Yeah
John: Or he is black.
Trillia: Yes, yes, he passed away when I was 19, so. Um, but, yes. And so, it really formed us, however, because we, we learned a lot about history quick, and we, I experienced, uh, some pretty overt racism. I had a, a brick thrown out the window at me once, and called the N-word. And so, it was something that I had to learn, “Okay, what, how am I going to respond to this? What is that going to do for me?” Because I didn’t, it didn’t make sense, because I, I loved people. I continue to love people. But I love people, even as a unbeliever, I, I had, there was… Because we’re made in the image of God, he gave me a love for people. And so, I didn’t understand why someone would hate me just because of the color of my skin.
John: Well, and you learned forgiveness from your dad. So, how did he grasp the importance of forgiving those who were actively demonstrating hatred toward him?
Trillia: You know, I wish I could ask him (laughing), “How did you grasp that, Dad?” Because I would just say I imagine it was also his parents who, um, grew up in the south also, and were, had learned to live in some harsh, I mean, segregated south environment. And there is something about the last generation that is enduring; they endured through suffering, they understood trials, that I think formed him and formed us. And so, we’ve learned to endure and to also, I think, understand people even though, again, I, I can’t say that it was a Christian home, but to understand that people are sinful.
John: So fast forward to you became a Christian.
John: And if I’m not mistaken, you attended a predominately white church.
John: Tell us about that experience.
Trillia: Yeah, so, the girl who shared the gospel with me, she shared the gospel at 19. It took a few years before I submitted my life to the Lord, so I was 22. And I just went to her church. So, she shared the gospel with me and I went to her church and, um, I remember the day that I heard, you know, the hymn Rock of Ages, “Wash me Savior or I’ll die.” And, at that moment, I was saved and the Lord, he, um, well, he changed everything about me. So, one of the things that he changed is that I always had this, something in me, um, about justice and something in me about the right and wrong and, on this particular topic, and then I started opening the word of God and I realized, “Oh, it’s his idea.” (laughing) This is from him. And he desires unity, and he desires us to love each other and to die to self. And so, um, it was such a… It was so encouraging. But that journey, it really was just God’s faithfulness. He drew me to himself. I was not looking in any way.
John: Yeah, and you developed good friendships in that church.
Trillia: I did.
John: Obviously, laid a foundation. That community, despite you being different than most of the people in the church.
John: Really welcomed you and poured into you.
Trillia: Absolutely. Actually, it reminds me of Danny’s story, except for I was 22. I had friends. And so, I started doing accountability with a white female from the Chicago area and a Chinese gal from Nashville. (laughing) But her family’s from China. And we did accountability for many years, and the Lord… I had prayed for diversity in the church because it, it is lonely being one of only, though there were families. Um, so the Lord gave me friends, and a family, and sisters, and that is what God did, um, for me. Yeah.
John: And Danny, going back to kind of the, the immersion in US culture here, from your days growing up in Mexico. Uh, then you got married and you gave the gift of culture clash to your wife and kids.
Danny: The gift. I love that. I should tell her that tonight. It’s a gift, honey.
John: There was some… Well, I mean, it’s like when I moved from the upper Midwest down to Texas, there was a culture clash there. So, describe a little bit of what Heather had to kind of go through.
Danny: Yeah, the first two years were rough, uh, in our marriage. We actually had to seek out counseling for a little bit, um, because my family wanted us to be with them all the time. Right? Every Sunday would be ideal. That’s the Latino way.
Trillia: Yep. I was about to say.
John: Culture is together, right?
Danny: And her family was more private and my family was overwhelming to her family, let’s put it that way. Very Latino. I remember growing up, we always had somebody coming to our house for dinner. I thought I was going to have dinner with my parents. All of a sudden, “Oh, who are you?” New people at our dinner table.
Trillia: That’s awesome.
Danny: They just would… They’re very hospitable, very involved in missions. And so, they assumed once you get married, more people. Uh, we’ve added a, you know, a spouse. And, uh, and our daughter-in-law is going to come over to our house every Sunday. And so, I had to put some boundaries there.
Danny: That we were forming our family culture now. And I had to do that, take my wife into account. And for us to, to begin to develop what rhythm was going to be like.
John: For your family, not for her in your extended family.
Danny: Yeah. Right, and just because it’s cultural, doesn’t make it right. It just means that’s the culture that you grew up with, now you need to figure out how does this work for our relationship. Because we assume that just because it’s cultural, it makes it gospel or that’s what I have to follow, this sense of loyalty to it. No, you have to figure out, now I have to adjust to another person, and that is loving.
Danny: Now you create a new culture together.
John: I appreciate that, Danny. And Trillia, as we kind of turn the corner toward the last portion of the broadcast, let’s go ahead and unpack some practical things for parents… Some of the things in the book. So, uh, how do we press through and help our kids grab onto the beauty and wonder of God-given diversity?
Trillia: Yeah, so practically preach the Word. So, that is practical. (laughing) So, preach it. All of it. And so, for our family, that’s been really important is that we’re grounded in the gospel, but we understand all of the texts. We understand Jesus and the Samaritan woman. We understand what’s going on in the Bible. Um, and so, that’s one practical step. Another one regarding church, for us, we pray for diversity. We have sought out, um, church that is slightly more diverse. I live in Tennessee, so, you know, it’s predominately white. And so, we have to be pretty intentional. And so, we’re not in a church that is like super multi-ethnic, but there is diversity. And so, that’s something that was important to us to practically look for. But everyone doesn’t… Not everyone has that. And so, I think, that’s why it’s so important that you’re preaching the Bible, so that when someone comes in who is of another ethnicity or culture, you’re already bent towards love, you’re already bent towards what the scriptures say, um, towards a welcome and not favoritism or the sin of partiality.
John: Is it safe to say, our kids are watching us for the cues that it’s okay?
Trillia: Absolutely. Absolutely, I think so. And, and I do also think that kids, especially these days… They’re going to touch cultures that are different than them, probably even more frequently. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s… At least that’s been our experience, because we live in a Nashville area and yet my son is in school with someone who’s German, and French, and Indian. I mean, he’s… It’s all over. Which I didn’t experience as much. And so, I feel like… I don’t know if there’s something that’s changed or if it’s just that I was from East Tennessee, but they are seeing more cultures and diversity themselves. But, I do think that inviting that and opening that up, especially, as it comes to church is really important. And, and then, I know you’re probably going to turn the corner to in the home. But, I believe that’s of utmost importance. Because if you’re… I mean, this is like with everything, right? We don’t want it just to be on Sunday mornings. So, we, we want the way that we’re living and talking about people to be throughout the week. And so, for us, it’s also been very important that we introduce different cultures in, in the home.
John: You’ve got a tradition of doing that, um, cooking from around the world. Is that right?
Trillia: Yeah. Yes, so we cook through the nations. So, since they were young, we would, I would have them look at a map and decide, “Okay, what, what country, or continent, or where should we cook through?” And we, we do that, and it’s been such a fun time. And, on, um, Black History Month, we talk through the whole month. We cook through something and then we go through different… Talk about history and culture. And so, but not, obviously, not just February. We do it throughout the year. And it’s opened up a world for my kid. My son was, is learning German, and Cherokee. And there’s just this, this interest that’s… And I think it’s how God has made them, but I do also think we’ve invested in that. We’ve helped open that door for them.
John: Yeah. Danny, from a professional perspective, um, and with your heart as a dad, talk to the parents who are listening, thinking, “Well, I guess have some work to do, but I don’t know where to start.”
Danny: Well, by the way, our home… They only mimic the good things. They never mimic the bad things.
John: Of course, God makes your children. They are perfect. They are a reflection of all that you’ve done right.
Danny: All the perfection. That’s right. So, with my kids, just in our home, and really in my practice, we talk about self-awareness and developing that discipline, that skill. We all have stereotypes of some form or another. If you really dig down to it. It doesn’t have to be racial. There’s stereotypes, there’s prejudice, sometimes discrimination. We all own that, and we need to own it. The more we’re in the light, the more we see our own sin, and Paul learned that. And so, being able to be open to that. And as parents, where it begins, is we begin to teach character traits that are going to naturally lead to loving other people. The most foundational one being humility. Make that a center of your home. Kindness, compassion, humility, empathy; these things that are central to the development of a child that’s going to be loving down the road to people that are different than them. And so, it really begins with humility, and scripture tells us that very clearly. And that’s where you can begin. It doesn’t have to be complex with racism and those tough topics. Start early with your kids, start building in them a love for God’s creation and all the differences within all of his creation.
John: Mm-hmm. I appreciate that.
Trillia: Can I add one thing?
Trillia: And with humility, comes repentance.
Danny: That’s very true.
Trillia: And so, one of the things that we have to do… Because he’s exactly right. Even the most aware struggles with stereotypes, struggles with bias, struggles with sin. So, we have to be repenting people. So, we repent if we’ve said something that’s, um, inappropriate or wrong, and we try to help our kids learn to repent too. To be people who ask God for forgiveness and turn from our sin. And so, I just think that’s really important, with humility comes repentance.
John: Well, I’m so grateful to both of you for sharing from your hearts, and again, sharing the scriptures like that. And Trillia, thank you for this book, Creative God, Colorful Us. Uh, we do, uh recommend that you get that for your kids or grandkids, maybe for yourself. Maybe a kids book is a great starting point for you to unpack some of this. Get a copy from us here at Focus on the Family and support the ministry as you do. Um, as Jim often says, “A one-time gift of any amount, or if you can, a monthly recurring, sustaining gift to the ministry helps immensely.” Donate today, get a copy of this book. And you can do that by stopping by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Oh, and, along the way, you know, we’ve talked about not just doing some introspection, but equipping our kids so they can do well. And, Danny, you and your team have this great parenting assessment. It’s free. We’re going to link over to it. Just give a one sentence summary of what this assessment is all about.
Danny: Well, it’s really based on high level of demanding this as a parent boundaries and also high levels of love. And it’s, this is called the Seven Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment, for you as a parent to see how you can grow and what strengths you bring into your home and your parenting.
John: Well, that’s going to be free and it’s available on our website. And again, that’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
John: Danny, Trillia, thanks so much for the energy and the insights you brought today.
Trillia: Thank you.
Danny: Thank you, John. Thank you, Trillia.
Trillia: Thank you.
John: And we hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well. And then, join us on Monday as we explore loneliness in marriage.
Erin Smalley: Because when we get married, when we walk down the aisle, we’re not walking down the aisle thinking, “Gosh, I can’t wait to have somebody to, you know, do my laundry or, you know, do tasks for me.” But, really what you’re thinking about is I want this connection for the rest of my life. I want a best friend.