Integration, Multicultural Counseling, and Social Justice

Article excerpt

In this article, we explore the integration of psychology and Christianity in the areas of multicultural counseling and social justice. First, we give a brief overview of the multicultural counseling and social justice movements. Second, we explore two aspects of Christianity that we believe make integration in this area difficult. Third, we critically evaluate the multicultural counseling and social justice movements from a Christian perspective. Fourth, we discuss three ideas that we believe will improve dialogue in this area of integration.

As we write this article, New York has become the sixth state to allow gay couples to marry. For some Christians, this is a historic victory for equality and social justice. For others, this represents evidence of a society moving further away from God's plan. Last weekend, I (JNH) listened to a sermon in which the pastor said that God wants to bless us in many ways, including financially. Then I was driving in my car and saw a homeless man on the side of the road beg for money. I drove past him, trying not to make eye contact, wondering how his circumstances (and my own behavior) fit with the sermon I just heard. At church, I noticed that most everyone looked like me. Almost everyone on the stage and in the pews was White. I remembered a passage in Revelation about the Kingdom of God that said it would include individuals from every nation, tribe, and language (Rev 7:9-10), and I wondered if we were doing a good job of representing the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

As Christians and counseling psychologists, we find ourselves deeply committed to two communities that at times seem to be in ideological conflict with each other. As Christians, we are deeply committed to faith in Christ. As counseling psychologists, we realize that parts of our Christian community are culpable in protecting privilege and maintaining a status quo of inequality and injustice.

As the above examples illustrate, the integration of psychology and Christianity in the areas of multicultural counseling and social justice can be a difficult and divisive issue. Although several movements within Christianity have sought to promote diversity and social justice (e.g., Social Gospel movement, Rauschenbusch, 1917; Liberation theology, Gutierrez, 1973), integration scholarship on underprivileged groups and social justice has been rare (Canning, Case, & Kruse, 2001). Our hope is that this article will spark dialogue and scholarship about Christian integration in the areas of multicultural counseling and social justice. We first briefly review the multicultural and social justice movements in the field of psychology. Second, we discuss two reasons why the integration of Christianity in multicultural counseling and social justice has been difficult. Third, we critically evaluate the multicultural counseling and social justice movements from a Christian perspective. Fourth, we give three next steps for improving dialogue in this area of integration.

Multicultural Counseling and Social Justice Movements

In recent years, the multicultural counseling movement has gained momentum in the field of psychology (Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 2010). The movement began with the realization that racial and ethnic minorities were not getting their needs met by the mental health field (Sue et al., 1982). Psychologists were encouraged to work toward multicultural competence, which involved developing self-awareness, knowledge, and skills for working with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. The most recent push in the multicultural counseling movement has been to promote advocacy and social justice for underprivileged groups (Vera & Speight, 2003). Psychologists are encouraged to advocate for members of disadvantaged groups at both an individual and systemic level.

Difficulties with Integration

Integrationists have considered themselves bridge-builders, working to forge a stronger relationship between secular psychology and Christianity, including religious leaders and theologians. …