With all of the talk of racial reconciliation that is taking place in our county following Sen. Obama’s speech, I thought it might be a good opportunity to recommend two books I read recently that helped shape my perspective on the issue – particularly as it pertains to the Church.
Despite political strides toward racial reconciliation since 1964, many blacks feel that nothing has really changed since Jim Crow days. Some also worry that the church—which should be leading efforts in racial reconciliation—is one of the worst offenders in fostering racial division. Gilbreath, an editor-at-large for Christianity Today, offers a poignant and often humorous look at the state of racial reconciliation within evangelical Christianity specifically.
Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith has an ingenious, troubling argument. “[E]vangelicals desire to end racial division and inequality, and attempt to think and act accordingly. But, in the process, they likely do more to perpetuate the racial divide than they do to tear it down.” Emerson and Smith, argue that evangelicals have a theological world view that makes it difficult for them to perceive systematic injustices in society. In particular, evangelical emphasis of individualism and free will seem to predispose them to believe that most racial problems can be solved if individuals will only repent of their sins. Therefore, many well-meaning strategies for healing racial divisions (such as cross-cultural friendships) carry within them the seeds of their own defeat.