Racial Reconciliation & the Church

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.

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Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity

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: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America

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.

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5 thoughts on “Racial Reconciliation & the Church

  1. shane! this isn’t a discussion thread! it’s a book review(s)

    i thought you had posted some of YOUR thoughts on the topic.

    come on my man! bring the noise on this one.

  2. Actually they were just the editorial reviews from Amazon. I was even lazier than you thought with this one.

    Obviously racial divide in the church is an issue for me. Growing up in the C&MA it always was kind of weird to me that there were Chinese churches and latino churches, etc. Beyond the language issues, I just couldn’t understand how a denomination could be so … well not progressive on issues of race.

    To this point, to the best of my knowledge, there is not one African-American in a significant position of leadership in the entire denomination. There might be pastors, and maybe even district leaders, but as far as I know, not one at the “corporate” level.

    So there’s that.

    But yeah, I’ve always kind of felt that if there’s anywhere where the whole “stick to your kind” mentality shouldn’t be accepted, it should be in the church.

    Be we do it. We do it with musical styles. We do it with pet doctrines. And we do it along racial lines as well. So, I guess there’s really no reason for me to expect anything different. But it does make me angry.

  3. can you elaborate on the following:

    Growing up in the C&MA it always was kind of weird to me that there were Chinese churches and latino churches, etc

    is there something inherently evil about the C&MA and their stance on race? i’m totally ignorant on this one.

  4. In rereading my comment I could see how you might get that impression. But that’s not what I meant at all.

    There are some churches in the C&MA that are exclusive to a particular race or ethnic community. There are Latino churches, Hmong churches, Chinese churches, Haitian churches, etc. Not a ton, but there are some.

    And that was always weird to me. I know they do it for the sake of evangelism and “targeting” a particular ethnic community in a given city (language, culture, etc.). But there was a bit of it that always kind of felt like church-sanctioned segregation. And I was never very comfortable with that.

    The lack of minorities in positions of leadership was always another bone of contention for me. But you can’t promote what you don’t have. In some districts it might be a little better, like maybe Metropolitian (NY/NJ), but the vast majority of what I’ve been around is Whitesville.

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