RACISM, JUSTICE, AND THE CHURCH

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’….Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
⏤Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

GET STARTED

Watch and read these 4 short introductory videos on Racism, Justice and the Church in the United States.

1

Latasha Morrison on Racial Tension, Reconciliation, and the Church


Latasha is a bridge-builder, reconciler, fellow abolitionist, and a compelling voice in the fight for racial justice. Possessing a passion for social justice issues across the globe, Tasha uses her platform to encourage racial reconciliation among all ethnicities, to promote racial unity in America, and to develop others to do the same.
[Video: 8:26]

3

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man: Race & Religion


It’s time to talk about race & religion. Carl Lentz, lead pastor of Hillsong East Coast, sits down with Emmanuel Acho to have an uncomfortable conversation about the role religion plays in fueling and/or killing racism.
[Video: 19:28]

2

One Thing White Evangelicals Need to Understand About Racial Reconciliation


In this video, Thabiti Anyabwile discusses what he wishes white evangelicals would understand about racial reconciliation in American churches. [Video: 3:40]

4

Empathy, Racial Tension, and the Church


Rev. Adam Hamilton with guests Rev. Yolanda Villa and Rev. Darryl Burton reflect on race, their experiences with police and what is needed to heal racial divides in America.
[Video: 6:38]

GO DEEPER

Listening to perspectives from those that may not think exactly like you is essential for Christian growth and development. The following section provides a variety of viewpoints across the denominational spectrum.

 

Christian Engagement

Diversity is Good, Equity is Greater — “I’d also add that I wholeheartedly believe diversity is a gift. In my sphere of influence, we’d say diversity reflects the expansiveness of God’s creation and the beauty of our humanity. And my guess is that most leaders could point to diversity’s goodness, whether or not their institutions are reflections of it.” – Rev. Lisa Yebuah [Article: Approx 1 min to read]

Break the Silence — Break the silence wherever you are, using the influence you have, employing the gifts you possess. Break the silence on racism and racial injustice. In our Bible, the Divine regularly requires that we give voice. Regularly. Will you break the silence? [Article: Approx 2 min to read]
Walking Upright in an Uptight World — Pastor and author Dr. Telika McCoy preaches on Hebrews 13, focusing on leading a Christian life and walking in brotherly love. (Sermon from 16:34-31:59) [Video: 41:29]

Black Christians Cannot Do This Alone — Tisby, the author of “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism,” and Burns, lead pastor of New Dimensions Christian Center in Pensacola, Florida, talked to Religion News Service about race relations and policing and what people — including white evangelicals — need to do differently as the country faces these issues anew. [Article: approx 4 min to read]

Becoming Christian Didn’t Make it Easier — Engaging in the culture takes courage and risk, but also grace and forbearance. We want to speak the truth, but with the understanding that we don’t know what the person we’re speaking to has been through or experienced. [Article: approx 2 min to read]
Christian Engagement with Drew Hart — Drew Hart is a theologian and church anti-racism leader and consultant. He discusses what anti-racism should look like at the church level, and how Christians can engage further. He also addresses the Christian push back towards the Black Lives Matter movement. [Video: 36:01]

 

Incarceration:

The Biblical Call for Justice: Mass Incarceration and the Role of the Church America locks up more of its citizens than any other nation. Crime demands a response, but are we missing the mark in our pursuit of justice in America? [Article: Approx 2 min to read]

Justice System “Biblically,” writes Gilliard, “justice is a divine act of reparation where breached relationships are renewed and victims, offenders, and communities are restored.” A justice system that is overly harsh or punitive in nature and leaves little space for redemption fails to reflect or help bring about the kingdom of God. When that system is further corrupted by financial interests and bias, the “true justice” that God talks about (Zechariah 7:9-10) is thwarted and societal shalom becomes impossible. [Video: 25:21]

History of Church: Prison Chaplains Gilliard examines the historical pendulum of religious philosophy as it relates to prisons and prison chaplaincy in the U.S. Effects of this history are still felt today from punitive and vengeful treatment of prisoners, to programs that promote a more  humane and dignified approach that embodies the witness of the love of Jesus. [Video: 14:17]

 

 

 

 

Racial Tension, Protest and Privilege

Why People Push Back on Black Lives Matter Thabiti Anyabwile discusses how the Black Lives Matter movement is often viewed in a historical vacuum, making a distinction between the principle and the organization. [Video: 3:59]

Response to Black Lives Matter Minister Daniel S. Schatz on being asked to change “Black Lives Matter” to “All Lives Matter” on church sign. [Article: Approx 2 min to read]
Racial Justice Lessons from the Book of Esther — Reverend Chalice Overy shares a powerful word relating racial justice in the United States to the Old Testament book of Esther. [Video: 12:39 to 37:42]
Why Black Christians are Bracing for a “Whitelash” Even as more and more white Christian leaders are acknowledging and pledging to address systemic racism, many Black Christians remain wary of “whitelash”- the moment White Christians tire of talking about race and bristle when Black pastors or congregants want to continue the conversation. [Article: approx 4 min to read]

 

History and Its Implications

The Color of Compromise It’s been one year since I published my first book “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism.” I share some of my reflections on the importance of history, the present cultural moment, and the response the book has garnered. [Video 4:14]

Justice too Long Delayed Timothy Dalrymple discusses history and the church’s  responsibility in relation to its’ racial sin, stating, “But we cannot love our brothers and sisters well if we cannot tell their story in truth. And we cannot tell their story in truth if we cannot confess our participation in it.” [Article: approx 6 min to read]
A Burden Removed Should a congregation repent of the sins of their forefathers?” Minister Reed DePace shares his church’s journey in uncovering their racist past, and the path they took toward repentance and redemption. [Article: approx 6 min to read]
How White Supremacy has Disfigured Christianity Robert P. Jones discusses how the centuries-long commitment to a social order that protected and nourished white lives at the expense of Black lives has disfigured American Christianity, and what that means for us today. [Article: Approx 2 min to read]
Racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious. That’s no coincidence. — For most of American history, the light-skinned Jesus conjured up by white congregations demanded the preservation of inequality as part of the divine order. In public opinion polls, a clear pattern has emerged: White Christians are consistently more likely than whites who are religiously unaffiliated to deny the existence of structural racism. [Article: Approx 5 min to read]
 

Podcasts

 

Climbing the Mountain of Injustice with Austin Channing Brown

Climbing the Mountain of Injustice with Austin Channing Brown

The Evolving Faith Podcast

For episode 2, Sarah and Jeff revisit Austin Channing Brown’s bring-the-house-down sermon from Evolving Faith 2018.

Pass The Mic

Pass The Mic

The premiere podcast for The Witness BCC

Dynamic Voices For a Diverse Church

Race and the American Church

Race and the American Church

As our nation continues to struggle with racial unity, Christians are uniquely positioned to make a change.

 

Books

Becoming Brave. by Brenda Salter McNeil
In Becoming Brave, McNeil calls the church to repair the old reconciliation paradigm by moving beyond individual racism to address systemic injustice, both historical and present. It’s time for the church to go beyond individual reconciliation and “heart change” and to boldly mature in its response to racial division.
[Book 208 pages]

Who Will be a Witness? by Drew Hart
Who Will Be a Witness offers a vision for communities of faith to organize for deliverance and justice in their neighborhoods, states, and nation as an essential part of living out the call of Jesus. [Book 276 pages]

Slow Kingdom Coming. by Kent Annan
All Christians are called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly in the world. Slow Kingdom Coming will guide and strengthen you on this journey to persevere until God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. [Book 149 pages]

Re-discipling the White Church: From cheap diversity to true solidarity. by David W. Swanson
In this simple but powerful book, Pastor David Swanson contends that discipleship, not diversity, lies at the heart of our white churches’ racial brokenness. Before white churches can pursue diversity, he argues, we must first take steps to address the faulty discipleship that has led to our segregation in the first place. [Book 214 pages]Book excerpt: Rediscipling the White Church

White Too Long. By Robert P Jones
White Too Long demonstrates how deeply racist attitudes have become embedded in the DNA of white Christian identity over time and calls for an honest reckoning with a complicated, painful, and even shameful past. Jones challenges white Christians to acknowledge that public apologies are not enough–accepting responsibility for the past requires work toward repair in the present. [Book 320 pages]
Article: How White Supremacy has Disfigured American Christianity

 

More Resources

The Witness. The Witness is a Black Christian collective that engages issues of religion, race, justice, and culture from a biblical perspective. [Website]

Faith in Action. Faith in Action is national community organizing network that gives people of faith the tools that they need to fight for justice and work towards a more equitable society. [Website]
John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation. This conviction that God calls us to confront injustice has guided our ministry in underserved communities over the last 60 years. It has driven us to also equip and empower Christians who share our vision to pursue biblical justice and reconciliation in their own communities. [Website]
Preaching about Racism. In Preaching about Racism, preaching professor and pastor Carolyn Helsel speaks directly to other faith leaders about how to address racism from the pulpit. She provides strategies and a theoretical framework for crafting biblical and theological sermons that incorporate insights from social sciences and psychology, gleaned from more than a decade of writing and teaching about racism. [Website]

“It is so detrimental to someone’s faith when your experience, your reality, is squashed because it’s not the other person’s reality. I have experienced that time and time again.”
~
Trillia Newbell

“What frustrates me is you hear these soundbites… ‘It’s not about race, it’s about grace,’ ‘It’s not about skin, it’s about sin’, when in fact it is about skin and it is about race. Because race and skin is what is being punished on camera in America right now.”
~ Emmanuel Acho

“…there is no collective sense of loss, no sense of remorse. We have sinned deeply. The problem is that we haven’t got a taste of the sinfulness of racism… We don’t see the wickedness of profiling God’s people that He has created to be one and that He has created in His image ”
John M. Perkins

One Blood: A Parting Word to the Church on Race

“There is a difference between charity and justice. Charity offers a hand up to individuals caught in poverty’s web. Justice examines the web and tears it down.”
~ Lisa Sharon Harper 

The Very Good Gospel

“If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Y’all, I’m not praying for the empire to be ‘nice’ to me. That’s like telling someone, ‘Just don’t hit me too hard!’ I want a new heaven and a new earth.”
Rev. Lisa Yebuah, Lead Pastor of the Southeast Raleigh Table

“Striving for racial equality and seeking to undo those evils isn’t seen as an obligation (something we must do), instead at best it’s seen as a passion project that one has the option to participate in. At worst, it’s seen as a distraction from true gospel work.”
~ John Onwuchekwa 

The Front Porch

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Jesus can make beauty from ashes, but the family of God must first see and acknowledge the ashes.”
~ LaTasha Morrison

Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation