Tragically, this is about more than hashtags. People are dying and the rest of us are divided.
I started down a journey a few years ago when I unexpectedly found myself mostly unaware of the experience of the average African-American, especially in the South, and especially in my predominantly white suburban church setting.
I remember feeling terrible when a tornado warning went through our town. As the sirens blasted all across the neighborhood, my wife and I headed down the street to our local tornado shelter and we quickly realized we, as white people, were the minority. I felt so ashamed because my church, my community of friends, and my life experience, looked so unlike the life that was happening all around me.
So I started having conversations with some of my minority friends, specifically my black friends. I wish I could tell you I had hundreds to pick from, but I didn’t. My friends mostly looked, thought, and lived about like me. But God graced me with a few black friends that were patient with my ignorance. I hope they know I saw them then, and even more so now, as much more than my token “black friends” from which to learn.
Out of those conversations came a realization that I needed to learn much more before I asked much more. The books listed below are recommended, in no particular order, because they have all helped to shape my journey toward racial reconciliation and understanding over the last several years. Some have helped more than others. I disagree with something in every one of them but that’s not the point.
Parts of these books might get under your skin. Good. I vented to one of my black friends one day after I was feeling discouraged and frustrated in the middle of one of these books. He simply replied, “You’re frustrated while reading for a few months? Imagine how frustrated we’ve been living it for years and years.”
Make no mistake, race is not a political conversation; it’s a Gospel conversation. To consider others more significant than yourself, to refuse to look exclusively to your own interests but also to the interests of others, is exactly what Jesus did and exactly what Jesus commands us to do (Philippians 2:3-4).
If Jesus did not count equality with God something to be grasped, maybe we should not count white privilege as something to be grasped.
If you’re willing to humble yourself, and learn in quietness before you ask too many questions, allow me to recommend the following books. (FYI: I don’t get any sort of payment/reward if you buy these books, but you can click on any title/cover to purchase from Amazon. If you live in the Austin area, you’re more than welcome to come borrow one of these from me).
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep us Apart, by Christina Cleveland
Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity, by Edward Gilbreath
Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith
Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, by Soong-Chan Rah
Bridging the Diversity Gap: Leading Toward God’s Multi-Ethnic Kingdom, by Alvin Sanders
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah