I had the honor of presenting at the 2016 Together for the Gospel conference on the A.R.C. of Racial Reconciliation. It was part of a breakout session I did jointly with Ligon Duncan, Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary. In it, I explained the essential elements of all genuine racial reconciliation.
A = Awareness
The phrase #staywoke which is often abbreviated simply as #woke. It’s a contemporary term for being awakened, woken up, or enlightened. It is usually used to refer to enlightenment about racial issues. You’ll often see it as a hashtag on social media outlets like Twitter. It means you are aware in more than a superficial way about the dynamics of racial reconciliation. Stay woke is simply another way of saying we need to be aware of racial issues and dynamics.
One particular area of concern is the racial history of the United States. I am concerned that our knowledge about racial justice in this country extends to one chapter in our high school social studies books. History is about context. It teaches us how to place people, events, and movements within the broader scope of God’s redemptive plan.
This is what Reformed folks should understand better than anyone. In our passionate pursuit of proper exegesis, we always look at the context. We want to know the historical-grammatical situation of the text so that we can accurately explain and apply it. It’s no different with racial reconciliation. We have to develop an awareness of the context to properly exegete the problem and apply biblical solutions.
- Watch: The African Americans: Many Rivers to Crosswith Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- Watch: Jackie Robinson a film by Ken Burns
- Social Media: Diversify Your Feeds
- Website: Reformed African American Network
- Website: African American Leadership Initiative (rts.edu/aali)— click the “listen to lectures” link
- Podcast: Pass The Mic
- Google it: “Take control of your own knowledge agenda.”
R = Relationships
Awareness isn’t enough. No matter how much awareness you have, it remains abstract, theoretical principles and propositions until you meet a person. Reconciliation is incarnational.
Christ is our example. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The logos of God—His wisdom, his character, his attributes—all that God is (“for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”) became a human being. This is what makes Christianity different from every other religion. We don’t worship a far off deity, we don’t worship an impersonal force. Christians worship a person, and his name is Jesus Christ.
All the way back in Genesis 3:15 God gave us a promise of reconciliation. God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In Jesus Christ that promise of reconciliation has become a person. A person with whom we can have a relationship and thereby be reconciled to God.
What is true of our reconciliation with God is true of our reconciliation across racial and ethnic lines. Just as vertical reconciliation with God requires a relationship, horizontal reconciliation with our neighbors requires relationships as well. Reconciliation requires relationships.
- Start with Acquaintances:
- Most of us have some diversity in our churches or social network, not as much as we’d want, but we have some.
- Maybe there’s someone in your church who is of a different race. You know each other, but you’ve never spent significant time together or had a substantive conversation. Why not invite that person out to coffee or have their family over for dinner? It’s natural, organic way to deepen a relationship you already have.
- Don’t Over-Complicate Friendships
- “Every one of us at 3 or 4 or 5 [years old] used to go up to people and say, “Will you be my friend.” And what happened? We got friends. At some point we stopped doing that because it became weird. I just think we should go back to being weird. And say hey, listen, I offer you friendship. He goes on to say we should release our passive approach to friendships.”–Thabiti Anyabwile
- Find New Places to Hang Out:
- Restaurants that only Black people or Mexicans, or Ethiopians go.
- Sports/Clubs/Activities: Why not join a YMCA or city league or a local club?
- We don’t naturally gravitate toward those who are different from us. We naturally gather in similar groups. We have to do something unnatural, or rather, supernatural to break the cycles of social sameness that hinder racial reconciliation.
- Think like a missionary.
C = Commitment
Committing to concrete action is the hardest part of pursuing racial reconciliation. Developing awareness and relationships may create a burden, but does that burden move you to act? Are you willing to put aside preferences and prestige to take the side of the marginalized and despised? Are you willing to lay down your comfort for the cause of Christ?
Racism is one of the most controversial topics you can ever bring up, and people fight to defend their views. It’s a battle everyday online, in writing, in families, at church. People who talk about racial reconciliation are on the front lines and they get wounds, and scars, and feel pain in the struggle. All of that comes with the territory and we’ll keep fighting. But we would love it if our fellow Christian soldiers took up the sword of truth and shield of faith and joined us on the front lines.
- Learn from the people who are already demonstrating solidarity.
- Matt Chandler has spoken out publicly about “white privilege”
- Russell Moore has famously said the “cross and the confederate flag cannot exist without one burning the other.”
- Ligon Duncan is a co-signer on what is shaping up to be the most talked about resolution to ever hit the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly. It’s a resolution on Civil Rights remembrance telling how the founders of our denomination were silent and complicit during that struggle. And he’s taken hits for that stance.
- Tweet and retweet (hashtag activism builds awareness, but shouldn’t be content to stop there)
- Interrupt Ignorance
- If someone is making a stereotype about a people group, then stop and ask, “Why do you say that?” Or, “Hey, you might want to rephrase that.”
- Create something
- Write a blog post. Write a book. Write a sermon. Do a Sunday School class. Host a forum. Write a song or a poem. Create something that speaks to racial reconciliation.
- Organize a group to attend a conference headlined by minorities
- LDR 2016: Being and Becoming the Household of God– St. Louis, September 2-4
- Pray that God would position you to take action for the cause of racial reconciliation.