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So, what do we do now?

September 5, 2016

The other day I was reading this article from Christianity Today declaring this to be a “God moment” and urging Christians, and in particular that ever-hard-to-define group called evangelicals, to see that racial justice and reconciliation is now a core value for our “movement.”  The article has gathered an interesting spectrum of responses.

Some have given a hearty endorsement to the sentiments; even if a few have had an unspoken “Finally!” in their welcome.  One more or less cheered that CT had “given evangelicals permission” to care about racial justice.

Others have been less enthusiastic.  Citing a long history of ignoring the racial justice issue (As, to be fair, the CT article also did.) they responded with, at best, a wait and see attitude; or, at worst, a “we don’t want your kind” rejection.  That latter is ironic as we’ve earned that response through years of having – either intentionally or not – that exact attitude.

And, of course, there were a few conservatives who expressed their long-standing suspicions of a “social gospel.”  If there is any good thing in those cringe-worthy responses it is how quickly so many denounced this attitude.

By and large the article was a good one and I applaud this key assertion:  “Today, we’re thinking about race more than daily—due partly to the news cycle, and partly to our rediscovering biblical teaching.”  It is humbling, in a good way, to admit that we’ve screwed up in our understanding of “biblical teaching.”  Setting aside the theological arrogance that outsiders see as distinctive of evangelicalism can only be a good thing.

Finally there is this admission:  “To say that we have coalesced doesn’t mean that every single evangelical church is fully on board or knows the next steps to take in their context.”  This correctly identifies the problem.  Agreeing that racial justice is critical is a great start.  But we now have to bridge the gap between “I realize this is wrong” and “I am committed to doing something about it.”  CT admits that most of us don’t know the next steps to take.

May I suggest that the article already gives us a clue to the answer about next steps?  Early on it said:  “We have been slow to hear what the black church has been telling us for a while.”  (“A while” meaning, I suppose, like 160 years.) Perhaps the “next step” is to go hat in hand to the black church and admit our error and ask what we can do to help.  Perhaps, in this God moment, we are not called to lead but to follow.

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