“Churches remain racially segregated and are largely ineffective in addressing complex racial challenges. In The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby takes us back to the root of this injustice in the American church, highlighting the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about progress between black and white people.”
“This book provides an in-depth diagnosis for a racially divided American church and suggests ways to foster a more equitable and inclusive environment among God’s people.” Read more here.
Jemar Tisby’s book & video series on the history of racism in and around the American church has become a bestseller. He is speaking to the moment we are in right now.
Who: Christians who are concerned about racism and ready to learn.
“In the church when we talk about any issues around race or criminal justice it brings up the question of should we be afraid of Critical Race Theory? Could you give us a working definition and talk about that idea?”
I had never heard of critical race theory (CRT), and then suddenly I heard it and now it seems to be everywhere. As the question quoted above reflects, sometimes Christians express fear of critical race theory, believing, I think, that it draws people away from the gospel. CRT is a way of describing how racism works in the United States, how deeply embedded it is in many systems. It was first developed by legal scholars and now informs scholarship in many areas.
The Southern Baptist Convention has been in a relatively high profile debate over CRT. President Trump issued an executive order banning diversity training rooted in CRT.
Every Christian social justice leader I follow has addressed critical race theory in about the same way: “I’d never heard of CRT until someone ‘accused’ me of using it. Then I looked into it and realized, hey, this describes what I’ve been seeing!”
I appreciated how the LRJ panel addressed this topic. Dr. Koehlinger and Rev. Lattimore both address the question from their different perspectives – academic and theological.
When Rev. Bolling picks up the discussion later, he addresses the connection between a theory (like critical race theory) and a concrete experience (like the criminal justice system, which disproportionately punishes people of color). He compares it to the theory of gravity and a child’s ice cream falling on the floor. Whether or not you are willing to discuss the theory of gravity, the effect of gravity happens: ice cream on the floor, inedible. We can refuse to discuss CRT, but it is just describing an actual experience people are having in the world. With or without the theory, the experience remains.
The panel’s discussion here met a need for me and I am thankful for it.
For Christians who advocate for racial justice, understanding a Biblical perspective on justice is essential. It’s also complicated, and ongoing, and sometimes controversial.
So I was intrigued when Lutherans for Racial Justice hosted a panel discussion in response to the Netflix documentary 13th in early December. The panel discussed several issues related to criminal justice and racial justice from their perspective as Lutheran Christians.
The discussion is over an hour long, so over three days this week I’m going to post a short description of one portion of the discussion I found helpful. Each post will have a link to the video that starts at the relevant point. (The video above will start from the beginning of the discussion.)
Today: On the value of learning history
Wednesday: On Critical Race Theory
Friday: On the U.S. prison system and the church
On the value of learning history
What do you know about Black history in America? What do you know about the role of the church during Civil Rights? For most of us the answer is, “Not much.” Does that matter?
Our denomination is predominantly White, and we need to make a concerted effort to learn Black history. Rev. Lattimore shows us that this is a need that was identified by our church body more than 50 years ago. In 1968, seminary president J.A.O. Preus wrote that, “the white majority in our Lutheran Churches needs to listen very carefully to what [our Lutheran negro clergymen are saying]… because we need to give to the black man in our churches a position of dignity and equality, which he feels (and probably rightly) that he has not heretofore enjoyed.” (The Springfielder, Summer, 1968)
Dr. Koehlinger talks about the church’s role in the Civil Rights movement and points out that, although we prefer to remember the ways the church supported freedom and dignity, our history is more complicated: for abolition AND for slavery; supporting racial integration AND supporting Jim Crow laws.
Taking an honest account of the church’s role in the struggle for racial justice is essential to moving forward as agents of true hope. God can’t use us to bring healing if we do not acknowledge our complicity with sin. A study of The Color of Compromise, beginning January 11, is one way to do that. Registration is open until Friday, January 8. Find the details here.
LRJ Panel members – Rev. Kyle Blake, Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling, Dr. Amy Koehlinger, Rev. Warren Lattimore, Chaplain Lorinda Schwarz, and attorney Jacq Wilson.