Why study history?

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?

Why is understanding the history and experience of Black Americans important?

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.

Coming Wednesday: LRJ Panel On Critical Race Theory