Something subtle and remarkable has happened in American politics—and, it seems, in democracies across the developed world. The big arguments over what the state owes the people, in terms of services and public welfare, have been somewhat eclipsed. Now the focus is on who counts as people in the first place.
In American history, some lives have mattered; others have not. That difference fundamentally has been a racial one.
Tonight at 8 pm EST, Katelin Hansen will interview me about my new book, Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, which was released in January.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot in Cleveland by an officer in training, suffered death. According to an Ohio grand jury, the case is closed. Elsewhere in these United States, presidential candidates have and will continue to laud America as exceptional.
Though most of the American churches in the past failed to be a people that manifested the kingdom of God in society during racialized chattel slavery, as well as during Jim Crow white supremacy, we have the opportunity to repent and live into a new and more Jesus-shaped story, being a people that do what God requires; doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly before our God. (Micah 6:8)
Most white Christians, and many middle class racial minority communities, have cut themselves off from any intimate life together with poor black communities that struggle every day with a multiplicity of oppressive obstacles. But a movement is happening all around us.
Last semester, I had students review Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. For those unfamiliar with this book, the authors make two general claims: America is a racialized society. White evangelical Protestants are unwitting proponents of racialization.
No white person ever wants to think of themselves as racist. And that is precisely part of the problem, no white person ever thinks of themselves as racist. Each white person is the innocent exception to the rule, even when confronted with the realities that our society is thoroughly racialized.
Most white people now say race relations are bad and getting worse. Black people overwhelmingly agree. Will we stop talking and do something?
Finally, because I don’t expect or desire the average person in our Christian communities to have to wade through waters of academic vernacular found in critical race theory or theological ethics, the entire book is written out of a pastoral voice (of which I have 10 years of pastoral ministry experience), and saturated with personal stories and experience that help communicate important themes and points. In short, Trouble I’ve Seen = antiracism theory + theological ethics + pastoral voice.