Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity by author Edward Gilbreath is February’s Book of the Month. This is an excellent resource to compliment our Christians Celebrate Black History Mini-series. As an evangelical, Ed defines himself as a “black Christian in a white Christian’s world (page 28).” Ed is the former director of editorial for Urban Ministries, INC and has worked at Christianity Today for many years. Ed uses his extensive research and personal experiences to confront the issues of “institutional racism” or “institutional discrimination” in the Church. In response to the question, “What is this book about,” Ed writes:
The loneliness of being “the only black,” the frustration of being expected to represent your race but being stifled when you try, the hidden pain of being invited to the table but shut out from meaningful decisions about that table’s future. These “reconciliation blues” are about the despair of knowing that it’s still business as usual, even in the friendly context of Christian fellowship and ministry (page 19).
Ed loves God’s Church! He loves all people, and acknowledges that racial reconciliation is not just a black and white issue. He understands the importance of raising and valuing the voices of all Christians in the American Church. “If I do not speak up to voice a nonwhite perspective, it will go unheard (page 29).” This understanding prompted my research of Neglected Voices in the Church. Personally, I also understand that encouraging minorities to speak up is only half the battle. The other half is actually determining whether or not our white sisters and brothers will listen. Will they actually read a book like this one, carefully listen, contemplate and take action on what they learn?
From working with Ed over the pass couple years, it’s evident that Ed is also a bridge builder. He is not afraid to call out areas where we, as the Church, have problems and he does so in a way that champions us to move forward together. He challenges the reader with the question, “Are you resisting his [God’s] call to become a bridge between the races because you realize that bridges, by definition must be stepped on (page 81)?”
Any author I have read or Church leader I know who advocates for racial reconciliation reveals it’s a long and difficult journey. They encourage themselves with the truth of God’s Word:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity; let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Gal 6:9-10).
They stand on their strong biblical convictions. Their hearts are broken for the things that break God’s heart (Bob Pierce), and therefore they keep fighting, keep praying, and keep pressing. They educate and equip us for this important kingdom work. They sing the blues.
They also call us to reconciliation (2 Cor. 5: 17-20). One of Ed’s interviewed guests defines racial reconciliation as “creating a climate where people deal honestly with racial and cultural issues. It should put an emphasis on action, so that leaders make changes based on feedback learned through dialog (both formal and informal) (page 91).” Racial reconciliation is a call to pay attention and a call to action. We must be honest with ourselves and each other. We must have the hard conversations. People who do not pay attention to the issues of racial reconciliation may be surprised by how much they actually don’t know, and this lack of awareness is even a problem in the Church. Our fuzziness surrounding the issues of race, racism (both individual and structural), prejudice, and reconciliation fuels “distrust, misunderstanding, and inequality.”
I encourage you to begin racial reconciliation education by reading my blog series and diving into Ed’s book. I’ll be expounding upon excerpts from Reconciliation Blues every Tuesday this month. Looking forward to the conversation!
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013