As I’ve argued elsewhere, there is not a direct correlation between the racial reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles to God, and to one another in the bible and the need for reconciliation in the evangelical movement. Yet, the bible’s teaching of reconciliation in Christ certainly applies to the racist past and present struggle with race relations in the evangelical movement.
I applaud and praise God for the progress that has been made on race relations in the evangelical movement. However, I think every aspect of the evangelical movement can do much better on race relations. Therefore, I offer evangelicals (and anyone else with ears to hear!) 15 practical steps they can take toward reconciliation.
One, evangelicals should be quick to listen and slow to speak on race when they do not understand the issues. White supremacy and racism are complicated issues. These issues relate to concepts such as racialization, critical race theory, mass incarceration, economic inequality, education inequality, and other forms of systemic injustice.
Two, mono-ethnic evangelical churches must pray for and support multi-ethnic, multi-economic, and multi-generational church plants in their cities and communities and look for ways to partner with them.
Three, evangelicals must stop making excuses as to why their churches refuse to pursue reconciliation.
Four, evangelicals must stop limiting the racial reconciliation discussion to the black versus white divide (Eph. 2:1-22), although this divide is far and wide in the evangelical movement. Jesus died for red and yellow, black and white, as well as rich and poor, educated and uneducated, suburban, urban, and rural people. Many of these brothers and sisters feel just as voiceless as many ethnic minorities.
Five, the movement of Gospel-centered racial reconciliation does not need an African-American savior, an Anglo savior, an Asian savior, nor a Latino savior to lead it to the promised land of Gospel-centered racial reconciliation.
But we need a national and international multi-racial, multi-economic, multi-generational partnership of churches working together in our communities to advance the Gospel of racial reconciliation, and help defeat all forms of social alienation.
This partnership means in part that my white evangelical brothers and sisters with power and privilege should share more of both their privilege and power with underrepresented scholars, qualified pastors, and church leaders of color who have thought long and worked hard to understand complicated issues related to the Gospel, race, racial reconciliation, justice, and other important issues facing the evangelical movement.
Six, evangelicals need to enlarge their circles to include more ethnic diversity. Mono-ethnic lives will only create a limited mono-ethnic perspective of the evangelical movement.
Seven, evangelicals must recognize there are many different races, educational backgrounds, and generations that can minister to, and teach other different kinds of people. The topic of race is only one of them.
Eight, white evangelicals should understand that black and brown evangelicals need white allies in the work of Gospel reconciliation. And we want our white brothers and sisters to share their power and privilege with us vetted black and brown people who are equally or more qualified than certain white evangelicals who already have power and privilege and platforms in the evangelical movement.
But if white evangelicals with power and privilege choose not to share it with qualified and vetted minorities, we should not become bitter. Rather, we should create our own platforms and invite every tongue, tribe, people, and nation to come and partner with us.
Nine, evangelicals must understand the kingdom of God does not revolve around whiteness, blackness, or brownness. Jesus died for many black and brown and red and yellow and white people with strange names and curious accents. And God is using many people to advance the Gospel to different races of people in some of the most difficult places in the world .
Ten, evangelicals must recognize that whiteness is not normal and everything else abnormal. What is normal is in the eye of the beholder. Neither the vast majority of the world’s population nor the vast majority of those who still need to hear and respond to the Gospel are middle class or wealthy white Americans. The U.S. is becoming increasingly black and brown. This means that if evangelicals want to be culturally effective, relevant, and credible as we move forward into more black and brown ethnic territory, we must intentionally engage and do life with the increasing black and brown demographic in our communities.
Eleven, evangelicals must stop insisting the color-blind theory is true. The racist social construct of race in 18-19th century Europe and America, based on illusory biological traits, proves the color-blind theory is a myth.
Twelve, evangelicals must not play the race card just to serve their political agendas, get television appearances, increase Social Media followers, or get invites to the conferences. It’s easy to be in favor of reconciliation and diversity at big conferences or after clear examples of racial injustice occur.
But racial reconciliation can be difficult for some when their children want to marry a believer outside of their race. Reconciliation is likewise difficult when evangelicals with privilege and power are asked to share privilege and power with more qualified and vetted black or brown people.
Thirteen, if evangelicals want to gain credibility in black and brown contexts on matters of Gospel reconciliation, they must befriend black and brown people without celebrity status.
I have observed in my 20 years of being a Southern Baptist and evangelical that we are often guilty of the sin of idolatry, because we worship celebrity Christians whom white celebrity evangelicals stamp with approval. Such an affirmation reciprocates privileges to the ethnic majority group and enables the majority group to maintain its privileged status with very little ethnic or social sacrifice at all. Evangelicals serious about reconciliation should pursue to do life with those black and brown and white people within the evangelical movement who are voiceless and marginalized because of their race.
Fourteen, evangelicals must recognize the evangelical movement still lacks credibility on matters pertaining to race and justice with many black and brown communities in part because of a failure to do the things mentioned above.
Fifteen, black and brown evangelicals are not off the hook. Minorities have a very important role to play in race relations and reconciliation in the evangelical movement.
We must recognize that just as the white majority in the evangelical movement should share privilege and power with us vetted, tested, and qualified minorities and should be willing to make the necessary ethnic and social negotiations for the sake of the gospel, we too must be willing to sacrifice and to share ethnic privileges and preferences with them and make the necessary ethnic and social negotiations for the sake of the gospel when we are able. And we must resist the temptation to abuse that privilege for our own selfish gain.