Theology Christian Living Relationships/Family Identity

Hostages to Homogeny: Why I’m Done with “Racial Reconciliation”

Taelor Gray

If I’m 100% honest—I’m tired of talking about racial reconciliation. I’m not referring to pockets of helpful dialogues that consider whether the Gospel has direct implications of a multi-ethnic universal Church. I also don’t mean that it isn’t important to speak loudly against racial injustice, nor do I discourage championing a Christ-initiated cause of a justice that rightly divides Scripture in its response. I’m just done with the racial reconciliation banner.

In my view, the “racial reconciliation” banner is becoming a display of intellectual inactivity that is an eyesore of idleness and indifference. On a large scale of evangelical thought and action, the conversation is not translating to conversion. There are inter-church politics that war against true change, and the blind spots are largely going unaddressed.

Amidst the public handshakes and hugs, the coffee and conferences, there is a platforming of a type of humility that isn’t changing much of anything. I’m not a nationally known preacher or author, but in many ways I’ve found it more helpful to be a pastor on the ground level. What I can do at the ground level is ask the individuals that make up the mass of likes, retweets, and shares — what has practically changed in the way you approach racial reconciliation? The answers are a bit staggering:

“I’m not sure what to do, to tell you the truth.”

“I think it’s important, sure. But honestly, I live in an area that doesn’t have a huge population of black people, so I don’t see where I can change much.”

“It’s hard to say, really. I actually think its time to move on from this conversation. I love all people, and I don’t really struggle with racism personally.”

These are a few specific responses that represent many more of the same tone and conclusion—indifference. So you mean to tell me that despite the myriad of sermons, articles, books, and conferences that are sweeping the evangelical church under the “racial reconciliation” moniker…you still don’t care? That’s very interesting.

One thing I can say about the responses from the average congregant or casual evangelical church member (some staff too) is that they are honest. I can clearly see and engage these folks from their disillusionment and clearly communicated disconnect.

However, what has been the most disappointing is the general response I get from most staff leaders and many evangelical pastor. Their responses are clouded in right-sounding presentations, but their conclusions look just like those of the congregants’.

Yes sir, your theological framework is flawless. Yes friend, your literary source is on point. Amen brother, that sermon was communicated so well. You’ve even hired a black staff person in your “aggressive” pursuit of change – I see you bro!

However, can I ask you: how have your people-to-people relationships changed with the black pastors in your city? How has your church subculture acquiesced to a totally different demographic? I appreciate your Tye Tribbet worship band rendition, but have you ever been to a church service that executes his piece way better than you do? You have moved into that neighborhood full of hustlers and killers, but have you ever introduced yourself to them? Does the local barbershop even know where your church is? Crickets.

The reason I say the general evangelical pastor response to the “racial reconciliation” banner is disappointing is because it is heavy on politics, and light on policy. John Piper writes Bloodlines, Russell Moore is published by Huffington Post, and naturally the swing is toward this new, hot movement and you’d better get your stake in the ground.

It then becomes a race to get the next respected, black, theological expert on the panel or the preaching platform of the “racial reconciliation” conference. This uninformed stampede toward a pseudo-solution is sorely lacking something: integrity. When you hear the powerful words of a black preacher who uncovers this topic with surgical precision and profound Biblical soundness, you respond with awe and bow in repentance, but you go home to your churches and change virtually nothing.

In many senses, this inaction leads evangelicals to become willful hostages to their own homogeny. As someone personally working and investing quite a bit in this multi-ethnic church vein, I’m feeling the weight of my commitments. However, I look across the landscape, and the actions and words aren’t lining up in the evangelical world. I’m reading James 2, and almost yelling aloud with the text: “show me your faith by your works!” Yet, I’m continually told to apply the grace of gradual progress and be thankful for baby steps of progress in turning the evangelical supertanker in a better direction.

I’m not necessarily against that admonition. I want to be patient and full of grace when thinking through this subject. However, I’m left asking “what is the admonition for the other side of the coin?” When I see evangelicals patting each other on the back for having prominent black speakers speak at their church or subjugating themselves to the “horrors” of inner city life in gentrified neighborhoods, all while subtly maintaining the power-wielding status of the majority, I am genuinely angry.

Don’t politicize the progress you’re really not willing to pursue. Be honest if you don’t really care about racial reconciliation more than your Sunday attendance numbers and a healthy church budget. It’s becoming harder and harder to swallow.

These words have a harsh tone. I’m aware of that. However, contrary to popular “grace” teaching, emulating a frustrated, dare I say, irritated, tone isn’t necessarily sinful. I hearken back to Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and even Jesus Himself and see the same tone given, depending on the conduct of their audiences.

One of the saddest realities about being in this frustrated state is that it lends to the possibility that the audience I wish to address won’t care how I feel. So yep, go ahead and drop on me the theological responsibility I have to give a soft answer and skillfully reply with words that are seasoned with salt. I accept that reproof. It still doesn’t change the fact that I have to look at people and systems that will not ever repent for their gross dishonesty.

I’ll have to smile and bear your privileged perspective on how I should bear these burdens. I’ll have to endure these plastic presentations of a Gospel-saturated “racial reconciliation,” and I’ll struggle interpreting whether you truly believe in it at all. I’ll have to make all the sacrifices to come to your world knowing you’ll make little to no sacrifice coming to mine. And that, brothers and sisters, is hard.

45 thoughts on “Hostages to Homogeny: Why I’m Done with “Racial Reconciliation”

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  12. RWB

    William, an aspect of heaven is that “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will worship before the throne of God. Because of the work of Christ (reconciling us to God through himself), we should be reconciled to one another through him as well. Christians are one (united) in Christ.

  13. Brian Hawkins

    This is a good exhortation, and I receive it as such, very much within the bounds of, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” My exhortation in return is that we make sure all our pleas for action are based firmly upon the completed work of Christ, who has reconciled all things to God. The Holy Spirit will apply this truth to his sheep. Those grafted into Christ WILL bear fruit.

  14. Marshall

    Please believe that there are genuine Christians that see this thing from a different perspective that truly want to see it from your perspective. Please find the strength to try and see it from the other side. Christ bore the cross for those that crucified Him. He gave everything – even himself – for His enemies. We all want to draw the line somewhere. He deserves everything.

  15. Marshall

    Please believe that there are genuine Christians that see this thing from a different perspective that truly want to see it from your perspective. Please find the strength to try and see it from the other side. Christ bore the cross for those that crucified Him. He gave everything – even himself – for His enemies. We all want to draw the line somewhere. He deserves more.

  16. Kelvin S

    This sounds simple, but it’s not necessarily. If one has significant commitments to one’s own church, it’s not clear to me that those should be lightly tossed aside to go church-hopping (especially since, this network notwithstanding, many black churches have a sometimes significantly different theological outlook). Meetings during the week may offer more options, though, as well as a smaller group setting that makes it easier to get to know people, as you suggest. But don’t expect meaningful relationships in a month. Many blacks are understandably wary of whites walking in and wanting to check off their racial reconciliation box…

  17. MGring

    Taelor, thank you for expressing your frustrations. I am an anglo professor (not liberal-leaning at all), who grew up in Latino countries, but now i live in a west Texas university town and there are some chances for biblical reconciliation but only through real friendship, trust, and covenantal communication. This is a 2-way street and I realize that I may need to take the first step but building real trust is difficult, time-consuming, and painful. The trust would need to come from our mutual trust in Christ and grow from there, it seems. Otherwise, the impression I get is that I am automatically labeled “racist.”
    I applaud the statements made by Susan–a few comments before mine–because she is honest and real about asking “what can I do?” I ask the same question because I want more than mere hashtag statements that do not change anything but I am often in a quandary about what to do that does not smack of condescension.

  18. Kennon Wigley

    Taelor, thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your music. Thank you for your boldness. As a white evangelical I pray we repent of our hostility and indifference. May God bless your ministry!

  19. Timothy J. Hammons

    Don’t worry, after evangelicals finish genuflecting over racial reconciliation, they will move on to the next big thing and it will be forgotten. Remember, it’s not about the gospel and being reconciled in Christ, but the latest feel-good movement to hit the church.

  20. Tom

    This may be simpler than it looks. If you’re white (I am), just walk into a black church some Sunday morning…or Wednesday evening, or Sunday evening, or whatever, and take part in the service. Get to know people. Support the work of the church. Pray with and for people. You’ll be surprised how the Lord blesses.

  21. Bill

    Susan, I relate to what you’re talking about. I’m a pastor of a 45 member church in rural Appalachia.
    I asked a similar question of a very well-known pastor of a multi-ethnic work here in the south. “[insert name], my county is 95% white, how do we enter into this way of justice?”
    Him: What about poor white families? Do you have some of them?
    Me: Absolutely.
    Him: Start there.
    I guess my point is that we need to start somewhere, but we must start!!! We talk about how we’re sold out to what the Bible teaches, and yet when God calls us to change, we simply refuse to obey. And at the same time we wonder why our churches are dying…
    My encouragement to you is to join me in starting something. Even if you mess up, at least people will say “Oh well, at least she’s trying.”

  22. Tim L.

    I didn’t know the skin color of this article’s author before reading it, but I easily deduced it the more I read.

    His article is quite one-sided. And now that I know he’s a hip-hop artist, I can see why – one of his major grievances has to do with corporate worship style, but he’s not advocating for more “white” music in ethnic congregations.

    I am being quite politically incorrect for saying this, but articles such as Gray’s actually perpetuate racial stereotyping, and by extension, the lack of racial harmony within “America’s most segregated hour.”

    Reconciliationists want to see changes in culture. But why is this a black and white issue? What about Hispanics, Asians, poor white people, hyper-liberal blacks? We haven’t begun to address the adequacy of hip-hop music as a God-glorifying worship genre (or saccharine white suburban seeker music, for that matter).

    It seems as though Gray is frustrated by gentrification, but it’s not just wealthy whites “invading” former ghettoes. Frankly, I agree with him that many gentrifiers play token reconciliation by volunteering in soup kitchens, but ignoring how their gentrification is displacing the people for whom they purport to care.

    Nevertheless, the more we view racial reconciliation through “us vs. them” lenses, the more entrenched each side can become. Perhaps that why people like Gray (and, yes, myself as well) see very little positive change.

  23. William

    Yes, yes, & more yes. My heart is so heavy echoing your thoughts. Sigh. Jesus

  24. Alycia

    This didn’t actually answer any questions, just spoke harshly to someone looking for more specific ways to act since past actions don’t seem to count (examples: listening, caring, wanting to change, anxiously waiting for someone to tell us practical ways that actually change the systematic racism rather than fueling hatred and the desire not fit justice, but for the flipping of the roles- blsck power, white oppression; that isn’t justice).

    Your response to “what should they have said” shows you are both in agreement: words aren’t enough. But what is being asked here is not “what can I say so that I don’t have to do anything else but I still have people think I’m great?” but rather “what can I say that would adequately portray my actual concern so I don’t have someone telling me my words betrays an indifferent heart?” Who wants to share anything in earnest only to have someone charge them with hypocrisy?

  25. Aubrey

    There is a time to talk, and then there is a time to reflect on what has already been said.

    The “we are one” mentality, though inspiring, is sadly skewed. Unfortunately, the white evangelical church was the basis for a lot of what has happened with bigger minority groups. I say this not as a “shot fired”, but simply to stress that the only way to reconcile is not only to listen to each other, but to humble down and do a heart check.

    And William, to answer your original concerns…when will it ever be enough? There is never a pinnacle that we reach in God where we don’t need to do anything more. My dad did the same thing, pastoring and working full time. Let me encourage you right now, if this is Gods will for your life, he will provide the strength and resources for you in your ministry. But to say that you feel like you have “done enough”…I’m sorry, but no. And that is what the challenge of reconciliation is. It isn’t comfortable, any move to create radical change is NEVER comfortable. This is why the black church finds it so baffling that this is even an area that the white church wants to address. Be blessed, brother. Know that God sees your efforts. Maybe he is just trying to challenge you to take an even greater leap of faith.

  26. Brian Foulks

    Great and needed work.

  27. William F. Leonhart III

    Good question. Does any of these extra-biblical demands apply to non-whites?

    Where are the articles demanding that black, Asian, hispanic, etc. churches make all the same efforts these “white” churches are ALREADY making?

    I’ll just point out that pastors have the one of the hardest jobs you can imagine. I personally work a full-time job on top of pastoring, because my church can’t afford to pay me a living wage. We are literally a mission church in a Bible-belt city where easy-believism is ingrained in the culture, so numeric growth for a Reformed church does not come easy here. I have a young family. We have no deacons. And my situation is not unique.

    Pastors have very hard jobs. And then we come across articles like this telling us that we’re not doing enough if we’re doing everything we can to preach against favoritism and racism from the pulpit every time the text allows. We’re not doing enough if we do everything we can to set the example of impartiality in our flocks. I really want to know how the author of this article can say, with any Christian charity, that on the basis of a few replies on Twitter he doesn’t believe pastors do enough.

    Does he realize how difficult it is for a pastor to wrestle with the reality that he does not have time for evangelism and outreach in his busy schedule, because his church is too small already to pay him a living wage? Does he realize how difficult it is for a pastor not to be able to show hospitality, because he and his young wife simply don’t have enough time in the day to prepare the house for company? Does he realize how heartbreaking it is for a pastor to hear from his children that they just want him to spend one day with them, because he’s only able to spare one hour a day, but never has one day off just for his family? This article is disheartening on so many levels. It not only demonstrates how uncharitable Christians can interpret their pastors. It also demonstrates how one’s interpretation of pastors can be ruled by their passions and prejudices.

    I really pray this commend doesn’t get deleted, because the authors here at RAAN really need to consider how their words are impacting people who disagree with them. It’s always nice to hear from people who agree with you. It’s a much harder thing to be able to bear with people who don’t.

  28. bbnks

    “If you live in a predominantly white neighborhood – move”

    Do you think that this applies to African Americans or others who are in neighborhoods that are predominately of their same ethnic group?

  29. Liz

    Jacob here is some help based on your response :

    What specifically do you want to see?

    People who actually have works behind their convictions.

    All of this racial rage is so vague and filled with abstract bromides. What is the specific grievance?

    Racial reconciliation has become an empty term requiring no real action from those who proclaim it.

    What should they have said?

    Not looking for canned responses. There is no “they should have said….” This attitude perpetuates racial reconciliation as merely a discussion instead of a change in behaviors.

    What should they have done? What specific action/ change are you advocating for?
    How would anyone caught in sin respond to a message of rebuke? Repent and turn, I pray. If you don’t know what to turn from racism looks like I’m guessing you’ve neglected to enter this discussion so far.

    Some suggestions though:
    If you don’t know what to do-ask…ignorance is not excuse
    If you live in a predominantly white neighborhood – move
    If you think your not racist- 1John 1:10
    If you think the church is ready to move on from the gospel of reconciliation….I don’t really know how to respond to that one…nope

    I think these are the type of discussions that are needed. Below the surface are many ppl who feel the way you do and until it’s exposed we are in bondage to fragility.

  30. lpadron

    I’ve never quite understood what is meant by “power wielding status of the majority” and how it is maintained. I would appreciate any insturction on this.

  31. Chad

    Taelor, I’m a white man who agrees. I wish there was more awareness really. My church has 1 black family (we do have multiple Hispanic and many Asian ethnicities). The city has a 48.8% Hispanic population, and 49.3% white population.

    I wonder if Boenhoeffer has something to say about this (not race, but vision). He says, starting on page 27 of Life Together, “God hates visionary dreaming.” I disagreed right away. However, he goes on to say that God has one vision, but the visionary comes in, sets up additional parameters for that one vision, and when the visionary dreamer doesn’t see those other parameters being met by those around him who have joined in the vision he becomes discouraged, exhausted, prone to anger and bitterness, and begins judging others by concluding hypocrisy. What happens to the visionary is he neglects all the fruit going on, however so small, neglecting loving others apart from their sin, turns inward, and only see progress in the “vision” when others join in with him. The author goes on to say, these visionaries always fail.

    Now, I don’t know you from Adam, but I hear in your words a description of what Bohnhoeffer says. I was once that guy, helping destroy 2 churches. The vision of no male no female no barbarian no Jew is what Christ has already done on the cross. We simply await the culmination of it in heaven, and get small glimpses of it here on earth.


    Lastly, Christians don’t preach the gospel of Jesus Christ regularly. I wouldn’t see a major change coming for racial reconciliation any time soon. It takes decades. However, in a couple decades, you’ll never regret one moment of the fight.

    God bless you brother!

  32. JS Boegl

    Blessings to you too, Susan. I’m a white evangelical pastor in a midwest city – approx. 45% white and 45% black. We actively look for ways to serve in our community together; honoring (coming in low to serve under) our black brothers & sisters’ good ministry initiatives; developing honest, vulnerable, grace-giving friendships of understanding with our black pastors; knowing the names of their ministries; praying together – and more and more – celebrating together. It’s a long estranged curse that we’re countering, but I’ve found over the years that if I simply DO the beatitudes with my fellow pastors (white, native, hispanic, black etc.) it builds intimacy, trust AND (the best part of all) – the presence of the Lord! He loves true unity built on humble vulnerability. Blessings!

  33. JS Boegl

    Hi William,
    Appreciate your admonition about being “one” in Christ. Glorious indeed! :o) My use of the term wasn’t meant to create faction; only meant to be an identifier; a simple term to describe myself and my background to my sisters & brothers in Christ. Blessings.

  34. Kara

    Thank you, Mr. Gray. I am listening, and grateful you shared.

  35. Bob Browning


    Grace and peace brother from our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you so much for your honesty and willingness to be transparent, even at the risk of being misunderstood and accused of the very thing we’re battling against.

    As a 33-year-old white male who had no black friends until 5 years ago when the gospel turned my world upside-down, I sincerely grieve with you over the state of our churches. I wish I had an answer. Sadly though, the best encouragement I know to offer you is to admit that I think your observations are valid. I believe this to be true from my own observations and discussions with my dark-skinned brethren, and I’ve even wrestled with these temptations myself.

    It’s so easy to end up using racial reconciliation as a platform to make myself look better rather than laboring in it to truly seek God’s glory. That’s why it’s so crucial that the conversations continue. And I don’t mean the Q&A panels on the conference circuit, but the conversations between normal people who bring radically different perspectives to the table. We’ve got to be able to talk – and be able to listen and learn from each other. And if we’re truly going to see our churches reflect the character of our Lord, then we’ve got to allow ourselves to feel the sting of a needed rebuke like the one above. We need to be reminded:

    Reconciliation isn’t easy – it’s costly. Just look at the cross.

    So keep pressing brothers. I’m thankful for you.

    Grace and peace.

  36. Kara

    Susan, I am with you in many ways. I have seen that educating my children about our history, race and their white privilege is paying off. Like MAC wrote, I am also more and more aware of the insider status we have among those who need education and heart change. The challenge is not shrinking back from engaging our white friends, despite my fear of conflict and offending.

    When I responded to this article in a group, a pastor posted this link. It’s long and academic, and occasionally painful, but worth an introspective read.

  37. William F. Leonhart III

    What’s this tribe of which you speak? I’m a fair-skinned Evangelical pastor, but the fair-skinned part enslaves me to no particular “racial” tribe. I repented of such factionism years ago when Christ broke down the dividing walls in my heart. I know that doesn’t fit the RAAN social narrative, but I’m more concerned with the biblical narrative on race than the one to which our culture wants to enslave us all over again. So, please don’t try to lump me into your racial tribalism on the basis of skin pigment. That’s an anti-solution, and it is anti-gospel to the core. Christians are ONE in Christ.

  38. JS Boegl

    Powerful. If we’re wise; if we’re interested in growing up into Christ-likeness; if we (white evangelical pastors – my tribe) are committed to gospel transformation of our communities, and not simply the success of our own Bible-balkans, we’d do well to listen – and create space to listen to the same within the hetero-racial pastors in our own cities. Thanks for risking your honest heart, brother. JSB

  39. Jacob Brunton

    What specifically do you want to see? All of this racial rage is so vague and filled with abstract bromides. What is the specific grievance?
    You ask a few white people what specifically they have changed for the sake of “racial reconciliation” and they respond with benevolent confusion: essentially, “I’m not really sure what should be done, but I’m eager to right any racial wrongs that I can be made aware of and that are in my power”. And then you interpret that as “indifference”?! How cruel of you!
    What should they have said? What should they have done? What specific action/ change are you advocating for?
    As it stands, you sound like the racist cultural marxists of the left who have some vague emotional notion of “racial inequality” with no concrete bearing to reality.

  40. C.L Edwards

    Why would an otherwise lukewarm American church be on fire about “racial reconciliation”?

  41. Keith Wolaridge

    Let the church say OUCH!

  42. Mac

    Taelor….I’ve felt this way for years. One white friend of 18 years (who’s a professing Christian) took offense to me expressing this very same perspective, called me racist and divisive because of expressing how I felt, and “unfriended” me on social media (which was really unfriending me comprehensively because all of our interaction was on social media due to living in different states these days).

    So…I’ve kind of just said…”Whatever! I’m not explaining myself anymore. I’m not going to shoulder the burden of educating my white comrades. I’m not going to be the one who always has to temper my frustrations and assimilate to the majority perspective. It is what it is.” I’m not sure if that’s the right approach, but that’s where I am.

  43. Mac

    Susan….standing “slow clap gradually speeding up” ovation over here from an audience of one. As a black man…hearing you speak in this manner is encouraging. Don’t stop. Push the circle of people you know (who are white) in the same direction.

  44. Jeremy

    I think you should consider the possibility that much of the (lay and pastoral) engagement with the reconciliation trend is at least partially disingenuous, and knowingly so.

    I’m a white man who is not on board with it at all, and doesn’t pretend to be. But, among those enlightened souls who do claim it, it seems they want all the credit for being part of it, while the same guilt that drives them to it also makes them hesitant to express their misgivings about it. The result is a whole lot of show, or even some difficult or sacrificial bits and pieces, but no willingness to give up what you would call their “power-wielding status.”

    It’s not so much about maintaining power themselves, as it is an unexpressed distrust of those who would receive the power. All their reasons for wanting to be part of the reconciliation crowd are also the reasons that they won’t verbalize their hidden concerns.

  45. susan

    I accept the rebuke wholeheartedly brother! I ask this question in humility – as a white woman living a small very white town, what can I do other than learn and pray and examine my own heart to bring about reconciliation? I live in a college town where there are many internationals, so I see a clear path there. But I do not see a clear path when it comes to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are not white. As a parent, I am trying to teach our daughters about the systemic racism that did and does exist. I try to learn about different perspectives. Sites like this are so valuable to me. If you have any suggestions, please, please pass them on.

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