Racial reconciliation is a misnomer, as reconciliation suggests equal fault. What is needed is racial repentance, and racial justice. Blacks in America are not to blame for the state of race relations in this country; whites are. It was white Christians who enslaved blacks from the 1600s and for the following two centuries. It was white Christians like George Whitefield who saw blacks as worthy of the gospel but not of their freedom, and it was white Christians who stole the labor, the health and the safety of blacks throughout the South, and who fought a bloody war in defense of their right to own black people. It was white Christians who replaced slavery with Jim Crow, prison camps and segregation following the war; and when the courts and the federal government finally demanded an end to those things, it was white Christians like you and me who fled public schools and closed public resources rather than share them with blacks,and often defended it from the pulpit. Every bit of progress our nation has made toward racial equality and justice the past 150 years has been fought at every step by white people, often self-identified Christians. Blacks in AMerica can’t even protest a justice system that targets them more frequently and sentences them more harshly and kills them more frequently than it does whites without being scolded that All Lives Matter.
It’s not reconciliation that’s needed. It’s repentance. We need to own up to what we’ve done, and what we’ve inherited; and we need to correct the fault that we have inherited. Statements disavowing the racist history of the past are not enough.For any denomination, for the church as a whole in our country, or for our nation itself to rise above our legacy of racism, we need to correct the fault that we have inherited.
We can begin by elevating black America: its art, its poetry, its literature, its leaders, its history, and its economy. Faced with prejudice against Grecian Jews, the Jerusalem church handed over the welfare programs of the church entirely to those suffering the prejudice.
Can we study church history from the perspective of black America? Can we learn how the enslaved church flourished amid slavery and the abuses of the empowered church?
Can we learn to see the heroism of Nat Turner, and remember the deep moral flaws of white leaders who saw white supremacy and black subjugation as the ordained way of things, or who never gave it a thought? Can we demand black chancellors and presidents at Liberty University and Bob Jones University, and black-majority boards?
Will we throw our moral authority, weakned though it is, behind the efforts to stop honoring the Confederate veterans who defended slavery with their lives, and instead shame them and everyone in the North and South who benefited from slavery?
Will we speak out against the policies and actions of President Trump and Jeff Sessions that threaten the well-being of the African American community?
The Southern Baptist Convention has made steps in the right direction. But what is needed are seven-league boots.