The preaching of the Gospel always contains the bad news of sinful reality, but it is not a Gospel at all if it doesn’t have “good news.” The Gospel, the real Gospel of Christ, is not true to itself if all it does is stick people with guilt and leaves it there. This is not a way of saying don’t preach against societal or national sins, it is a way of saying that with repentance there is forgiveness, there is grace, there is, (watch it, here it comes…) reconciliation. I see that word as one which has a milestone beginning but continues as a process, both personally, socially, institutionally, and ecclesiastically.
Lately I have been reading articles by a few Evangelicals who are deeply committed to racial justice. As I agree and sympathize with much, I do find myself in reaction to some of the things they have said. These ideas, and others like them, spring up from time to time, although often in new phrases and provocative rhetoric. Some of what they have said is not new, they are echoes of various lines of thinking that have been part of conversations that have been present as long as I have been involved in the struggle for justice and reconciliation.
Ah, you will see I mentioned a word that is part of what is at stake in the conversation, and that is the word “reconciliation.” The phrase “racial reconciliation” is a term that has been at times threatening, revolutionary, and welcoming to people who have been convicted about the racial and ethnic alienation that has been present in our society since the idea of race was constructed to help both Arabs and Europeans feel justified in their exploitation of various nations, namely those nations and ethnicities of color.
This term is also slammed, shunned, and discarded by some as being either misunderstood or misused, and thereby not radical enough in the quest for justice. Some have postulated there can be no reconciliation since we were never unified to begin with, and though this sounds like it might make sense, the idea discards Adam and Eve and Noah as a unified human race, Babel as the dividing of the nations, and the calling of Abraham as a Jew to divide the world into Jews (circumcised) and Gentiles (uncircumcised). I take that criticism as a cheap rhetorical trick with no logical foundation. It also seems to accept the postulation of race as a biological reality and not a constructed one.
Some don’t like the word “racial” since it was a socially constructed idea to explain “color” in various human beings and to assign them a lower status by white people. No less a person than John Perkins has recently spoken powerfully against this word since it creates differentiation between people groups, and God is no respecter of persons. He thinks that our continued use of it perpetuates the differentiation in a negative way. Nevertheless we all pretty much admit to such realities as “racism” and doing away with the term is not going to do away with racists anytime soon.