Legal experts differed on whether the controversial Rodney King verdict was a miscarriage of justice. But the videotaped images of the beating he received at the hands of four Los Angeles police officers represented for many of us far more than a case of alleged police brutality. The flashing truncheons were visual echoes of images from the civil-rights era—of guard dogs, fire hoses, and nightsticks. And behind those images, people saw the near-mythic whip of Simon Legree.
Because of that deep evocation, the nation suddenly and instinctively knew things had not changed—not fundamentally. We may now have a black middle class, but the deep distrust between the races has not disappeared. Even black basketball megastars talked about the racism they continue to experience.
Are things any better in the church? Black minister Russell Knight recently said he didn’t think so. “I think … the black church … has all but decided it’s not going to get any better and goes on to experience its version of Christianity,” he said in the Chicago Urban Reconciliation Enterprise newsletter. “I think the white church has decided that this is the way it is and has decided to go on with its version of Christianity too.”
Unfortunately, Knight may be right. But we hope to stir the waters a bit in this issue with the following: “The Church After Rodney King” (page 18), “Stretch Your Racial Comfort Zone” (page 14), “L.A. Grace” (page 35), and “Searching the Ashes for Hope” (page 48). In the future, we plan to report on renewed separatism among black evangelicals, to tell the stories of places where reconciliation efforts are working, and to provide a forum for what African-American Christians wish their white brethren knew.
To stir the waters, of course, ...1
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