It has been 12 months since South Central Los Angeles erupted over the acquittal of police officers accused of using excessive force in arresting Rodney King. Yet his lament, “Why can’t we just get along?” still haunts us. It is a question American Christians have wrestled with ever since the civil-rights movement.
From the Bible we know it is wrong for color or class to separate us. Yet Christians struggle to “get along” with people whose skin color is different from theirs. Progress has been made, but the church is still nearly as segregated as the nation at large. As Andrés Tapia writes in this issue, the addition of more “colors” has complicated the picture. And as William Pannell stresses in The Coming Race Wars?, tension between the races is near the boiling point.
As an African-American who spends a good deal of time in predominantly white churches, I believe no one in the church—black or white—likes the way things are. So how do we get past the barriers to reconciliation? Three suggestions come to mind.
First, we must change our outlook on race. We have too long viewed race through worldly eyes as a problem to be solved rather than a gift to be enjoyed. This has led to blame, forced encounters, artificial remedies, and retaliation. Instead, we ought to view race through the Lord’s eyes, who saw beauty in all people. As Paul reminds us, we have already been reconciled to each other (2 Cor. 5:17–18). Racial diversity brightens and enriches God’s mural of humanity.
We will never experience the joy of diversity if we don’t do things together. I try to ask white visitors to our center if they have worshiped in a black church before. Invariably, ...1
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