As L.A. and other urban areas simmer with racial tension, many Christians ask, “What does the church have to offer?” The past two decades have seen countless multiracial prayer breakfasts, pulpit exchanges, and formal declarations of reconciliation. Evangelical Christians can point to many places where blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians are worshiping and ministering in harmony and as equals.

Despite these attempts, however, Christians remain as racially separated as the rest of society. It is still true that 11 o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. It is a costly separation. When African Americans speak frankly to their white counterparts, they express deep hostility and frustration. They feel angry, hurt, and betrayed by what they see as society’s and the church’s failure.

Many white Christians are bewildered by these strong feelings. They wonder what nonwhites want. Many white evangelicals do not feel they are racist, and they say they very much want for all colors to be united in their faith. Writes Jay Kesler in his foreword to William Pannell’s book The Coming Race Wars?, “Frankly, I thought we were doing better.”

Yet black anger is an undeniable reality. So are the economic facts of life for African Americans. While many middle-class blacks have improved their situation, their experience is not the norm. As a group, African Americans are, by some economic measures, worse off now than at the height of the civil-rights movement. For instance, the unemployment rate for blacks in the late sixties averaged 7 percent, but in 1990 it was 11 percent (comparable figures for whites are 3 percent and 4 percent). Today, nearly one in four black men between ...

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