Healing Salve

United by Faith looks for answers to the problem of race
2003This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

In 2001 Michael Emerson and Christian Smith showed in Divided by Faith how theology, history, and the structure of religious organizations divide U.S. Christians along racial lines. In this follow-up, Emerson collaborates with two other sociologists and a reconciliation theologian to spur the church to become multiracial. This, they believe, could "provide a healing salve for the wounds of racial division."

After looking at the biblical history of multiracial congregations, they provide a fascinating—and often disturbing—review of past attempts in the United States to integrate churches. They vividly remind us that "racial reconciliation and multiracial congregations often come at a cost and with sacrifice."

The authors evenhandedly address pragmatic, theological, cultural, activist, and sociological arguments made for uniracial congregations and carefully refute them. They also present a theology for multiracial congregations, provide short profiles of four successful multiracial churches, and offer practical insights and advice, while acknowledging the challenges.

"Just imagine for a moment what would happen in communities across the United States—and in the nation as a whole—if multiracial congregations began emerging in cities, suburbs, and small towns," the authors write. Christians should find this book a compelling argument for change.


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