The resounding dissonance left by the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and five police officers in Dallas represent a dark moment for America. A surge in violence against police suggests that society stands on the brink of a chaotic response as a result of racial turmoil unmatched since the 1965 Watts Riots, which resurfaced in the 1992 Rodney King riots. The current crisis highlights the disconnect between black and white perspectives on race relations and exposes a growing impatience in minority communities with persistent and systemic forms of racism. The potential for positive change seems more distant now than any time in recent memory.
Yet, despite a pervasive sense of gloomy pessimism, the light of opportunity continues to flicker. Recent events offer the potential of generating a new, meaningful and action-inspiring conversation on race in America. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”
In this moment, American churches face the challenge and opportunity of addressing what some consider America’s “original sin.” A 2012 survey found that most evangelicals believe “one of the most effective ways to improve race relations is to stop talking about race.” More and more Christians realize that in order to do something, we cannot avoid these discussions or remain silent as society around us grapples with such an embedded issue.
Nearly all American evangelicals—94 percent in a Barna Group survey earlier this year—believe that the church has an important role to play in racial reconciliation. For many, the desire to act abounds, though direction remains unclear. The most pressing question facing Christians today in ...1
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