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On the Road to Racial Reconciliation

Valuing reconciliation is not the same as actively engaging in it.
  • naming the specific landmarks and clarifying the intended goal of each one
  • identifying what people need to learn before moving on to the next phase

Early on this model was conceptually grounded in social psychology and educational theory and focused on individual learning rather than group or organizational change. That was not enough. I want to teach people how to be reconcilers, yes, but I also want to train them to build communities of reconciliation. It’s not enough to build a model for individual change if we ignore the groups that shaped them and the communities in which they live. Cultural transformation in a church or organization must go beyond interpersonal models of changing “one person at a time,” which dominates Western evangelical thinking. The goals of reconciliation need to shift from interpersonal acceptance to building reconciling communities of racial, ethnic, class, and gender diversity.

People around the world are experiencing significantly different types of conflict, however, and therefore their approach to reconciliation will necessarily differ. For example, some people are living in sites of “hot conflict.” When there is shooting, bombing, raping, and genocide, there isn’t time or space or capacity for discussing a reconciliation model! Instead, with “hot conflict” the emphasis must be primarily on ending the violence and finding ways to mediate the immediate conflict and facilitate some stable boundaries to negotiate peace.

“Cold conflict,” on the other hand, is an indirect ongoing theological confrontation that does not offer hope of peace or honor for those who engage in it. The absence of direct and active violence in zones of cold conflict can lead to the assumption that there is no antagonism there. However, chronic inequality and devaluation of people groups engender a strife that hovers just beneath the surface, and we often see it erupt over even the slightest provocation. There are many instances in the United States of racially charged aggression, gender inequity, and systemic injustice, and the majority of these would be characterized as “cold conflict.” The strategies necessary to bridge the racial, religious, gender, tribal, and cultural divides of cold conflict and be difficult to grasp. It is for these spaces and places of cold conflict that I offer the Reconciliation Roadmap as a guide.

February01, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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