Why Racial Reconciliation (in the American church) Has Failed and Will Continue to Fail

Photo credit:  Atlanta Black Star

Photo credit: Atlanta Black Star

In his article in the New York Times, Campbell Robertson writes about an interesting topic. His topic is A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches. He gives two reasons. The first reason is that White Christians support Donald Trump. The idea here is that White people that go to church are racist by definition because of that support. The second reason is that the movement to improve race relations in the Christian church in America had already failed. The Trump issue just makes that failure clear.

This issue interests the Unpaid Labor Project. It interests us because it shows that the false idea of race is so powerful that even the American church has not been able to shake it. As an institution it is like all others that don’t understand how slavery and race influence everything today. But like the others she will benefit from her confessing her role in supporting slavery in our country for 250 years. She will benefit from admitting her role in supporting 100 years of government sanctioned terrorism and 50 years of discrimination against an entire people group. She will benefit from helping to abolish the false idea of racial superiority and inferiority and working to improve relations between black and white Americans based upon historic fact. We hope that she will.

Mr. Robertson goes on to report that Michael Emerson said, “Everything we tried is not working.” “The election itself was the single most harmful event to the whole movement of reconciliation in at least the past 30 years.” “It’s about to completely break apart.” This is an important opinion because Mr. Emerson is the author of Divided by Faith, a seminal work on race relations within the evangelical church.

The Unpaid Labor Project’s response to Mr. Emerson’s statement that “everything we tried is not working” is that it’s not working in the church for the same reason that it’s not working anywhere else. It’s not working because of the attempt to solve the problem by dealing with surface issues and not the problem’s root. That root is the lie of race that affected everything in our society from the beginning. And it will continue to frustrate all efforts to address it until America stops trying to fix her race problem without dealing with the national sin at the root of that problem. And as the church knows, that requires true repentance and forgiveness on a personal level and on an institutional level. Anything else is just tinkering at the edges.