This past weekend the media was abuzz with conversations about race relations. Many of these conversations began months ago, but were reinvigorated this last weekend when the verdict was rendered in the much-publicized trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
While the role of race in this tragedy is debatable, the reality of racial tensions in our country is clear. My goal today is not to discuss the particulars of this case, but to share some resources for Christians to learn more about race in America so we are able to engage in respectful, informed dialogue about race relations. Not all of the resources listed below originate with Christian individuals or faith-based organizations, but there’s something we can learn from each one.
- The Bible. Let’s not overlook the obvious! The Bible is rich with information on how Christians of any race should interact with others. Love, of course, is the predominate theme. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas: Matthew 7:12, John 13:14-15, Romans 2:11, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:10-11, and 1 John 4:7-11.
- Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. The sociologist authors of this book examine how white evangelicals may unwittingly be preserving America’s racial chasm. United by Faith, a related book that looks at multiracial congregations, also provides useful insight.
- Ministries of Mercy by Timothy Keller. In this book, Keller outlines the obligation of every Christian to care for needy people. He also provides advice regarding many thorny issues that arise when Christians engage in practical ministry to the needy. While this book does not address race per se, it is relevant to conversations on race because of the correlations between race and socioeconomic status that exist in our country.
- Race in Evangelical America by Joy Moore. This resource is not actually a book; it’s an article about books. Moore summarizes the narratives contained in four books that address racism in the church.
Sermons and speeches
- “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. You’ve likely heard portions of this speech and are familiar with the gist of it. If you’ve never read it in its entirety, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is powerful and profound. You can also watch footage of the speech here.
- Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage by John Piper. Drawing from the Bible and his personal experience, Piper explains why interracial marriage is congruent with Scripture and how it benefits our society. Another interesting resource is a video-recorded Q&A with John Piper and Timothy Keller on Race and The Christian.
Websites, articles, etc.
- American Anthropological Association Statement on “Race” and the NOVA article Does Race Exist? Both of these sources are rather lengthy and somewhat academic in tone. I’ve included them because it would be remiss of me not to include references that address the question of if race is biological or if it is a social construct.
- Black and White Churches Merge in Louisville via NPR. Listen to or read a transcript of an interview with Pastor Lincoln Bingham and Pastor Mark Payton. These men led their churches to do what few black and white churches have ever done: Merge. The brief video below highlights this wonderful event.
- Color Blindness, Political Correctness, or Racial Reconciliation: Christian Ethics and Race by George Yancey. In this article, Yancey defines and explains the benefits and drawbacks of three broad approaches to race relations in the church.
- Race definition and classifications by the U.S. Census Bureau. This page explains which racial classifications are used by the U.S. government. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has a user-friendly website that allows you to view the population distribution by race/ethnicity for the U.S. and each state.
- A Family Guide to Talking About Race by the American Anthropological Association. This guide contains information about race, tips for family discussions about race, and activities to help kids learn about race. Related resources can be found on the Understanding Race website.
- Age-appropriate books on racial diversity. Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan has compiled a list of many excellent options.
- Ruby Bridges by Walt Disney Home Entertainment. This beautiful movie depicts the true story of a brave girl and her family during the desegregation of a southern school in 1960. There are also numerous books available that tell Ruby’s story. This movie is an uplifting way to initiate conversations about race.
Though I believe these resources contain information that will help Christians engage in respectful, informed dialogue about race, I don’t endorse every single opinion espoused in each resource. As you would when reading about any issue, prayerfully consider the ideas presented and compare them with Scripture to determine if they are accurate.
I know the above list of resources is woefully incomplete, so please add to it. What resources would you recommend Christians turn to for learning more about race relations?