A good friend was doing some workshops on the topic of racial reconciliation and although she has a lot of good resources, she wondered what was new and important. I think one of the groups that she was working with was reading through the evangelical classic More Than Equals by Chris Rice and Spencer Perkins; they knew the ground-breaking work of John Perkins, and maybe had some good stuff by Manuel Ortiz and had studied the classic multi-ethnic history of America, A DIfferent Mirror by Ron Takaki. Many know the near classic Oxford University Press study Divided By Faith by Christian Smith and Michael Emerson. They may or may not have seen Eyes on the Prize on DVD but I hope so…I was eager to describe some of our own favorites, a small portion of the large inventory we have on this topic. I hope you enjoy the list, and hope you are inspired to study this topic a bit. Read through to the end and you’ll be rewarded with a special blog discount on any of these titles.
All God’s Children: A Biblical Critique of Racism Steven McKenzie (Abingdon) $14.95 A powerful study, mostly Biblical, showing how the Bible dealt with race and nationalistic pride and how Christ’s church began as a racially inclusive community. Very helpful for building Biblical foundations.
Peppermint-filled PiÃ±atas: Breaking Through Tolerance and Embracing Love Eric Michael Bryant (Zondervan) $12.99 These short chapters with poignant stories illustrate various ways we can get beyond our stereotypes, and even beyond “toleration” towards authentic relationships and true Christian care. A bridge-building message about grace, love, inclusive care, and Godly outreach written by a young evangelical youth pastor. Very fun, engaging and inviting.
Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Diversity Randy Woodley (IVP) $16.00 I have often said this is the best book to celebrate ethnic and racial diversity, inviting us to a multi-cultural concern, beyond issues of “black and white.” An excellent primer on the subject, a must-have resource. Written by a passionate Native Christian, this is a very readable and solid approach. Highly recommended.
Crazy Enough to Care: Changing Your World Through Compassion, Justice & Racial Reconciliation Alvin C. Bibbs (IVP) $16.00 This Willow Creek leader for multicultural relations has given us a remarkable collection of studies, discussion guides and lesson plans, perfect for preparing programs or for any small group to work through. This is an expert resource, guiding us through practical issues, rooted in solid perspectives. I cannot say enough about this fabulous and very useful guidebook.
Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World David A. Livermore (Baker) $17.99 Although this is designed for serious youth workers, helping youth and family ministries grapple with important issues, it is helpful for anyone…I can hardly think of a more up to date and urgent book that helps us understand various world cultures, the ethnic and racial diversity common these days, and the need to have some insight about how to be more effective in relating to others. Comprehensive and accessible, proactive and helpful. I wish I could read you the fascinating chapter titles—you’d really see how thorough it is…great!
Learning From the Stranger: Christian Faith and Cultural Diversity David Smith
(Eerdmans) $20.00 Smith wrote the important book about teaching foreign languages rooted in a Christian worldview (The Gift of the Stranger) and here he offers a broader more foundational approach to what “culture” is, discussing how cultural differences affects our perceptions and behaviors, and why Christians need a robust theology of hospitality. He shows how Christ’s call to love our neighbor involved learning from others, including “cultural strangers.” This is a remarkably thoughtful bit of Biblical and theological study, peppered with David’s own stories, insights, and experiences. It is a beautiful book, a great example of extraordinary, deeply integrated thinking, a wonderful example of distinctively Christian scholarship. Smith teaches German at Calvin College and is renowned for his perspectives on uniquely Christian theories and habits of education. Highly recommended for the biggest picture.
Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Challenge of 21st Century White America Joseph Brandt (Augsburg-Fortress) $17.00 Recently expanded and re-issued, this is a demanding and serious call to rethink racial assumptions, white privilege and work towards diversity and justice. Very impressive, highly regarded among trainers and activists. The author has served as a pastor in an urban Lutheran church although some evangelicals might suggest the book isn’t terribly overt about spirituality or gospel proclamation. This is not a criticism, I do not think, but a realization that he presumes much that is discussed in other books about reconciliation and justice. This is the manual for serious work, self-evaluation, and a re-orientation of values and systems, exposing and undoing racism and its structural injustices. Very important. Glad for this new, updated edition, too.
The Church Enslaved: A Spirituality of Racial Reconciliation Tony Campolo & Michael Battle (Fortress) $17.00 Tony–the passionate and humorous Baptist preacher and sociologist–combines here with an African-American Episcopalian scholar and churchman, to offer a fabulous, introductory, but very wise study. This is hard-hitting, prophetic, and yet kind and pastoral, lifting up contemplative practices and (un)common friendship as a key to new ways of faithful discipleship. Has a chapter on the vision and work of Desmond Tutu that is very nice. Includes a very, very good study guide, making it excellent as a study book for congregations.
Beyond Rhetoric: Reconciliation as a Way of Life Samuel George Hines & Curtis Paul DeYoung (Judson) $14.00 Two exceptionally important African American leaders offer us here a warm, friendly, yet hard-hitting study of not just racism, but of brokenness and alienation, inviting us to the gospel of reconciliation as a key to faithful living. My, my, this is vital and robust stuff, solid and insightful, insisting on action, not just talk. Very impressive.
Gracism: The Art of Inclusion David A. Anderson (IVP) $17.00 This is a lovely book based on grace (the play on words in the title is crucial!) Anderson has started as vibrant multi-cultural congregation and here shows the positive way to show God’s favor to others, reaching ou
t in care and grace. The author is rather young, quite energetic, has a Ph.D. from Oxford, and is leading his exciting Bridgeway congregation as an agent of hope. Sweet!
The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change Brenda Salter McNeil & Rick Richardson (expanded edition) $15.00 Just a few months ago this new edition, with expanded content and a new cover, was released and many have noted how great it. With a forward by John Perkins, this is an excellent resource not to be missed. (It has a very useful study guide in the back, too.) It exposes important material about the racial divides that plague us, yet it firmly places these struggles within the context of spiritual warfare and spiritual transformation. Can we allow Christ to remake us? Can we do evangelism in a way that is truly about reconciliation? Can we resist social and structural evil with the power of the gospel? Can social change emerge from serious soul change? Is there a relationship between, say, healing prayer, and working against racial injustice?
Free to Be Bound: Church Beyond the Color Line Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (NavPress) $12.99 Jon has become known as a co-author and partner-in-crime with Shane Claiborne and the other radically Christian servants in the “new monastics” movement. He here tells his story of moving to a largely black, rural, Southern church and taking up his place among his brothers and sisters there. Chris Rice says that this is “one of the most fresh and most important new voices in the American church.” Shane writes that it “sings truth like old spirituals and lets you sip justice like sweet tea.” Gotta love a book like that. Good discussion questions, too.
Race Matters Cornel West (Vintage) $12.95 Although brother West is a follower of Christ and an active churchman, this book isn’t overtly religious, published by a mainstream general market publishing house. Yet, it resonates with the things of God, has profoundly spiritual insights about the nature of the Western culture, and is, as the Washington Post review said, “as moving as any of the sermons of Martin Luther King, as profound as W.E.B. Du Bois…as exhilarating in their offering of liberation as James Baldwin’s early essays.” I think it would be hard to be articulate about the conversations about race in our time without knowing this significant work. A must.
Hope on a Tightrope: Words & Wisdom Cornel West (Smiley Books) $19.95 I note this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the way it shows–I pithy and short excerpts with cool graphics–how West is so fluent in not only historic black literature, but in soul music, funk, raggae, hip-hop; his brilliant faith-based insights about culture and oppression is liberally enhanced by drawing on pop culture, especially the sounds of soul. And, there is a spectacular CD of West speaking, reading, prophesying, proclaiming…pretty hip for an academic from Harvard and Princeton! (The Smiley imprint, by the way, is the publishing efforts of PBS talk show guy Tavis Smiley.)
Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity Edward Gilbreath (IVP) $20.00 This author is an esteemed scholar, a traditional evangelical who is Black; this is a journalistic report on his experiences, beautifully written and truly illuminating. It is bold, it is needed, and it is really interesting as he shares his story, offers his vantage point, and leads us–especially evangelicals, but it is good for anyone–towards practices of new hope. Significant for para-church groups, or any church or organization which is mostly white who wants to be more inclusive, but wonders why it is so often hard.
Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race & Class Divisions in a Consumer Church Paul Louis Metzgar (Eerdmans) $16.00 This is a heavy book, serious and a bit demanding, laden with mature theology and serious social criticism. It is important the way the author places racial concerns in the broader context of class differences, and the radical call of the gospel to resist consumerism and embrace grace-even grace found in meals shared together, as we become one at Christ’s table. Forwards by Donald Miller and John Perkins.
I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by James Washington (Harper) $14.95 This may be the best introduction to various works of King. These passionate words can still inspire and leave us more aware, and more stimulated, to act in bold ways. King’s name is so ubiquitous, it is a shame we don’t study his work more carefully. Highly recommended. Do you know his Strength to Love? Wonderful!
Enter the River: Healing Steps from White Privilege Towards Racial Reconciliation Jody Miller Shearer (Herald) $14.99 Jody was a young man from Lancaster (who had worked in urban New Orleans) when he wrote this a decade ago, and it has only become more authentic, powerful, and needed. This is a personal call to be more faithful, and an amazingly insightful essay on ways to proceed. Very challenging and powerful.
Subverting the Power of Prejudice: Resources for Individual and Social Change Sandra Barnes (IVP) $16.00 Barnes is an outspoken African American scholar (professor of sociology at Purdue) who has made the scholarly work on prejudice accessible and useful for ordinary Christian folks wanting to work on this issue. Looking at gender, status, age, race, wealth, and such, she shows how we damage others and ourselves when we presume and live out inappropriate biases. This is an essential, intelligent and helpful contribution in the journey to being set free in Christ, agents of social change, learning to understand and disarm our prejudices and bigotry. If you think the problem is simple, or if you think you’re well on your way, this could be a wake-up call to renewed commitment and work.
Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility George Yancey (IVP) $15.00 Yancey has written other good books on nurturing multi-cultural congregations (which would be good to read even if one isn’t particularly passionate about starting more intentionally diverse churches or fellowships since they are so interesting and visionary.) This one, though, is an essential read for anyone serious about solving American racial problems without simplistic answers or one-sided blame. He shows that various racial groups have born unique pains, and have most likely lived out sinful responses in their own unique ways. Without crass generalizations, he offers a blueprint for mutual responsibility, in ways that are at once sensible and revolutionary. Firmly Christian, yet widely applicable, this is a brilliant and innovative contribution that is balanced and respectful. Yancey is a young, black scholar (University of North Texas) who has earned the right to be taken very seriously. A long-overdue, constructive proposal, fresh and provocative.
White Guilt: How Blacks and Wh
ites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era Shelby Steele (Harper) $13.95 Steele was catapulted to fame with is elegant and controversial The Content of Our Character where, as a black man, he insists on not talking so much about race. He makes a plea to the black community to stop what he termed “race holding” which he describes with great care. Many felt it was wrong-headed (and it may be that it is what stirred West to insist that “race matters.”) This newer one is classic conservative thinking, calling for an end to blaming others, insisting on self-reliance, and yet predicts that this is impossible in our time, because so many whites want to assuage their perceived guilt, by being eager to appear against racism. He has been on the talk-show circuit describing Obama’s win in these exact terms: whites voted for him not so much because they agreed with his ill-defined policies, but simply because he was black. Whether there is truth or insight here remains to be seen, but it is a very, very important part of the conversation. Steele is very highly regarded among conservative pundits and his arguments make provocative, interesting, and troubling reading.
Hope & History: Why We Have to Keep Telling the Story of the Movement Vincent Harding (Orbis) $17.00 This is perhaps my favorite one-volume study of the civil rights movement, by an esteemed activist, historian, theologian and storyteller who helps us recall why this is all so very important. Amazingly moving! His There Is A River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America is a classic, too, and should be known among us. His book on King (King: The Inconvenient Hero is brief and excellent.)
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church From Western Cultural Captivity Soong-Chan Rah (IVP) $15.00 This brand new book is getting a lot of buzz as folks are exclaiming how important it is. Soong-Chan is a popular professor at North Park Theological, and shows that as the global face of Christianity is shifting away from the West (as Philip Jenkins and others have shown) American Christianity must be transformed as well. Perhaps this is ahead of its time, as we struggle for integration and reconciliation among the most obvious racial groupings of our culture, and remain confused by “America’s original sin” of slavery and mistreatment of native peoples. Yet, his insight is true: the future is now! Harvey Cox of Harvard says, “This book is the best and most balanced treatment of the subject now available.” John Perkins says it is “powerful, prophetic…Rah’s message is one we need to hear and to share with others.”
This Side of Heaven: Race, Ethnicity and Christian Faith edited by Robert J. Priest & Alvaro L. Nieves (Oxford University Press) $55.00 I mention this only for those who feel seriously drawn to important Christian scholarship; this collection of essays is fabulous, diverse, significant. The editors are from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Wheaton College and they’ve included noted scholars such as Vincent Bacote, Janell Williams Paris, Peter Chao, Paul Heibert…there are many from many nationalities, offering insights from the Bible, from anthropology, from social policy, etc. This is a major contribution for libraries (at least) and those serious about studying this professionally.
Here are just a few that are about and for specific races, from overtly Christian perspectives. Very nicely done. Of course there are history books opening our awareness of how these ethnic groups came to America. Do you know Yellow? Or Harvest of Empire? Or Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee?
More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith edited by Nikki Toyama and Tracey Gee (IVP) $15.00 This is a passionate anthology, lovely, interesting, and quite obviously helpful for Asian women of various ethnic and national backgrounds. Eye-opening for anyone who wants to respectfully listen in…wow.
Being Latino in Christ: Finding Wholeness in Your Ethnic Identity Orlando Crespo (IVP) $12.00 Perhaps like the one listed above, this is a must for Latino/a Christians—the only book of its kind, really–and is also a good guide to anyone who wants to be a respectful ally and friend. Exceptional.
One Church, Many Tribes: Following Christ Just the Way God Made You Richard Twiss (Regal) $14.99 There are perhaps more academic books, some with a more militant First People’s perspective (for instance, the work of James Treat or George Tinker), but this is the best to start with, a charismatic and engaging Native leader, reminding Indians of Christ’s call to unity and grace, following the Waymaker. Brother Twiss is a dear man, of the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux.
Being White: Finding Our Place in a Multi-ethnic World Paula Harris & Doug Schaupp (IVP) $15.00 I am not sure why some white folks are reluctant to buy this, but it is a hard book to sell. Yet, with all the talk about race, about the need to reflect meaningful on others, on reconciliation and hospitality and such, this is an invitation for white folks to do that well. A very admirable little book, highly recommended. I wonder if those of other ethnic groups might value its candor and insight? Could create some good discussions! Evangelist George Verwer says it is “a book after God’s own heart.” Ron Sider and John Perkins similarly endorse it.
Check All That Apply: Finding Wholeness as a Multiracial Person Sundee Tucker Frazier (IVP) $13.00 Oddly, this is a natural concern for many, but there is nothing else in print from a Christian perspective about being a multi-racial person and the unique opportunities and struggles such folk have. Could be very useful for some, and a beautiful example of innovative Christian thinking about culture, race, ethnicity and such.
Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Interracial Friendships Emily Bernard (Harper) I reviewed this extensively about five years ago, when it blew me away as I read, in well-crafted, robust, stimulating narratives, the joys, struggles, pains, and perplexities of inter-racial friends. This is not a Christian book; it includes some peculiar takes (esp the vulgar first chapter, about thugs in Chinatown, playing “the race card” during a failed hold-up.) I found this to be exceptionally touching, honest, painful, funny, and tender. There is something very rewarding and enriching that happens between most inter-racial friends; it is often, though, harder than imagined, and sometimes, one friend is less than candid than the other. What a collection! This is now out of print, but we have just a few left…
Reaching The World in Our Own Backyard: A Guide to Building Relationships With People of Other Faiths & Cultures Rajendra Pillai (Waterbrook) $14.99 Okay, this isn’t precisely on racial justice or multi-cultural reconciliation, but about building inter-faith relationships, and doing meaningful evangelism with those of other ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Still, it is a lovely resource, helpful, and insightful…It notes cultural idiosyncrasies, gestures, and sayings and such,
which will help reminds us to be caring and a bit informed.
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