Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Reading Pt. II

Tis the season for summer reading lists. And while I’m sure you’ve already filled out your list and may have even gotten underway allow me to whet your appetite for something just slightly off the beaten path.

These books are for those who want to explore the issues of ethnicity in this historic election year. Reading them could give all of us some insight into how and why bible believing African-Americans and white evangelicals view life and politics so differently. Should you take the time to read one or more of them please try to discuss it with a friend of a different ethnicity whose views on politics and ethnic relations differ from yours. Though these kinds of discussions can occur over the internet and within the blogosphere I don’t believe that virtual reality is the most effective way to work through these important issues. And in my view it’s these kinds of discussions that bible believing blacks and evangelical whites must have if we are to present an authentic counter-cultural movement in what is sure to be a most interesting election year summer.

With that said here’s to fruitful reading:

Our first choice is ‘God’s Long Summer’ by Charles Marsh. This book details the thought process and worldview of five individuals involved in the Civil Rights Struggle during the summer of 1964 in Mississippi. . You should pay special attention to the stories of Fannie Lou Hamer (a great woman of God) and Rev. Douglas Hudgins of First Baptist Church of Jackson MS.

The next work is ‘Divided By Faith’: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith. The authors who conducted 2000 phone interviews and 200 face to face interviews argue that evangelicals have a theological world view that makes it difficult for them to perceive systematic injustices in society. The book also contrasts the views of bible believing African-Americans and white evangelicals regarding the issue of ‘racialization’ which is an excellent term the authors use to describe the current socio/ethnic landscape in America.
What’s interesting about this book is the contrast of attitudes between blacks and whites toward ethnic issues that’s eerily similar to that of those held a generation ago.

Two fictional books by a non-evangelical add color (forgive the pun) to our list. I’m adding them because I believe they accurately capture the thinking of many black people regarding the current state of ethnic relations. In ‘And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest For Racial Justice Derek Bell argues that whites have benefited far more than blacks from civil rights reform. Bell makes this charge in a series of metaphorical stories featuring mythical attorney Geneva Crenshaw. Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism is a follow up to And We Are Not Saved. Once more through a series of fictional stories featuring Geneva Crenshaw Bell argues that racism is a permanent feature of American life.

The last two stories add a personal touch to the issues of ethnicity. ’Waking From The Dream’ chronicles Sam Fulwood's growing disillusionment with integration. Fulwood was born into a middle class black family at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement and along with others of his generation truly believed that they would be the first to be judged on the content of their character. According to Fulwood however that was not the case. I suggest this because most black I know strongly resonate with Sam’s experience.

A companion of Sam’s book (though I’m sure it wasn’t intentional) Clarence Shuler’s ‘Winning The Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Really Working’ is his account of ethnicity while serving among various evangelical organizations. What’s interesting about Clarence’s book is how he and Sam Fulwood faced similar challenges and came to similar conclusions, one within the secular realm the other within evangelicalism.

Of course there are many others that are worth reading. I suggest these because of the insight I’ve gained from them and for the realistic way in which they tackle the issue of ethnic division.
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to read all of them please take the time to work through at least one or two and then set aside some time to talk with a friend about it.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

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