The Urgency of Reconciliation

This week in the news, a predominantly White (or possibly all-White, I don’t know) fraternity at the University of Oklahoma was caught on tape yelling an impassioned, racist chant at the top of their lungs. The video went viral, and I believe the Fraternity nationally and the University have responded appropriately with severe disciplinary actions. But we must continue to work proactively to forge more reconciling and harmonious communities on college campuses across America.

Recently while I was preaching at New City Church in Downtown LA, a homeless man was shot and killed by LA police just a few blocks away. I can’t speak into the details of what happened, but it’s ironic that while I was preaching at a multi-ethnic church that includes homeless people, business executives, artists, and other diverse children of God, another tragic incident took place between the police and the community. What I know for sure is that there is an urgent need for reconciliation.

Last weekend we recognized the 50th anniversary of the Selma March, also known as Bloody Sunday. I saw a picture of President Obama and a number of Civil Rights legends walking together across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. What I found out later was that former President George W. Bush was cropped out of the picture shown in some newspapers. Why? What a wonderful picture of reconciliation that would have been.

These events, which occurred over the course of two weeks, have made me wonder what is going on in families and religious institutions. Are families and churches actually sending young people to college without the abilities, competencies, and skills to positively navigate an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural world? Or could it be that families and churches aren’t having much of an influence in this area even when they try?

The initial reaction by many in the dominant culture is to believe that racist attitudes either represent a small group or aren’t really racism at all – they chalk it up to ignorance. However, using ignorance to explain or justify racism is the equivalent of getting a lesser charge after committing a crime. For some, it’s a way to argue that a crime was never truly committed; this isn’t a way forward toward reconciliation.

The United States desperately needs solutions for racial reconciliation, but the approaches we have been taking aren’t working. A polarized and deeply divided government won’t solve this issue. Extremist tenured professors who drown out their moderate peers on college campuses won’t solve this issue. Parents who use the colorblind approach to dealing with race won’t solve this issue. Pastors who don’t believe race is an issue in their congregations or this nation or refuse to preach on this relevant issue won’t solve this problem. Cable news talk show hosts who make millions of dollars to put out demonizing and divisive rhetoric night after night won’t solve this problem. It will take an army of loving, patient, non-violent, proactive, urgent, steadfast reconcilers to solve this problem.

Biblical reconciliation is not a soft response. The reconciling mission of Christ contains love, truth, forgiveness, deliverance, liberation, and justice. The problem is that some try to address issues pertaining to race with only some of those elements and not the powerful combination of all of them.

Reconciliation will build trust between the police and the community. Reconciliation will end violent hazing and dismantle racism within fraternal organizations. Reconciliation will dismantle the predominantly segregated foothold within the Church of the United States of America. We are not yet a post-racial society and we may not fully realize that until the second coming of Christ, but we can create outposts of the Beloved Community on college campuses, in cities, and within the Body of Christ. The army of reconciliation is in need of more soldiers.

From Efrem's blog.