Reconciliation Blues by Edward Gilbreath
Edward Gilbreath writes as a black man living and working in a white evangelical man’s world. In Reconciliation Blues, Gilbreath does a good job of pointing out shortcomings with the race reconciliation efforts from both sides of the black/white race issues. He has the advantage of being an African-American, growing up in that context, understanding the African-American experience, as well as being educated in a majority white evangelical college and having worked at a fairly high level in a large majority white evangelical institution. In other words, he understands many racial issues from both the black and white perspectives. I think that at the end of the day, Gilbreath’s analysis is that neither side is doing enough to produce racial harmony in the evangelical church; and as Christians, isn’t that where racial harmony should start and be most obvious?
One thing I appreciated in Reconciliation Blues is that Gilbreath addressed some topics that were probably difficult to address. One of those is covered in the chapter titled, “Is Jesse Jackson an Evangelical?” He describes some of the good Mr. Jackson has done for the black community and the role he has played in both religion and politics. But he acknowledges that because of some of his theological positions, Jackson is not an evangelical.
He also makes the claim, appropriately, that whether white or black, the pastor has the lead role in turning a single race church into a multicultural church that reflects God’s kingdom. He also discusses the role of music in the church service as part of that reflection. Another great observation Gilbreath made is that the need for racial reconciliation in the church is not confined to black and white relationships. We should not neglect Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, or any other group.
Overall, I give Reconciliation Blues pretty high marks, maybe four out of five stars. Realize it is one perspective. It is not the ranting and raving of an angry black man. It is written with grace and truth. If you will read it with an open mind and heart, you will probably be convicted in some areas. I know I was.
What do you think about the state of race relations in the evangelical Christian church? As white evangelicals, what can we do to make our churches multicultural? Or should that even be a goal? Please leave your comment below.