Understand Your Position
Whenever we have a conversation about race and racial reconciliation, it always has a historical context. It’s important when we engage in that conversation that we think about this topic through three different lenses. We need to think about it through the cultural lens, the political lens, and the theological lens. Considering those three lenses, it’s really critical that we determine where to begin because where we start from affects how we think about the subject and even how we have the conversation.
For instance, if I think about racial reconciliation as primarily a political topic, that changes the conversation. Or, if I think it’s mainly about a cultural issue, that affects how I’m going to approach it. There’s hope if we think first that this is a theological issue, certainly with cultural and political dynamics in play as well. But this is one of those moments where triage—deciding which of these is most important—really matters.
You could be having a conversation with someone about racial reconciliation and realize, We're actually not talking about the same terms, we’re not actually talking about the same issue, and we’re coming at it from very different perspectives. It’s very important and helpful to locate where you're at in the middle of this conversation and understand the cultural, political, and theological dynamics that are in play and even to identify those in terms of where someone is coming from in the conversation.
The fact remains that there are media echo chambers. We all have the media confirmation bias thing that’s going on. Once we get into a particular news trough, other articles come our direction and, without even realizing it, it can be really easy to think, Everyone believes like I believe.
So, we need to understand where we are in the middle of this conversation—historically, culturally, politically, and even theologically—and then we have to ask ourselves this question: Where am I getting my information to help me move forward?
We need to understand where we are in the middle of this conversation—historically, culturally, politically, and even theologically.
It’s really critical that the Bible and theological categories inform this conversation lest the other things (culture and politics) become the first step. If those become the first step, the theological framework is lost. Then, the church loses its opportunity to speak into it in a way that’s helpful and powerful.
It doesn’t mean you can’t speak into the cultural and political dynamics, but it means that a theological framework needs to be established first if we’re ever going to speak into those other categories really well.
Mark Vroegop is the author of Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation.
Lament doesn't solve all the problems of racial disharmony. It’s not without risk. But it helps.
Reconciliation—vertical and horizontal—is the goal of the good news. Gospel unity creates racial harmony.
How does the biblical practice of lament offer Christians from different backgrounds a common language for productive, God-honoring conversations about race?
Most Christians are not sure what to do about racial reconciliation. There are some whose hearts are sinfully closed, but I think most Christians simply lack the tools.