In i>Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s view of White Christianity, Edward Gilbreath paints a vivid picture of the Evangelical Church today as it pertains to racial reconciliation. We live in a post-civil-rights world, and yet in many ways the white Church is no further along in mending relationships with its black brothers and sisters than is the wider culture.
Fire hoses may no longer be pointed at black civil rights marchers, but we do live in a time in which “white privilege” still exists. And stereotypes about black culture persist, even in the church. The road to reconciliation is there, but it is rough and pot-holed, not smooth. We can see the roughness of this road in the lack of diversity in organizations (para-church and secular), the ethnic uniformity in high school cliques, the demographics of church congregations, and the divisions between one side of town and the other.
With the tone of a memoirist, the voice of a prophet, and the technique of a journalist, Gilbreath illustrates the problems associated with reconciling diverse groups of people in the church. He uses both his personal history as well as the history of civil rights in America as examples and lessons.
Reconciliation Blues doesn’t offer pat answers – in fact, in some cases it poses more questions than it puts forward solutions. But in the questioning, a lot of doors are opened for reflection, and a lot of wisdom can be gained. In a particularly effective quote, Gilbreath discusses what it means to be unified,
To my mind, racial unity means fellowshipping and serving in the same ministries – and especially on the business end, that typically means blacks and other minorities going over to the white side to mix things up. But…the onus need not always be on nonwhites to cross over. The bridge should go both ways, right? And fruitful partnerships can result even when we’re not joined at the hip (99).
Without sounding glib, Gilbreath helps us to understand that unity among people can only be achieved by reliance on God. When we trust in God’s sovereignty to bring about reconciliation, we discover a divine grace that brings reconciliation and harmony among people.
Reconciliation Blues was selected as a 2007 Merit Award winner by Christianity Today.