Over the past 5-6 years, I have been working on a book (have been thinking about it for 14 years) about what went wrong in the South in the past when it came to Evangelicals and Race. When Heaven and Earth Collide has now been released through New South Books (Montgomery/Louisville).
Why did most Evangelicals in the South go along with race-based slavery, Segregation, and Racism?
Why didn't they stand for justice when they had the chance?
How did their compromise with the larger culture affect their theology? Their witness?
How did the failure of the Evangelical church when it had cultural power affect America to the present day?
How did the underlying issues behind the symptom of Racism then morph into other things like consumerism, individualism, and pursuit of personal preference, all things that we still deal with today?
I start with a horrific event in Montgomery, Alabama on May 20-21, 1961 when the Freedom Riders came to my city and were beaten by a mob and then surrounded in an old church along with 1,500 men, women, and children by another racist mob of 3,000 people trying to burn the church down on top of them. I ask how this could have happened in a city full of churches where the vast majority claimed to be Christian? Working my way through history and theology, I find some answers.
I think that this book is important. Most authors think that their book is important, I know, otherwise, why write it? But, this book is less about what I have to say than it is about trying to find some answers to a situation that has plagued the Evangelical witness since the founding of America.
- Has our racial history kept us from being the people that God called us to be?
- What were the origins behind racism and our theological compromise?
- Is there a way out of the morass?
- How can sacrificial love for God and others change us into a missional people?
- How can we walk in the Better Way of Jesus from this point forward?
I think that there is a way of transformation and I try to find it through exploring 400 years of American history and comparing it with Scripture and the implications of the gospel. Through this journey, I show how healing can be found for the Evangelical church and for America as a result. We are not destined to a continual future of division. Christ can bring healing, if we would let Him.
The book comes out at the beginning of next week. I do hope that people buy it. I think it is important and I think that we need answers and a way forward so that the church can regain her witness in a world hopelessly at odds with itself.
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