Wayne Gordon and John M. Perkins have written a timely and important book for the church (evangelicals in particular), in which they aim to address issues of racial reconciliation within the framework of the current racial violence and responses in our country.
This is not a very long book at all (92 pages) — it could easily be read in one or two evenings. In many places it attempts to skim and summarize important issues that probably all of us should pursue further reading on. Still, if you have found yourself wondering why we need the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” why the phrase “All lives matter” rings hollow to many, and what role the church can/should play in all this, this book is well worth reading.
The authors bring many decades’ worth of experience to the table: John M. Perkins has been fighting for civil rights his entire life, and has been on the receiving end of terrible violence and injustice, as some of his other books describe more thoroughly. Wayne Gordon felt called to move to a high-crime area of Chicago and pastor a church there, and has been ministering there for forty years. Both men have worked in multicultural environments for a long time.
I’m going to just provide summaries and a few observations on each of the chapters:
1: This chapter introduces some of the reasons why “all lives matter” has not been achieved in our country, highlighting some of the cases of police brutality that saw a lot of media attention within the past few years, and emphasizing that simply saying “all lives matter” in some contexts comes across as a denial of reality.
2: John M. Perkins tells the short version of his life story here, emphasizing the need to listen to other people’s perspectives if we truly want to understand what is important to them and why.
“So where do we go from here?” he asks at the end. “The apostle Paul said ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’ (Gal.6:2). Somehow, it all comes down to mutual love and respect for one another. Period. We must have enough love to reach out and feel the pain of others, bear it in ourselves, and look to Christ for resolution. As the called-out ones–the body of Christ, the church–we should be the model for that.”
3: Here the authors provide a brief overview of the many ways that our country has, throughout its past, not just once or twice but systematically, oppressed and marginalized entire groups of people. We have made an awful lot of progress and come a long way, but there is still far to go. They emphasize that it is not “unpatriotic” to critically analyze our country’s past–in fact, it is necessarily if we truly want to understand “where we’re at” today.
4: It is not surprising that “big things” like acts of violence communicate to people that their lives don’t matter. But there are other ways that happens too–when African Americans are ignored, or treated like their contributions are not as important as others’. This may not always be intentional, but it still has a cumulative effect nonetheless.
5: This chapter tells the story of how several churches came together to find common ground after feeling the demoralizing effects of violence. To someone like me from a rural, northern, predominantly white Baptist church, the idea of a church participating in a protest that blocked traffic and praying for peace in their district seems hard to identify with. I don’t know many churchgoers who’ve felt the need to participate in a protest, unless it was against abortion, so this section was particularly eye-opening to me–a great picture of how churches can engage the pertinent issues in their communities, and inspiring when the police officers who could have arrested them instead joined them in prayer.
6: Here the authors contend that most of the primary objectives of the Black Lives Matter movement are not at odds with Christianity–that we all want more peaceful communities, and we all want to be treated like our lives matter.
7: Wayne Gordon shares the role that grief and empathy can play in entering in to the pain of others.
8: This chapter gives some practical advice for ways to “sow love,” and “demonstrate the conviction that all lives matter,” both individually and as a community. #1 is praying the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which I thought was a wonderful idea. There are suggestions for movies and further reading that can help us see from other perspectives (including some of the authors’ previous books, as well as “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, which I also recommend).
9: This chapter encourages us to hold on to hope in whatever we do.
Like I said, this book is short and tries to cover a lot of topics while sharing personal stories, all in a short space. I think it does a good job speaking to what it set out to, but I think it works best as a gateway to other reading.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/wa….