The local church is unrivaled in its potential to bring about meaningful transformation.
In my previous post, I offered some reflections on the racist incidences at Fenway Park. In this follow-up post, I will attempt to explain why I believe the local church is an ideal context in which to pursue racial reconciliation.
I write this fully aware that Christians and Christian institutions have had a rather sordid and checkered past as it relates to interracial and intercultural relations in the U.S. This includes the culpability of the Evangelical Church as convincingly and provocatively argued in Divided by Faith, a seminal, pioneering sociological work that spawned a bevy of studies on multiethnic congregations and pricked the conscience of influential evangelical leaders like Bill Hybels.
Given our historic and ongoing complicity in perpetuating the racial divide, some (if they even acknowledge that racism is a pervasive, systemic issue) might understandably wonder if Christians can or should play a significant role in bridging this divide.
You have probably heard some variation of the expression that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. According to NCS III, as of 2012, only about 20% of people attended ethnically diverse churches, where no one racial or ethnic group makes up more than 80% of the congregation, up from 15% in 1998 (note that the NCS refers to all congregations, not just Christian congregations, though these make up the vast majority of survey participants). The degree of homogeneity and segregation is even more stark in certain Christian denominations.
Most of our congregations do not reflect the demographics of their neighborhoods. That is, our children are likely to attend schools that are much more racially and ethnic diversity than their churches. But some may even wonder if …