I just finished a deeply moving book by Edward Gilbreath, Reconciliation Blues. There is nothing in this book that makes you think Gilbreath, an editor at CT, thinks the end of racialization is imminent. Instead of repeating well-worn figures, Gilbreath introduces his readers to the scene — what it is like to be African American and evangelical.
Reconciliation Blues is dynamic, forceful, honest, hopeful and realistic story-telling about major figures — like Tom Skinner and Jesse Jackson and James Earl Massey and Russell Wright and plenty more beside — and their impact on Gilbreath and the evangelical world. In process, Gilbreath interjects some solid theology, some social critique (“the two primary colors have morphed from black and white to blue and red”), and some potent suggestions (for leaders especially).
In his chp on ML King, Jr., Gilbreath says “What looked like a radical social gospel in the sixties now doesn’t seem that different from the activism employed by evangelicals who protest abortion or same-sex marriage — at least in principle” (108). On Jesse Jackson: “He is forever too political to be embraced as a true minister but too religious to be accepted as a formidable politician” (126).
This is a book that won’t make you feel guilty; instead, it will give you imagination to what has been done, what isn’t being done, and what can be done.
Buy this book. More importantly read it. And even more importantly discuss it with friends. And then think about what you can do to end the most embarrassing hour of the week for the Church and turn it into a display of what the Lord of the gospel came to do — set the table for all of us.