Reconciliation

Georgetown's Changes Are About Atonement, Not Reconciliation

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The continued use of the language of reconciliation around this news obfuscates the need for real, full-fledged atonement.

At a moment like this, while the nation watches Georgetown takes this opportunity to correct the sins of its past, white Americans must not demand reconciliation. We must take the work of atonement upon our own shoulders. To do otherwise is to live as if Jesus’ life were not a gift, but something God owed to us from the beginning.

Plain Talk

From Rams
From Rams

When Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in what has been seen as the beginning of the end of the Cold War, the venue was an unassuming house overlooking the sea in Reykjavík, Iceland. Höfði House had been previously occupied by the poet Einar Benediktsson, who once wrote, “Take notice of the past if you would achieve originality.” Whatever else Einar meant, at this house, the necessity of learning from history can’t be ignored.

It is easier to imagine today’s enemies talking once you’ve seen the house. You see, it’s not the Avengers’ home base or one of those underground lairs favored by James Bond villains. It’s just a house, surrounded by the typical trappings of a small city—business headquarters, cafes, supermarkets. The Icelandic government uses it today for social gatherings. And what happened in it 30 years ago was at heart two people communicating, with a shared goal that transcended them both.

The notion of enemies sitting down and talking with each other is also at the heart of the magnificent new Icelandic film Rams, which I saw in a cinema about five minutes’ walk from Höfði. Two sheep-farming brothers live and work beside each other, but haven’t spoken for four decades. A family shadow has driven them apart—one of those decisions made by parents seeking the best for their children but not knowing how to arrive there. And so, separately, the brothers endure twice the hardships and experience only half the blessings of life amid this most exquisite landscape. Success is ignored by the other, or serves as an occasion for jealousy rather than celebration; Christmas is spent alone, no one to share the feast, and Icelandic winters are hardest of all.

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Why We Need the 'Ministry of Reconciliation' Now More Than Ever

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There is a story in our family lore that during a contentious presidential campaign a few decades ago my father refused to drive his mother, my grandmother, to the polling station on election day. She was voting for the opposing candidate and he didn’t want her to cancel out his vote. Though contentious at the time, it is a story that still evokes laughter in our family each time it is retold. And don’t worry — grandma eventually got a friend to drive her to the polls.

Reconciliation in the Shadow of a Broken History

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Self-professed best friends, Anthony and Dustin have two very different energies. Anthony is compact, and speaks with vivid and pointed images that cut through the fog of misconception. His gaze is simultaneously direct and yet deeply reflective. Dustin emanates a good ol' southern boy vibe: easy grin, easy mannerisms, each movement relaxed and deliberate.

And then there is the one glaring difference between them: Anthony is black. Dustin is white.

Reconciliation Ground: Ministry in Public Schools

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The couple has found that part of their calling in these schools is not just to the children, but also to the teachers who serve those children. Cheryl has taken to performing regular acts of kindness for the teachers — showing up in the teachers’ lounge with a plate of cookies, or stopping by the main office to give a hug to the administrator in charge of discipline.

“I tell her, ‘I’m sure you’ve had a rough day today. Can I give you a hug?’ I just never knew it would make such a difference. [They] feel so supported,” said Cheryl.

African Catholics Embrace Jubilee Year As Time for Muslim Understanding

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Francis marked the start of the jubilee on Dec. 8, when he opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The yearlong celebration calls on Catholics to reflect on the theme of mercy and forgiveness and showcase a more inviting faith. That theme resonates in Africa, home to about 200 million Catholics. A sizable part of this population is tormented by war, violence from Muslim extremists, HIV/AIDS, and poverty.

I Was Officer Ben Fields' Basketball Coach. How Do I Reconcile My Friend With His Actions?

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I remain deeply disturbed by the visual of the small, black girl being tossed across the classroom by a “man” in a police uniform. Intellectually, I am aware that what appears to be an act of senseless violence is yet another contribution to a mountain of overwhelming evidence that black lives do not matter in our society. But I also know Ben as a loving human being, filled with a deep sense of compassion and justice. How do I reconcile the two?

I must step back and look more closely at the roots of his behavior. What led him to such force? Was it a trained response? Was there a personal antecedent? … Does it matter?

On the occasion of Martin Luther King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy spoke to an audience of black people in Indianapolis — one of the few major cities not to erupt in violence. Kennedy implored the audience to not react in anger at the “awful grace of God.” My friend Ben Fields is currently caught up in such a moment and I would like to help him navigate the treacherous waters where he has suddenly found himself.

White Churches Start Talking About Reparations for Slavery

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A white scholar touring churches across the nation is trying to convince Christians that racial reconciliation is not enough — it’s time to start talking about reparations for descendants of slaves.

And among mostly white, mainline Protestants this controversial — some would say unrealistic — notion is getting a hearing.

What divides the races in America, says Drake University ethicist Jennifer Harvey, is not the failure to embrace differences but the failure of white Americans to repent and repair the sins of the past.

The Myth of Reconciliation?

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Getty Images

#BLACKLIVESMATTER is being touted as our uniquely contemporary civil rights movement. Yet it bears striking resemblance to the black power movement of decades past.

Who can represent #BlackLivesMatter, be involved, or be its leaders? It’s clear that black people can. Can others? And what sorts of black folks? Ben Carson? Cornel West? Two of the three co-founders are queer black women. And what about the role of the faith community, of clergy? The movement’s incredible racial justice work notwithstanding, it puts on display the identity politics that continue to complicate the body politic in contemporary American life.

Jennifer Harvey’s Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation (Eerdmans) is one of the most significant recent books addressing identity and politics, focusing on the intersections of race, anti-racism, and religion. In its pages, Harvey, an American Baptist minister and associate professor of religion at Drake University, deconstructs reconciliation as a paradigm and offers a constructive practical vision of reparations. Harvey’s work in trying to make sense of her own embodied white identity—through her studies at Union Theological Seminary and service in a host of ministry settings addressing racial justice—provides background that allows her to explore multiple racial justice issues, making her book relevant for an intercultural audience.

Harvey’s thesis is clear: Reconciliation as a paradigm has failed to address racial injustice in the U.S., and the church needs to shift to a reparations paradigm to better address our racial situation. In a reconciliation paradigm, racial separation denotes racism, making diversity and togetherness the primary criteria for determining racial righteousness in the church. Issues related to structural justice are significant within visions of reconciliation, but they take a back seat to the ultimate concern of inclusion.

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How to Have Hard Conversations

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Without a commitment to having hard conversations, and without healthy outlets for them, disagreements can be terrifying. They can seem like the end of the world, especially in the rarified atmosphere of our churches.

Unfortunately, Christians often deal with disagreements in their congregations in one of a handful of ways. We might disagree only in public, or only in denominational forums; we might talk only to our pastor, or only to the people who agree with us; we might let our money do the talking for us; we might not say anything at all; or we might split — leave, get kicked out, break fellowship.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can create a culture of rich dialogue, even around our disagreements. We can cultivate community conversations marked by gracious space and spacious grace. This unity is possible because we are bound by a covenant 

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