Review of George Yancey’s Beyond Racial Reconciliation (InterVarsity Press, 2006).
“I believe racism is a problem that requires specifically Christian insight” (p.77). George Yancey makes a bold claim when he declares that the solution to a problem that affects all people of all races and all religions is found in the Christian worldview, molded as it is by Jesus. I believe Yancey is right. I applaud him for not pandering to universality and not striving for detached neutrality (that might gain him kudos in academic circles). Yancey is an accomplished scholar, but he is Christian before he is an academic. He works hard to see the situation of race in America from as many points of view as possible. And, he admits when he is not able to do so.
He writes as a black man, as a minority who has been hurt by America’s racist past. However, he doesn’t beat up whites in the present who want to atone for our part in this drama of race, and he critiques black authors who do. Yancey’s vision for reconciliation is fair-minded, but more importantly, it is Gospel based.
His core idea is the mutual responsibility model which he defines as a “concept that takes seriously the Christian teaching of human depravity” (p.78). Starting with this definition, he demonstrates that sin is the root problem and that racism is the form in which sin rips society apart. Jesus gives us power to overcome sins and at the same time wipes off of us the sin already stuck to us. We have to admit our sins and our part in the sin narrative. For whites Americans, this will different confession than for African Americans and other People of Color, but all have to confess sin and especially sin within the race drama.
From confession, we then work on relationships. We work to deep friendships with people from different backgrounds than our own. This work is intentional, sometimes tedious, and ultimately necessary if we want to have a part in the way God will bring healing to our nation. Yancey’s work in this book is the as comprehensive and theologically cohesive as I have found. I will use his ideas as a part of our church’s attempt to become a multi-ethnic church. I hope I can convince everyone in our church to read it.