Healing the Racial Divide
"Whites have got to repent, blacks have got to forgive."
Monday marked the 54th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, King’s prophetic message offered a vision of an America where people would be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” He also spoke of the “promissory note” issued by the Declaration of Independence to black Americans, guaranteeing their due share of equality and justice.
As racial tensions simmer, questions remain. Have we paid off that note? Have we embraced or do we reject Dr. King’s dream? And where is the church in healing our divide?
Two events Monday pointed to some answers. Much attention went to the One Thousand Ministers March for Justice, organized by Al Sharpton. The Washington Post headline sums that event up: “Religious leaders gather in Washington to show unified moral opposition to Trump.” (So much for our struggles not being “against enemies of blood and flesh.” Ephesians 6:12)
However, earlier in the morning, there was another event. A racially-mixed panel of religious leaders held a press conference at the National Press Club on “Healing the Racial Divide.” Their message didn’t focus on one man in the White House. It centered on setting into action those in God’s House, doing our part in our own house, looking into our own hearts. The godly men and women gathered called for 40 days of fasting and prayer, starting today.
Healing the Racial Divide
The “Healing the Racial Divide” initiative is an outgrowth of The Reconciled Church movement founded by Rev. Harry Jackson, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Stream publisher James Robison. The gathered leaders Monday were white, black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American.
As MLK’s niece, pro-life civil rights leader Dr. Alveda King, kept pointing out, there is only one race — the human race — and only one blood. Yet as Jackson said, “Racism is America’s original sin.” And we must repent of our sin.
Jackson said that throughout the history of the Church, Christians have done too little to overcome it. He noted the “courageous efforts” of Christian Abolitionists, civil rights leaders and social activists, but said “the American Church has never reached the critical level of engagement and unified action to end the influence and reign of terror of racism in our nation.”
However, said Jackson, if we do repent, “God can heal our land.”
“Whites Have Got to Repent. Blacks Have Got to Forgive”
This theme of repentance kept arising throughout the morning. Dr. Jim Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Church in San Diego, told the powerful story of meeting this past weekend with an African-American pastor, Dr. Lawrence van Hook. Dr. Garlow was hoping that his friend would look over a section pertaining to racism from an upcoming book he’s writing. Garlow got far more. For a full hour and 45 minutes, Dr. van Hook instead unleashed a “torrent of pain.” Garlow says he got a “crash course on the depths of the wounding.”
At the end, Dr. van Hook hung his head. “Whites have got to repent. Blacks have got to forgive.”
The next day at Sunday services, while Garlow was leading a prayer for racial reconciliation, his wife Rosemary began sobbing. She found herself kneeling before van Hook, asking forgiveness. Soon he, too, was weeping.
Yes, the wound was not of her doing. But her act helps heal the wound.
A similar story came from Mike Barry, a pastor in Annapolis. Annapolis was America’s first and last slave port. It was on her dock that Kunta Kinte (of Roots fame) was sold. Pastor Barry’s ancestors were abolitionists. Still, Barry stood before Kinte descendant Bill Haley, the son of Roots author Alex Haley, and asked forgiveness.
“We know there’s a way out of the woods,” said Craige DeRoche of Prison Fellowship, “But it starts in our own heart.”
Charlottesville was heavy on the minds of the gathered leaders. Jackson recounted how he’d gone to white church leaders in Charlottesville after learning the white supremacists were coming to town. He said they must join with minority church leaders to “raise the flag,” in advance of the event. They did not listen. “They did not invest their money and time to position themselves.” “People sitting on the sideline and doing nothing. That is the sin of the white church and even the black church.” Jackson said “It’s time to stop the madness!”
Jackson unveiled a three-point plan for action now.
- Encourage faith leaders and individuals to participate in a 40-day fast to pray for the cessation of racially-motivated violence, and the creation of jobs in economically distressed urban and rural areas. The 40 Days of Fasting from 6am – 6pm begins today.
- Sign and support the Justice Declaration of Prison Fellowship to focus on restoring the opportunities of returning citizens who have served their time in jails and prison.
- Initiate local Prayer and Reconciliation Rallies in the nation’s top 20 cities based on the Reconciled Church Model.
Healing can start with the simplest of steps. One leader called attention to an initiative by Sen. James Langston and Sen. Tim Scott called “Solution Sundays.” It’s pretty simple: Come Sunday, invite someone from a different race over to your home for a meal. Mike Hayes’ Covenant Church in Dallas-Forth Worth is so well-known for its racial harmony that he has been asked to join the President’s faith advisory board particularly to deal with this issue. He stresses the importance of one-on-one relationships. But he also looks upward. “I don’t think anything really changes though until you have a personal encounter with the grace of God that breaks your heart for ever.”
Frank Amedia, co-founder of Touch Heaven Ministries in Canfield, Ohio, says he’s often told by white ministers that getting involved in racial issues is a no-win situation. He vehemently disagrees.
“It’s not an option to do nothing,” said Amedia. “If we do nothing, it’s not that nothing will happen. The consequences will compound, and we will continue to pass the sins of the fathers to the next generation.”
Rev. Charles Huang, founder of Roots & Branches International Ministries, picked up the theme with an old Chinese proverb. “One generations plants the tree, the next generations enjoy the shade.”
Alveda King was more blunt. She quoted her late, great uncle Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must learn to live as brothers, or perish as fools.”
You can watch the entire Healing the Racial Divide event here: