Healing the Racial Divide

"Whites have got to repent, blacks have got to forgive."

By Al Perrotta Published on August 29, 2017

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.  Jim and Rosemary Garlow with Dr. Lawrence Van Hook

“We know there’s a way out of the woods,” said Craige DeRoche of Prison Fellowship, “But it starts in our own heart.”

Practical Solutions

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:


Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • SophieA

    Bad things have happened to good people since people have been on this earth. We are fallen. But how many times must we repent for other’s actions? Tribalism is a dangerous path to travel. This is a bunch of emotional porn that Leftists use to keep white people guilty. Grow up, people and live without guilt. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let’s live THIS way and leave the past where it belongs.

  • Charles Burge

    I have to say that articles like this tend to raise my hackles a bit. I’ve searched myself to see if that stems from an unrepentant attitude, but I really don’t think it does. The vast majority of my ancestors arrived in America in 1874, well after the Emancipation Proclamation. (The rest were Pennsylvania Quakers). My parents and grandparents all grew up in South Dakota, where as far as I can tell, there were practically no black people at all. By the time I came of age in the 1980’s, I already knew that racism was bad. Today I live in Hawaii, where I harmoniously interact with people of many different races and backgrounds on literally a daily basis. In short, I feel indignant at the suggestion that I should feel contrite over something I had no part of. “Guilty by association”, simply because I’m a white male, leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

    • Mo

      @ Charles Burge

      THANK YOU. Exactly right.

    • NANC

      Jesus’s example is the model… Do!!!! (Ask Him!)

  • BTP

    I’ve decided most of this nonsense is just a form of pornography. White Evangelicals, who so clearly have no actual sins to worry about, cosplay as racists because it seems both dangerous and redemptive. Awesome.

    Sorry, I meant loathsome.

  • Gary Kauffman

    My ancestors were Anabaptists – the ones who thought Martin Luther didn’t go far enough in his Reformation, that the solution was a complete break from Catholicism and a return to the ways of the early church. For this belief, they were persecuted by both Catholics and Lutherans – and by persecuted, I mean tortured and killed. Does this give me the right to expect all Catholics and Lutherans to apologize to me for the actions of their ancestors against my ancestors?

    Because of the persecution, my ancestors eventually fled to William Penn’s colony of religious freedom. While there, they owned no slaves and worked to co-exist with the Native Americans. While I have no proof that they helped with the Underground Railroad, it certainly would not have been out of character for them to do so. Having experienced persecution themselves, they had no desire to persecute others.

    But now I am told that I should repent of my “sin” for one reason only – the color of my skin. This could not be more opposite of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in which his dream was that one day his children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Alveda King has it right when she says there is only one race, the human race. She was also right in quoting her uncle that we must all live together as brothers (and sisters), which was also part of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

    The bottom line is that we cannot heal the racial divide when we tell people how they should act and think based on their race. We can only do that when we treat each other as individuals.

    To see how that plays out, we only need to look at Houston. In that disaster zone, no one is worried about skin color or the past. Everyone has reached out to help each other because they are all humans needing to be saved. If you are drowning, you don’t care about the color of the skin on the hand that is pulling you out of the water. As Christians, we need to remember that in this world we are always living in a disaster zone among people who need saving. The color of their skin doesn’t matter; only God’s saving grace matters.

  • Paul

    Al, do you actually believe this?

  • Mo

    “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?”

    Of course we have. Long ago.

    “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.”

    That’s as far as I read of this.

    People who are racists need to repent. If they have not committed that sin, then there is no need for them to repent.

    I am sick and tired of only white people being told they are racists, simply because of the color of their skin! It’s appalling enough to see it in the culture 24/7. Now we are pushing it in churches? That’s sick. And it’s evil.

    I want no part of it.

  • John Flaherty

    If these ministers want people to act against racism, they should try admitting that white people are not alone in needs for repentance. I notice that in all the calls for “mutual understanding” and “cultural exchange”, never once have I seen a black minister provoke his flock to learn something about Irish, German, or American culture. Cultural exchange is not truthfully culture exchange when only one side has any need to learn about another.

  • Alfy

    I have great respect for Alveda King and those like her, the work they do is so important. She is a hero of mine ! That being said this white guilt thing , sins passing from fathers to their sons has got to stop. My ancestors fought on both sides of the civil war , Ohio and Virginia. It was truly brother against brother. They were poor, they were not fighting over slaves. Do i need to repent for half of my family that lived in the South.

    I don’t have anything to repent for over slavery. If a baby boomer has some white guilt , go to confession and move on, quit pushing it on me. Ill say I’m sorry , i have no idea what I’m apologizing for , but ill do it. Is there place i can make a check out too of pay for the sins of my ancestors. Please tell me what i must do so we can move on……….

A Picture of Prayer
Dudley Hall
More from The Stream
Connect with Us