Unrest and reconciliation: It looks like the 60s again

Lisa Sergent —  December 28, 2015
Editor’s note: After an often tearful year, the Christian’s counterattack is hope.  The enemy may use the events of last year to strike chords of fear, but in reporting them, we offer notes of hope for 2016. God is in control of this world, and whatever happens, this history being made before our eyes will turn people toward him. He is our hope.
This is our certainty as we anticipate the new year, our hope.

Unrest and reconciliationBy Lisa Sergent | Chicago joined the list that started with Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri as protestors against police shootings of young African American men took the streets, often chanting “black lives matter.” In contrast to other troubled settings, recent marches in Chicago were mostly peaceful, despite the volatile subject matter.

Race-related protests spread to college campuses such as the University of Missouri in Columbia, which led to the resignations of both the president and chancellor. Even the sense of safety a church provides was shattered one June evening, when a white shooter shot and killed nine people of color while they met for prayer at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

In response, religious leaders continue to the call for racial reconciliation. But the church’s role is unclear. Some are counting on the church to bring peace, others say the church is fanning the conflict.

According to Barna Research, 84% of Americans agree with the statement: “There is a lot of anger and hostility between different ethnic and racial groups in America today.”

Surprisingly, Barna’s polling revealed a significant minority believe “churches add fuel to the fire of racial animus; more than one-third say ‘Christian churches are part of the problem when it comes to racism’ (38%).” The percent is even higher among the Millennial generation (ages 18 to 31) where 46% believe Christian churches add to the problem of racism.

Despite those numbers, the same research found 73% of Americans believe, “Christian churches play an important role in racial reconciliation.” That view is as common among whites (75%) as it is among blacks (77%), although Hispanics are a bit more skeptical with 67% believing churches can play a role.

A role for the church: SBC leaders have held and participated in summits and ministries aimed at reducing racial tensions throughout 2015. SBC President Ronnie Floyd declared “racism and prejudice is a sin against God” at June convention in Columbus, Ohio. At the same meeting, Floyd led messengers in a prayer for racial reconciliation within the convention’s churches and across the nation.

Even more hopeful is LifeWay President Thom Rainer who forecasts fewer segregated churches in 2016. On his blog, Rainer stated, “For most of American history, 11 a.m. on Sunday was the most segregated hour of the week. That is changing. A church that is not racially and ethnically diverse will soon become the exception instead of the norm.”

Lisa Sergent

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Lisa is IBSA Director of Communications. A Missouri native, she moved to Illinois 22 years ago and arrived at IBSA a few years later. Lisa and her husband, Chris, have been married 19 years.