By Andy Hale
Among white Americans a widely-shared sentiment is the notion that racism is part of our past. The election of the first African-American President of the United States is cited in support of this harmful claim that racism is a thing of the past.
Yet, just a year since the violence in Charlottesville at the hands of white supremacists, the reality of persistent racism—individual and systemic—simply cannot be denied.
“Many white people would rather do something to address the symptoms we can see than acknowledge our original sin,” said Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of the new widely-celebrated book “Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion.” “Racism isn’t only a part of who we’ve been. It is, in ways we don’t even comprehend, who we are. It has cut us to our very core, severing soul from body.”
A native of North Carolina, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a graduate of Eastern University and Duke Divinity School. In 2003, he and his wife, Leah, founded Rutba House, a house of hospitality where the formerly homeless are welcomed into community with the formerly housed to eat, pray and share life together. Jonathan directs the School for Conversion, a nonprofit that has grown out of the life of Rutba House to pursue beloved community with kids in their neighborhood and in community-based education around the country. He is also an Associate Minister at the historically black St. Johns Missionary Baptist Church.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jonathan to discuss his new book from InterVarsity Press with foreword by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Below is a description of this important contribution to our pursuit of racial justice:
Just as Reconstruction after the Civil War worked to repair a desperately broken society, our compromised Christianity requires a spiritual reconstruction that undoes the injustices of the past. Wilson-Hartgrove traces his journey from the religion of the slaveholder to the Christianity of Christ. Reconstructing the gospel requires facing the pain of the past and present, from racial blindness to systemic abuses of power. Grappling seriously with troubling history and theology, Wilson-Hartgrove recovers the subversiveness of the gospel that sustained the church through centuries of slavery and oppression, from the civil rights era to the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond.
When the gospel is reconstructed, freedom rings for both individuals and society as a whole. Discover how Jesus continues to save us from ourselves and each other, to repair the breach and heal our land.
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Andy Hale is the creator and host of the CBF Podcast and serves as senior pastor of University Baptist Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Connect with Andy on Twitter at @haleandy