“A Plea for Greater Inclusion of Other Voices in Gospel and Social Justice Conversations Among American Christians”
The attached photo represents some of the influential Evangelical leaders and thinkers who will be speaking at an upcoming conference on the interrelated topics of the Christian Gospel, race, and social justice in contemporary American society and American Evangelicalism.
The visual representation and selection of the speakers indicate enormously on how (White and African American) American (Evangelical) Christians understand and frame Gospel and social justice conversations in this contemporary culture. Within the history of American Christianity, race and social justice issues in this country have almost always been a conversation between two groups of people: African American and White American Christians. History will not fail us if we interpret this phenomenon as a “tradition.” In fact, it is indeed a White and African American Christian tradition; one can look back at recent conferences on these matters among these two represented Christian groups to validate this claim.
Hence, if this is the only expression of the Gospel in white and black, American (Evangelical) Christians have indeed undermined the universal quality and value, and correspondingly the cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, and transnational force and intent of the Gospel. It is important that we do not allow the American historical narrative and the conflict between White and African Americans, as well as the struggle for shalom and wholeness between White and African American Christians to be the only lens to assess the relevance of the Gospel for these urgent issues and its implications for the project of social justice, peace, racial reconciliation, unity, and harmony.
When White American and African American Christians discuss the issues named above among themselves only, both directly and indirectly, they shut off the voice, agency, and the concerns of other brothers and sisters in Christ including those of Hispanic, Asian, and black Christians who are not African Americans. When other brothers and sisters are not included in these Christian dialogues, both intentionally and unintentionally, this particular form of ethnic and racial exclusion will not fully unite the body of Christ nor will it foster adequate conversations across the various ethnic, racial, and cultural lines in American Christianity in these urgent moments–which could also help heal our collective wound and restore our fragmented soul.
Moreover, the American history of racial trauma and fear, and the triumph of injustice and dehumanization of certain groups of people in our society should not dictate the meaning of the Gospel nor should the trajectories of American history be the cultural hermeneutical paradigm to strive toward human flourishing and the common good. We must first begin with the inclusive message of the Gospel followed by our careful analysis and criticism of the complexity of the human experience and life in America and the interplays and actions that define us as a people.
The hegemony of these two represented Christian groups, pertaining to the subject matter, also indicates their insensitivity to the pain, suffering, and alienation of Brown, Asian, Hispanic, and non-African American Christians in American Christian history, and the Gospel project (and Christ’s promise) of universal reconciliation and global justice through the cross and power of Christ.
May God lead us to reject tribal christianity to embrace a better and more promising vision of the Gospel and the glory of the cross of Christ!
Whether this above photo is accurate or not, I’m using this picture as a symbol and metaphor of a bigger problem and more pressing issue on Gospel-centered social justice and race conversations in American (Evangelical) christianity and the (monolithic) narrative associated with it.