The Post-Racial Church, Kenneth A. Mathews & M. Sydney Park. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2011.
Summary: A survey of the teaching of the Bible that concludes that racial reconciliation and multi-ethnic Christian communities are integral to the message of the gospel.
The election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States marked both how far the nation had come and the work yet to be done to come to terms with the issues of race in our society. The election just past underscored that there is a significant journey yet to occur in the life of an evangelical church that split radically along racial lines in its choice of candidates.
Might it be that the church is listening more to political discourse than to the teaching of its scriptures which serve as its rule of faith and practice (at least in theory). For those who wish to redress that balance, this is a good introductory survey written by a multi-ethnic pair of authors, a Caucasian male (Mathews) and a Korean-American female (Park). What these authors do is survey the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation showing successively that God is the creator of diverse peoples (Babel was God’s way of saving diverse nations from themselves by dispersing them), that God chose a particular people to bless all peoples, that even then, inter-marriage did occur (just look at the lineage on the human side of Jesus), that Jesus’ ministry was one that cared for the prodigal, that held up the Samaritan and that anticipated the gospel to the nations. From there the authors show how the gospel preached was one of reconciliation not only to God but between Jew and Gentile. The confrontation between Paul and Peter confirms that the ideal was table fellowship, not just some “spiritual” reconciliation but real hospitality. All this anticipates the worship of the Lamb by every tribe, race, people, and tongue.
Along the way the authors dispel the flawed treatments of scripture used to justify racial separation such as the “mark of Cain” and the “curse of Ham.” They deal with the question of intermarriage, and the flawed construct–even from a biblical point of view–of race. They uphold the ideal of multi-ethnic worship in multi-ethnic churches while not insisting every church must be this way. They talk of Christ’s self-sacrificing work, and how this calls for similar servanthood in entering into the hard work of reconciliation.Toward the end of the book, M. Sydney Park shares her own narrative, which reflects a conversion not only to Christ, but from her own racism that was a product of the racism she experienced as a Korean-American.
The book includes “Thought Provokers” at the end of each chapter that encourage readers and groups to apply the chapter content to their lives and congregations. This makes the book a good resource for ministry teams, leadership teams or others within a church who are asking how their church might reflect the multi-ethnic people of God which the gospel both heralds and creates. The combination of biblical content, challenge, and space to consider makes this an ideal resource for those taking the first, perhaps uncertain, steps toward trying to think and act biblically around questions of race and ethnicity.