The call of reconciliation requires us to lament these historic wrongs, giving voice to the groaning of our soul. “I believe strongly that the church in America has much to lament,” Perkins declares, inviting us to “dig up the deep wounds of our history” and insisting that the church must “take more ownership for our collective sin.” He leads us to lament numerous failures from our collective past: the enduring racial segregation of our local churches, the egregious misuse of Scripture to defend slavery and protect the interests of slave-owners, our neglect of ministry to (and with) the poor and marginalized as a crucial aspect of biblical reconciliation, the prioritizing of global missions at the expense of local mission, and our lack of remorse for the sin of racism in the church.
Lament, which “requires that we acknowledge that something horrific has happened,” must also lead to confession. Our racial wounds will not be healed without first being exposed. As he provides examples for corporate confession, Perkins is notably inclusive in his approach. He names areas of common failure: the sin of creating Jesus in our own image, our debilitating fears around the issue of race (1 John 4:18), and our unwillingness to endure suffering (1 Pet. 1:6–7). But he also identifies specific areas of confession for black Christians and white Christians.
Perkins clearly acknowledges that “racism still haunts” the black community. Nevertheless, “for many of us black folks, there has been an anger that has not always been managed well.” Prior generations channeled that anger into nonviolent resistance and the building of black institutions (colleges, hospitals, churches), but now “we have turned that anger on ourselves, and our cities and communities have become unsafe places.” White brothers and sisters, on the other hand, “may need to confess denying that racism exists, choosing to ignore the implications of privilege, and at times acting to reinforce a double standard.” Some will resist the idea of a historically oppressed group having any obligation to admit wrongdoing, while others will resist the notion of privilege, but Perkins will have it no other way. We must revisit our past sins in order to grow in reconciliation.
Read it all.