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Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity Hardcover – November 15, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite political strides toward racial reconciliation since 1964, many blacks feel that nothing has really changed since Jim Crow days. Some also worry that the church—which should be leading efforts in racial reconciliation—is one of the worst offenders in fostering racial division. Gilbreath, an editor-at-large for Christianity Today, offers a poignant and often humorous look at the state of racial reconciliation within evangelical Christianity specifically. Part memoir and part history of the struggle, Gilbreath chronicles his own faltering attempts as a young man to deal with this issue. His own life changed when he read Tom Skinner's 1968 autobiography, Black and Free. Skinner, an evangelical Christian convert who had once been a gang leader in Harlem, helped Gilbreath see how he could reconcile his evangelical identity with the church's dysfunctional approaches to race and social justice. Gilbreath now believes that he can no longer walk away from conversations about race and his own racial identity in a mostly white evangelical church. Regrettably, the book ends with the passive notion that no matter how much we strive to bring about racial reconciliation, we must trust God to bring about change. In spite of this disappointing conclusion, Gilbreath's recovery of Tom Skinner's work is worth the price of the book. (Dec.)
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"[A] refreshing combination of truth telling and rebuke when necessary. Students of Christian history and ecclesiastical officials both within and outside the Evangelical tradition will be challenged by this frank and balanced assessment."

"[The author] paints a vivid picture of the Evangelical Church today as it pertains to racial reconciliation. Without sounding glib, Gilbreath helps us to understand that unity among people can only be achieved by reliance on God. When we trust in God's sovereignty to bring about reconciliation, we discover a divine grace that brings reconciliation and harmony among people."

"Congregations, sessions, Presbyteries and individuals interested in exploring how to go beyond superficial statements of inclusivity will find this easy-to-read but profound and provocative book an eye-opener."

"This could be one of the most powerful books you will read this year, one that explores a delicate topic without being so offensive or unreasonable that few will listen."

"While a powerful read for those already in the throes of the reconciliation movement, I would also highly recommend Reconciliation Blues for those who have not yet entered. While the issue of racism--especially in the church--is never an easy one, Gilbreath addresses the issue much with gentleness and grace. His vulnerability is a sigh of relief for other nonwhite believers who share his experience of isolation, and a challenge to those of us who too often forget how much we have to learn."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 207 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; First Edition edition (November 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830833676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830833672
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. F Foster on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is hard for the reader not to appreciate Gilbreath's burden in this book, and to feel an urge to adopt the ministry of reconciliation in their own sphere of Christian influence. The fact that Gilbreath achieves this goal makes the book worthy of purchase and serious reflection. But I have one major regret about the book that forces me to give it a 4 star rating instead of 5 stars.

Gilbreath is at his most effective when citing real life examples of how racial sensitivities are too often neglected or minimized, and too little change and progress becomes the accepted standard operating procedure within evangelicalism. The hurt, disappointment, and disillusionment that Gilbreath regularly illustrates is real and authentic. As a Caucasian evangelical who thinks racial diversity is an absolutely essential ingredient in all of us becoming more faithful followers of Christ, I lament the kind of barriers and stiffness that provoke the frustration we read about in this book. Like Gilbreath, I can see intellectually the reasons why evangelical institutions too often resist broad-based change and openness on matters that touch on race. But like Gilbreath, I also found myself reflexively saying, 'Stop making excuses and live out the reconciliation mandate! If people get ticked off in the process and funds start to get scarce, that's unfortunate. But there are more important things to worry about, like the condition of the Church." What this book clearly shows is that it's very dangerous and often unrealistic to embrace the ministry of reconciliation thinking it will be easy. To the contrary, the work of reconciliation is heavy lifting, and as Gilbreath shows, many of the best workers who have been at this ministry for years often get weary from it.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read a number of books and articles on "race" issues, but none so simultaneously challenging and engaging as this. Gilbreath, whose desire is to be a bridge-building journalist, has got his wish come true in the bold decision to put this gentle tsunami into print.

RB contains less theology than one might expect. Even so, as part memoir, history lesson, journalism, and prophecy, this is a book I'll come back to for...

- the stories of famous (and sometimes infamous) black reconcilers
- the personal unfolding of Gilbreath's own story
- the compelling call to love, that comes not so much through preaching as through a steady wooing over its 186 pages
- the concise summary of a movement and the stubborn hope for its future
-the excellent writing (yes, as a writer, I was paying attention to technique)
- the many ideas for action, folded seamlessly into the text along the way
- a moving conclusion, that brought me to tears, even as it refused to offer pat directions to what Gilbreath understands as a movement in mourning

The book opens with a quote, "I am sick and tired of racial reconciliation." But readers will ultimately find it hard to echo the sentiment. For, to paraphrase another chapter-opening quote, "There are books that ask questions and books that answer."* Reconciliation Blues does both, in a way that will not let us go.

*original quote is from Zora Neale Hurston..."There are years that ask questions and years that answer."
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Format: Hardcover
This book has helped me tremendously to understand the state and problem of racism in the American Evangelical Church. It is indeed a sad story.Frankly, after I read several chapters and stories from the book about those who have been victimized and belittled because of their race, I asked: Is there hope for racial reconciliation and unity in the church today in America? The church has failed to embrace and celebrate biblical diversity in her midst.

Gilbreath has done a great service to the church, walking her through the pain and suffering of racial division and segregation in Christian institutions. The author presents a careful, well-written expose of the current state of the subject-matter. The most comfortable thing is Gilbreath still believes change is not the last thing to hope for; racial harmony can happen between different racial and ethnic groups when each learn to hear each other's experience, concern, hope and support the differences. Such a goal is not easy to attain, it will require hard and persisent effort on the part of both groups and individuals (e.g. whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, etc)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While this book would be an entertaining read for any reader (because of Gilbreath's excellent storytelling) it will be most beneficial to white evangelicals who need to see evangelicalism through the eyes of their black brothers and sisters.

Gilbreath's Reconciliation Blues is part memoir, part interview of fellow-black evangelicals, and part profiles of famous blacks in and around evangelicalism (from Tom Skinner, to John Perkins, to Jesse Jackson etc...). He skillfully weaves all of these elements together with honesty, personality, and humor in order to illustrate his central claim: black Christians must experience pain, loss, frustration and worse in order to participate in the very white world of American evangelicalism. This experience is worsened by the inability of many white evangelicals to see that their faith is often influenced just as much by their whiteness as it is by the Bible.

Some reviewers have criticized the book for not providing a solution to the lack of true reconciliation in the evangelical world. This is a mistake. Gilbreath's intention is not to provide the solution but to provide understanding of the depth of the problem, which is necessary before any true progress can be made. Reconciliation Blues is a worthy read for those who are seeking both understanding and progress.
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