IN PRISM'S BOOK BAG: THE HEART OF RACIAL JUSTICE by Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson (InterVarsity Press)

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Might God be calling you to be part of the reconciliation generation?  THE HEART OF RACIAL JUSTICE: HOW SOUL CHANGE LEADS TO SOCIAL CHANGE inspires me to say, "Yes!"  Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson offer a fresh vision of reconciliation, a state of "racial justice, built on reconciled relationships."

Their "healing model" of racial reconciliation moves beyond two currently dominant Christian models:  the relational model, which believes social change happens one life at a time as white people form friendships with people of color, and the institutional-change model, which focuses on altering power relations among social groups and institutions.  The healing model includes the best from each of these models and adds a strong spiritual dimension.  One chapter is devoted to each step of the healing model: worship, affirmation of true ethnic identity, receiving and giving forgiveness, renouncing idols, and developing ongoing change-oriented partnerships.

The second step, for example, is the affirmation of true ethnic identity, which involves understanding false identities that people carry.  White people sometimes try to be "color-blind," "hip whites," or to carry white superiority.  People of color sometimes develop rage-filled, victim, or model-minority identities.  McNeil and Richardson say ethnic identity is part of God's creation and each person may thank God for the "goodness, beauty, and dignity" of his or her cultural background.  Identity in Christ is even more important than ethnic identity, however, and God helps us embrace and live out true human identity – as a child of God living on this earth within a particular ethnicity.  This chapter ends, like the others, with discussion questions and prayer directed at taking personal action.

The book ends with a "Reconciliation Generation Commitment" that calls individual readers to sign a pledge of commitment toward racial reconciliation and the healing model.  It begins, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bridge the dividing walls of hostility that are tearing our world apart."  This commitment, especially if made in a church or small group, will help people bond around a specific set of practices and commitments.  Bible studies, in an appendix, will help make connections between Scripture and the healing model.  THE HEART OF RACIAL JUSTICE is true to its subtitle, "How Soul Change Leads to Social Change."  The book is holistic and is both challenging and gentle.  It calls the reader to receive personal healing from God and then to bless our broken world by living in healing ways.

Jenell Williams Paris is associate professor of anthropology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn.  She is author of Urban Disciples (Judson, 2000) and Birth Control for Christians (Baker, 2003).

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