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Becoming an Anti-Racist Church

Journeying toward Wholeness

By Joseph Barndt

Publication Year: 2011

Martin Luther King's observation that 11 a.m. on Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week remains all too true.

Christians addressing racism in American society must begin with a frank assessment of how race figures in the churches themselves, leading activist Joseph Barndt argues. This practical and important volume extends the insights of Barndt's earlier, more general work to address the race situation in the churches and to equip people there to be agents for change in and beyond their church communities.

A hallmark of Barndt's analysis is his keen grasp of the deep yet checkered legacy that American church and church bodies inherit on this question. Yet Barndt also lifts up the ways in which their prophetic work has proved a catalyst for progress in American race relations, and he clearly shows why and how churches can inculcate an anti–racist commitment into their collective lives.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

In 2007, Fortress Press published my previous book, Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America. For me, that book represents the culmination of four decades of learning, analyzing, organizing, teaching, and writing about racism. It presents an updated analysis...

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Introduction. Eleven O’Clock Sunday Morning

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pp. 1-10

Martin Luther King Jr. preached these words in a sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968, just days before his assassination. He had repeated them on many other occasions as well, referring again and again to the shameful reality of America’s racially divided churches...

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Chapter 1: Setting the Biblical Context: Reclaiming an Anti-Racist Gospel

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pp. 11-21

It should be clear by now that the aim of this book is to address the church with hard and critical questions about an extremely difficult subject. It is understandable if readers might feel a bit anxious about this at first and worry that someone might ask, “Who do you think you are? Who gave you the right to do this?”...

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Part I: The Past: Racism and Resisting Racism in Church History

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pp. 23-26

The present is a product of the past. In the church’s past is a painful history of racism, resulting in a divided and sick Christianity today. There can be no understanding of how racism functions today in the church or anywhere else in society without knowing this history. Nor can we begin to comprehend our task...

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Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Churches

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pp. 27-35

Throughout its long history, the Christian church has been both shamefully for racism and courageously against it, standing at least as often on the side of racism as it has stood in opposition to it. This chapter will paint a portrait of a church with two personalities, a racist church and an anti-racist church. Readers need to...

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Chapter 3: Racism in United States Church History

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pp. 37-49

The history of racism in the church in the United States is a story of God’s beloved New Israel committing the same evils as the Israel of old: making alliances with an idolatrous nation and practicing idolatry and injustice among its own people. The voice of God through Jeremiah reaches through the pages...

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Chapter 4: Resisting Racism in United States Church History

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pp. 51-65

It cannot be said often enough or emphasized strongly enough that the evil of racism in our nation and in our churches is only half of the story. There is another story, a far better story to be told. It is the incredibly courageous and powerful story of the struggle to end racism....

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Chapter 5: Racism and Resisting Racism in the Post–Civil Rights Church

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pp. 67-81

We move now to the final step in this historical recounting of racism and resisting racism within the church, with an exploration of what happened after the civil rights movement, from the early 1970s up to today. The period began with a sense of optimism about the end of racial hatred and division and...

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Part II: The Present: Racism in the Church Today

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pp. 83-86

After a somewhat long and winding path, we come to the heart of the matter: the task of exploring how racism functions in the church today. On the way, we traced the trail of the history of racism and of resistance to racism in the churches over the past five hundred years, and even reached back to the theological...

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Chapter 6: Race, Prejudice, and Power in the Church

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pp. 87-100

The purpose of this chapter is to explore how racism is still embedded in the church today. We will do this by examining how the church relates to each part of our definition of racism—race prejudice plus the power of systems and institutions—first focusing on prejudice and the church, then on the concept of race and the...

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Chapter 7: Captive Christians in a Captive Church

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pp. 101-113

I began this book with the observation that for the vast majority of Christians, the scandalous reality remains that even if our daily life is increasingly multiracial, when the work week is over and we head for church on Sunday morning, we walk through doors into congregations that are racially defined as red, brown,...

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Chapter 8: Institutionalized Racism in the Church

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pp. 115-131

Remember our definition: racism is race prejudice plus the power of systems and institutions. Racism is far more than the prejudices of a single individual and even far more than the collective prejudices of any one racial group. In fact, as we just finished exploring in the previous chapter, racism is so powerful that it...

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Chapter 9: Cultural Racism and the Multicultural Church

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pp. 133-144

Have you been in church on Pentecost Sunday and heard the story from Acts 2 read aloud in one language and then in another and another by congregational members? God speaks to us in many languages. Hearing the gospel in each other’s language is one of many exciting symbols of an increasingly multilingual,...

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Part III: The Future: Shaping an Anti-Racist Church

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pp. 145-151

While I was working on this final section, I heard from the Rev. Willard Bass, an African American Methodist pastor, community organizer, and friend from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has been helping me think about the content and style of the book. He wrote:...

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Chapter 10: God’s Call to Become an Anti-Racist Church

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pp. 153-168

The first and most important task in shaping an anti-racist church is to give birth to an anti-racist Christian identity. Stage four of the Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Church describes this process in step-by-step detail. As with any birth, this includes a long period of pregnancy and gestation that...

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Chapter 11: Getting It Done: The Organizing Task

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pp. 169-184

From a Christian point of view, to speak of racism is to speak of “the wiles of the devil” and “spiritual forces of evil.” When we promised in our baptism to resist the devil and to stand against evil and all its empty promises, we were actually making commitments to resist racism. The goal of this chapter is to help...

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Chapter 12: Institutionalizing Anti-Racism in the Church

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pp. 185-199

One of the most disturbing aspects of being human is our propensity to build walls—hostile walls that divide us. The dividing walls of hostility that the apostle Paul refers to in his letter to the Ephesians are not just spiritual. They also are physical, like the Berlin Wall and the wall the United States has built between our...


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pp. 201-206

Additional Resources

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pp. 207-213


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pp. 215-217

E-ISBN-13: 9781451411751
E-ISBN-10: 1451411758
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800664602
Print-ISBN-10: 0800664604

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2011