Twenty-five years ago, the ELCA passed a social statement called Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity and Culture. Today, we remain the racially whitest denomination in the United States. According to a Pew Research finding in 2015, the ELCA is 96% white.
What does this mean?
As public faith leaders, we are called to confront sin and systems of injustice that perpetuate suffering.
How do we talk about race, systemic racism, violence against people of color, the economic suffering of people of color, racial disparity in incarceration rates that ensure our prisons are 40% African American, and the frequent police shootings of unarmed black men, women, and children if we don’t understand the invisible privilege of whiteness?
How do we talk about white identity without sounding racist?
What is the nature of the work we must do as a church to redress the silence and passivity we have largely exhibited toward racial injustice in our Christian walk?
ELCA World Hunger has done much to alleviate poverty and suffering in other parts of the world. But what have we done in our own communities to see and address the suffering of people of color, from economic and educational disadvantage to racial bias in the criminal justice system?
White Christians must learn to talk about these things so that we might develop the emotional and spiritual capacity to resist white supremacy, become antiracist allies in solidarity with our black and brown neighbors, and pass down this developmental learning to our children and grandchildren.
Here are ten books I have found profoundly helpful in my personal journey of racial understanding, white awakening, and struggle to become a white ally in my public leadership as a Lutheran Pastor. These are a starting point; indeed, there are many other writers, witnesses, and leaders we must notice along the way.
Consider picking up one or more of these books—possibly even requesting one when you get that inevitable “what do you want for Christmas?” question—to deepen your understanding. In my next post, I’ll share some articles and documentaries for additional learning.