Divided By Faith by Emerson and Smith
A brief summary
This book does an excellent job of describing the historical and sociological reasons why the Christian church has been “the most segregated major institution in America”.
I think this resource is helpful because…
The old cliché, you can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been is true – which is why this book should be high on the reading list of anyone seeking to build biblical, multi-ethnic community.
A favorite quote from this resource…
We stand at a divide. White evangelicals’ cultural tools and racial isolation direct them to see the world individualistically and as a series of discrete incidents. They also direct them to desire a color-blind society. Black evangelicals tend to see the racial world very differently. Ironically, evangelicalism’s cultural tools lead people in different social and geographical realities to assess the race problem in divergent and nonreconciliatory ways. This large gulf in understanding is perhaps part of the race problem’s core, and most certainly contributes to the entrenchment of the racialized society. (p.91)
Description of this book from the publisher’s website:
Winner of the 2001 Distinguished Book Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
Through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people and an additional 200 face-to-face interviews, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probed the grassroots of white evangelical America. They found that despite recent efforts by the movement’s leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America’s racial chasm. In fact, most white evangelicals see no systematic discrimination against blacks. But the authors contend that it is not active racism that prevents evangelicals from recognizing ongoing problems in American society. Instead, it is the evangelical movement’s emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships that makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates racial inequality. Most racial problems, the subjects told the authors, can be solved by the repentance and conversion of the sinful individuals at fault.
the authors throw sharp light on the oldest American dilemma. In the end, they conclude that despite the best intentions of evangelical leaders and some positive trends, real racial reconciliation remains far over the horizon.
- A revealing study of the racial attitudes of white evangelical Americans
“A fascinating account of the influence of white evangelicalism on black-white relations in the United States.”–The Journal of Religion
“A fascinating acount of the influence of white evangelicalism on black-white relations in the United States.”–The Journal of Religion
“This book cogently summarizes the race-related history of evangelicalism and then, based on data from surveys of 2,000 white evangelicals and 200 follow-up interviews, explores various dimensions of contemporary evangelical attitudes and practices related to race…. All academic levels.”–Choice
“This is an important book. With thoughtful conceptual distinctions and careful analysis of data from a variety of empirical sources, Emerson and Smith provide an interesting account of how white evangelicals perpetuate the very racial divisions they publicly oppose. Divided by Faith breaks new ground in the study of religion and American race relations.”–William Julius Wilson, Harvard University, author of The Truly Disadvantaged and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide
“This book is a report card for the church leaders and, I hope, the larger society. The authors show how racial valuations are basically built into the structures of society, and so we are, in a sense, failing by design.”–Robert Franklin, Christianity Today