I’ve read and reviewed a good number of books this year and this one is certainly one of the best. Scott Williams holds no punches in the sharing the sad reality most churches – and the American Church at large – struggle with: we are still a segregated community.
The book starts by reminding us of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement, “We must face the sad fact that at the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America.” Williams begins with this statement and then travels forward almost 50 years to paint the reality that while business, government, and education have adjusted to change the reality of segregation the church has remained largely silent. And, white people, before you get defensive, I’ll let you know that Williams is just as critical of his own race as he is of ours.
The first chapter is spent laying the ground work and giving some history regarding Williams himself. One of the statements that hit me square in the face was this one:
“Let me share a little more of my personal story and testimony. I have not always been a pastor, and I have not always been a part of these game-changing movements that I’m referring to. As a matter of fact, I spent 11 years, 44 days, and 8 hours of my adult life in the prison system. It was as crazy as you can imagine: 8×10 cell, razor wire, bad food, pent up anger…PRISON. Relax, I was actually a warden in the prison system. Why does a brother always have to be in the prison system? Unfortunately, some people did not even make it to this sentence as they said to themselves, ‘I’m not reading a book from a convict.’ For everyone else, the curious nature of human beings propelled you to read on. Thanks for doing so.” (p30)
Throughout the rest of the book Williams lays down the reality facing us today, addresses it as the problem (sin) it is, shares stories of both success and failure as churches have addressed this issue, and lays out an outline for churches to begin working towards diversity.
If you allow it to, this book will convict, challenge, and motivate you for change. I’m going to share one other statement from the book, this one actually quoting Pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow from San Francisco, California:
“If I had to choose one struggle, it would be around the issues of ‘color-blindness’ that many well-meaning people have. The ‘I don’t see you as [insert ethnic group here]’ perspective, while noble, does two things that are not helpful. One, it assumes that one’s race is something that the person wants someone to see beyond and, two, too often the ‘beyond’ we are striving for is simply a generic ‘white’ culture that, in the end, perpetuates a ‘lesser than’ understanding of people of color.” (p137)
For the record, Williams does not attack or condemn the church (either white or another racial distinction) as consciously creating a segregated institution. He never suggests this is a direct sin of commission where people have said, “You stay away because you are [insert ethnic group]” What he does do is come right out and say that this is a problem in the church and it needs to be addressed – whether it has been created by sins of commission OR sins of omission, whether it has been created and perpetuated by whites or any other ethnic group (I keep referring to whites because I am white).
The only criticism of the book I have is that it limits its focus to racial diversity and does not directly address issues such as worship style, age, or even income diversity. To be fair, Williams gives a passing mention of these other areas early on in the book, but I wish more time would have been spent addressing them as well. But over all this book hit the nail on the head in addressing the elephant in the room. Now it’s just time for church leaders to step up and join Williams in addressing this great sin the church has perpetuated.
This book gets a solid 5/5 stars – put it on your must read list! Please note, a complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an open and honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.