Barna Study Shows Christians’ Opinions on What the Church Should Do to Bridge America’s Racial Divide

Attendees worship at Transformation Church in Indian Land, South Carolina. | PHOTO: TRANSFORMATION CHURCH

A new Barna study shows a racial divide when it comes to American Christians’ opinions of how the Church should respond to the historical injustices faced by blacks in America, with only a small fraction saying the Church should repent.

The evangelical polling organization released its new publication titled Where Do We Go from Here? — asking practicing Christians and pastors what, if anything at all, the church should do to bridge the racial divide in the U.S.

A total of 1,502 practicing American Christians from various races were asked the question of what the Church should do in response to the 400 years of injustices faced by African Americans. Respondents were allowed to select multiple answers from a list that included “nothing,” “repair the damage, “repent,” “pursue restitution,” “lament,” and “don’t know.”

Only 16 percent of American practicing Christians said that the Church needs to repent for America’s history of slavery and segregation. A minority, 24 percent, of African-American practicing Christians indicated a need for the Church to repent. By comparison, just 13 percent of white Christians also selected “repent” as an answer.

Thirty-three percent of white practicing Christians indicated that they think there is “nothing the church should do” in response to the country’s history of slavery, while 15 percent of African-American practicing Christians said the same.

Thirty-three percent of black practicing Christians said the church needs to “repair the damage,” while 24 percent of white practicing Christians and 28 percent of all practicing Christian respondents said the same.

Twelve percent of practicing Christians said that the Church should “pursue restitution.” Nineteen percent of African-American Christians and 10 percent of white Christians agreed.

Only 8 percent of all practicing Christians indicated that they think the Church needs to lament (express sorrow and grief over something) for the country’s history of slavery.

It should be noted that 26 percent of all respondents indicated they “don’t know” when asked what the Church should do, including 24 percent of practicing black Christians and 27 percent of practicing white Christians.

“This could represent confusion over the specific options provided, which range from the symbolic to the material, or it could simply be a way of saying respondents are unsure what should — or even what can — be done by churches to help with racial reconciliation,” a Barna summary reads.

The Barna research was conducted in partnership with The Reimagine Group.

Jim Wallis, a prominent left-leaning Christian leader and founder of the progressive evangelical social justice organization Sojourners, responded to the survey’s findings in a statement provided to The Christian Post.

“Until the Church, notably the white Church, acknowledges its history and complicity with racism, we cannot move towards healing,” Wallis stressed. “More often, white Christians refuse to recognize that racism is more than a problem from the past. Until the operative word in ‘white Christian’ is Christian, we won’t move towards a place of healing. Acting in repentance for the sin of racism, however painful it may be, will bring congregations together.”

Maina Mwaura, the missions pastor at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia, told The Christian Post in an interview that the Barna research indicates a “huge disconnect” between white and black Christians.

“A lot of black evangelicals don’t see themselves as evangelicals and I think they are OK with that,” Mwaura said, referencing the political association of white evangelicals with the Trump administration.

Mwaura agreed that lack of familiarity between white and black Christians and lack of multiracial worship in America is playing a role when it comes to the racial divide in churches. He believes that the Church’s role is to help foster the ability for white and black Christians to “listen” and “pray together.”

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Source: Church Leaders