Review by Anne Kennedy, MDiv. Kennedy is the author of Nailed It: 365 Sarcastic Devotions for Angry and Worn-Out People (Kalos Press, 2016) and blogs about current events and theological trends at Preventing Grace, a patheos.com blog.
As I sat down to work out my thoughts on Latasha Morrison’s excellent new book, Be The Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, my newsfeed overflowed with the appalling account of a young black medical student who was innocently playing video games in her own living room with her 8-year-old nephew when a white police officer shot her through the window. The officer was arrested and charged with murder. Since the event came only a few weeks after the trial of Amber Guyger for the murder of Botham Jean, weariness was the prevalent emotion all over social media.
As racial violence and division continue to overshadow the American experiment, the release of Be the Bridge seems providentially timed. Morrison’s work will surely strengthen those already engaged in the work of racial reconciliation and invite many more to enter for the first time. The book itself is an act of reconciliation, as Morrison reaches out across a seemingly insurmountable divide to offer hope, gospel truth, and practical action steps.
Morrison is the founder of Be The Bridge, a Christian organization that facilitates the formation and nurture of reconciling communities and trains people one by one to supersede racial divisions, especially within the church. This book (her first) is the outflow of that work and the place where she brings her expertise and experience to a wider audience.
Morrison starts by admonishing the reader to open herself to correction and adopt a posture of humility when engaging in racial reconciliation. From there the book is divided into three parts, each concluding with a liturgical rite intended to help readers and groups of readers begin the work of bridge building. The first section develops a theology of lamentation, the second a theology of confession and forgiveness, and the third focuses on restorative justice and replication.
Early on, the book catapults readers into the tragic story of Mary Turner, a pregnant black woman who, in her desperate pursuit of justice for her husband’s murder, falls prey to the mob and is brutally lynched. She is strung up in a tree and set on fire, her baby falls to the ground, and then one of the mob shoots her and the baby over and over.
Whether or not we want to acknowledge it, the specter of Mary Turner lives on in the back of the American psyche and represents every other person who was stolen, enslaved, beaten, and murdered. We should want to acknowledge her story, implores Morrison, because until she is allowed to step out, fully and completely, into America’s moral imagination, there will be no end to the racial divisions that beset our shared life.
Turner’s is not the only story that Morrison tells. She explores the race riots of 1921 and their tragic destruction of a black neighborhood in Greenwood, Oklahoma. She describes the small, intimate wounds of having your own mother wonder, as she strokes your cheek, what you would be like if your skin were lighter. She tells the personal story of a moving visit to a slave plantation-turned-museum and juxtaposes it with the humiliation of being instructed by a middle class, Southern white woman about what slavery was “really” like—a beneficial arrangement for slave and free alike, full of goodwill and mutual affection.
In other words: The author wants to remind us that racism is found not just in the dramatic history of slavery and Jim Crow oppression but everywhere. It colors our lives in ways we cannot imagine.
The reason we study slave history, says Morrison, is to build empathy that moves individuals and communities to a place of confession, repentance, and ultimately forgiveness. Here, then, is where the work of Build the Bridge comes fully into view. “Bridge builders don’t deny hurt,” she writes. “They experience it. Sit in it. Feel it. But they don’t stay in that pain. They don’t allow those who’ve wounded them to control them or constantly drive them back to anger and resentment. Instead, they allow that pain to continually push them into forgiveness.”
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Source: Christianity Today