We Need To Talk about Race by Ben Lindsay
Written to start a conversation among Christians to the fact that we are not immune to racism, to white privilege, and how we might create more inclusive church communities, this is recommended reading for all Baptists ministers and leaders
We Need To Talk about Race
By Ben Lindsay
Reviewer Andy Goodliff
The title says what this book is about, although the particular context is the church. We need to talk about race as the church. Lindsay is not the first to give this challenge. Over the last 30 years, Robert Beckford, Anthony Reddie and others have been calling the church to talk about race. Back in 2014, in the United States, Jennifer Harvey wrote Dear White People (Eerdmans, 2014) and we might also note Willie Jennings' The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Yale, 2011).
One particular impetus to Lindsay’s book is also Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury, 2017). This is to say that Lindsay’s book does not come out of the blue, but it is written to start a conversation amongst Christians to the fact that we are not immune to racism, to white privilege, and how we might create more inclusive church communities. This resonates with something of the journey English Baptists have been on with regards to racial justice (see Anthony Reddie (ed.), Journeying to Justice (Paternoster, 2018), which if we’re honest has had some impact, some success, but with lots still to be done.
Lindsay writes as a Black church leader, who grew up in a Baptist church and he tells something of his story, and also the wider experience of being black in the UK. The first four chapters provide a description of being black in the UK; and then being black in the church; the story of the church and slavery; and how Christianity needs be disentangled from white supremacy.
This is followed by the first of two interludes, where other black voices and their stories are told. The second interlude is from Kate Coleman, Baptist minster and past Baptist Union President. The rest of the book begins to address race in terms of terms of solidarity in the church, church leadership, and race and social action. The book concludes by offering some suggestions of where next.
The book is both an easy read, in terms of it being written for a wide audience, and a difficult read, especially for those who are white, in that it names truths we probably don’t want to hear. Each chapter helpfully ends with some questions, which are asked to people of colour, white church leaders and white church members.
Lindsay is right we do need to talk about race. We need perhaps to talk more than ever about race in our current political and social context (here see the forthcoming work book Theologising Brexit by Anthony Reddie). Despite the good work of the Journey process (which began back in 2007 within our Baptist Union), I suggest, we are still only at the beginning of beginning to listen, understand, reflect, and transform our churches into places which overcome white privilege and build more just and inclusive churches. For too many of us, we have been indifferent to talking about race.
We Need To Talk About Race is an invitation to start a conversation today for those who perhaps are not sure how and for those who don’t think we need to bother. Lindsay’s book is recommended reading for all Baptists ministers and leaders.
Andy Goodliff is minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend