How to Promote Racial Reconciliation, According to Latasha Morrison

New York Times bestselling author Latasha Morrison shared ideas from her book, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, during her talk at Bethel last week. The event discussed God’s heart for reconciliation and explored practical ways community members can promote biblical justice.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

February 22, 2021 | 10:30 a.m.

Latasha Morrison shared valuable insights about racial reconciliation with the Bethel community live last Tuesday.

Latasha Morrison shared valuable insights about racial reconciliation with the Bethel community live last Tuesday. | Photo by Ben Anderson

On Tuesday, February 16, Bethel welcomed New York Times bestselling author Latasha Morrison to campus to share concepts from her book, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. The Atlanta resident braved subzero Minnesota temperatures to dialogue with Bethel students, faculty, staff, and alumni on the topic: “Why Should Christians Pursue Racial Reconciliation?” Over 400 people attended the event both in-person—following social distance guidelines in Benson Great Hall—and online via livestream.

Morrison founded Be the Bridge, a non-profit that empowers people and organizations to engage with racial reconciliation and injustice by connecting in small groups across the United States. Her book is a guide to help individuals and groups respond to racism and racial division through a biblical lens, incorporating God’s heart for justice and His call to repentance and reparation. Aligned with Bethel's core value of reconciliation, staff and faculty across all schools have been reading and discussing chapters of her book to educate themselves about equity and inclusion and generate ideas to support students as they navigate these topics both inside and outside the classroom.

Program Director and Professor of Reconciliation Studies Claudia May teaches Be the Bridge in her reconciliation classes to educate and equip students to honor the dignity and worth of all people as diverse image-bearers of God. She says having Morrison come to campus and present to the wider Bethel community was a privilege. “Latasha Morrison’s writing and ministry provide our students and the Bethel community with an opportunity to grapple with how we can acknowledge historical evidences of racial division, encourage the healing of racial abuse, and transform systemic structures fueling racial disparities as we learn how to break down the walls of division between God, ourselves, and one another—through Jesus Christ. In this, we have so much to learn from community educators, from our neighbors, from global wisdom bearers, and from practitioners residing in urban and rural contexts,” May says.

In her current Introduction to Reconciliation Studies course, students have been eager to engage with Morrison's book and share their own stories. They have approached learning about racial reconciliation with respect for the material, each other, and their own experiences. "Students aired their appreciation and disagreements with Morrison’s perspectives, and they addressed each other by name," May says. "They read Morrison’s work closely. Overall, these incredible students showed a stunning desire to understand one another even in the midst of disagreement. As a learning community and as individuals, the students collectively presented a multilayered appreciation of and engagement with Morrison’s work."

May cherishes the multilayered appreciation her students have conveyed in class discussions, because their views are representative of life beyond the classroom. Individuals will consistently view racial reconciliation in different ways, and the expression of their ideas can take on various forms, for better or worse. May acknowledges how important it is that her students have chosen to engage with Morrison's work and listen to one another while sharing their own stories related to racial division and relational discord. "We will not always get it right, but we need each other and we need God," May says. "Scripture beautifully acknowledges our human frailty, vulnerabilities, shortcomings, limitations, and contributions. As one of my former students observed, 'God does not give up on us; Jesus never gives up on us.' Jesus always recognizes our potential to grow and learn." 

In an effort to grow and learn together, here are five high-level ideas Morrison shared with Bethel audiences last Tuesday: 

The aim of reconciliation is restoration of personal and systematic relationships.

Rooted in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, God has called His church to be ambassadors of reconciliation. The ministry of reconciliation is a key characteristic of God’s nature, as He has reconciled His creation to Himself. Jesus quotes Isaiah during his first sermon in Luke 4:17-18, saying, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recover sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” Jesus didn’t just come to earth to restore individual relationships, but to break down systems of oppression in preparation for heaven on earth.

Repentance must come before reconciliation.

Morrison is clear that many efforts for racial reconciliation focus largely on forgiveness—specifically from those who have been affected by racial injustice. Reconciliation must start from a place of humility, acknowledging the injustice that has occurred not only in a moment but throughout history. People—generations even—need to express collective repentance for all the harm racial inequality has caused. This leads to communal healing, especially as oppressors grow and change. “We don’t repent without excavating underneath what was causing the brokenness,” Morrison says.

Reconciliation is an act of biblical justice.

Racial reconciliation requires a commitment to justice, because justice flows from the Bible itself, Morrison says. God’s nature reveals that He doesn’t tolerate abuse of power. He wants to give people what they are due, which includes taking care of widows, orphans, and the poor. He has taken care of His people repeatedly throughout the Bible, and He expects his followers to do the same. Justice at its best is correcting everything that stands against love. “Justice is an act of love,” Morrison says.

The work of reconciliation requires repair.

“You had to amend the Constitution to say that I was human,” Morrison says. Even though the Constitution has been modified, there are still wounds threaded into the nation’s very foundation which reveal themselves today. Change isn’t enough. In the Bible, the very presence of Jesus led Zacchaeus to make things right. He had become part of a tax system rather than the kingdom of God. Zacchaeus confessed, repented, and made amends.

Racial justice looks like “the flourishing of all people.”

Racial injustice reveals itself in aspects of society where not all people are flourishing. Morrison says we need to examine how our unconscious bias is impacting every system. The lens we look through affects everything we see. In order to implement justice, we need to deconstruct those systems where equity is not applied across all spectrums.

Reconciliation Studies at Bethel

Students in the Reconciliation Studies program learn how to connect with other cultures, resolve healthy conflict, understand the importance of their own backgrounds, drive systemic change, and embody what it means to love their neighbors well. These skills transform workplaces and have proven priceless far beyond the classroom. 

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