Life + Culture

Roadmap to Reconciliation

There is so much brokenness, division, and injustice in this word. Can there possibly be reconciliation? Is there a roadmap to making that happen?

Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil asserts that there absolutely is. Based on her work with churches, colleges, and nonprofits, Roadmap to Reconciliation lays out her framework for helping organizations push through racial indifference and tension in their community to achieve unity and justice.

She challenges the Church: "Why aren't we more involved? Why aren't we pitching in to solve the problems of racial injustice, gender disparity, social inequality in our world? When unarmed young black men [and women] are shot and killed in the United States, why are so many Christians silent as we watch these events unfold?" (14)

Dr. McNeil offers a solid guide for those beginning the journey, particularly for those who have hit their first roadblocks of conflict and frustration. She demonstrates that these 'catalytic moments' are often what is necessary to jolt those in the dominant culture into a deeper understanding of the issues and systems around them. They are often pivotal moments that can either lead to a path of isolation or one of reconciliation.

On the road to reconciliation, are the initial steps of understanding new frameworks for understanding the world and then identifying with those have lived within those frameworks for a longer period of time. This path also entails self-preparation and studying to pro-actively inform these new worldviews. Lastly, this path includes the active work of bringing about change, both personally and systemically, in response to growth in the previous steps.

In framing her book, I appreciated that Dr. McNeil spent some time examining the term reconciliation itself (See post: Beyond Reconciliation). She acknowledges that it has been used in problematic ways. There are those that call for peace and reconciliation but "their notion of the term rarely extends to confronting and changing unjust systems and structures." She identifies other misuses of the term as well that have derailed progress.

Thus, she attempts to construct her own biblically-rooted definition of reconciliation. She frame the concept such that reconciliation is:

"an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God's original intention for all creation to flourish." (22)

Dr. McNeil then spends the rest of the book exploring how to encourage others through the phases of her roadmap to achieve this sort of reconciliation, at all levels. She encourages reader to think beyond their own personal transformation, noting "it's not enough to build a model for individual change if we ignore the groups that shaped them and the communities in which they live. Cultural transformation in a church or organization must go beyond interpersonal models of changing 'one person at a time,' which dominates Western evangelical thinking." (35)

Roadmap to Reconciliation is a quick read and a great resource for campus fellowships and churches in particular that have been shaken awake over the last couple of years around issues of racial injustice. Her books provides a framework with which to understand their feelings and experiences, guiding them in how to press deeper in response.

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