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We Need to Talk About Race, by Ben Lindsay

23 August 2019

Anthony G. Reddie on a contribution to the race debate in the UK

BEN LINDSAY’S book We Need to Talk About Race (Feature, 12 July) is an important book in our post-EU Referendum epoch, as the country is convulsed in the social and political tumult over the thorny issue of Brexit.

Lindsay’s book is divided into eight chapters. The author is a Black British-born pastor of a predominantly White Pentecostal church in south London, and he uses personal experience, biblical reflections, and interviews to explore the phenomenon of “race” in the body politic of the UK. Lindsay’s aim is to kick-start a more honest appraisal of the ways in which “race” and concomitant notions of “White privilege” have made an impact on all people in Britain.

In Chapter 1, “Is It Because I am Black?”, Lindsay uses his formative experiences as a Black teenager growing up in south London and explores how racist actions of some White people affected him. In Chapter 2, “Family Feud”, the author explores how “race” has divided the Church and the oneness of the “Body of Christ” which permeates the egalitarian nature of the Christian faith.

Chapter 3, “Why Black Man Dey Suffer”, explores the part played by the Church in the institution of slavery and how various Christian traditions colluded with the oppression of Black people. Chapter 4, “You Don’t See Us”, looks at the entanglement between the Church, Christianity, and White privilege, thinking, particularly, of the impact of a “White Jesus” on the psyche of all people, the part played by Africans and Africa within biblical narratives, and the Bible in Africa.

There is a short interlude, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, in which the author interviews Black women about their identity and the gaze on them by White society. Chapter 5, “Love Like This”, articulates how White and Black people can be in solidarity and work together to limit the impact of racism. Chapter 6, “Kick in the Door”, articulates the contribution that inspired church leadership can make to creating genuine multicultural churches. In a further interlude, the author interviews the Revd Dr Kate Coleman and her journey into ministry and leadership. Chapters 7 and 8, “Jesus Walks” (Social Action) and “Let’s Push Things Forward”, complete the book.

There are some very punchy and important insights in this book, and for that Lindsay is to be commended. The problem with the book is that the author writes without any serious engagement with the work of Black theologians in Britain, such as Joe Aldred, Mukti Barton, Robert Beckford, Michael Jagessar, and me. We have all been exploring the impact of race and racism for the past 20 years. This book is not, as it purports to be, starting a conversation on race; but it does make an accessible and important contribution from an Evangelical perspective.

Dr Anthony G. Reddie is Extraordinary Professor and Research Fellow at the University of South Africa and at the Council for World Mission.

We Need to Talk About Race: Understanding the Black experience in White majority churches
Ben Lindsay
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