We've created the expectation that we're here seeking to understand and not trying to fix anything or solve all the problems in the world. Then there's an equal burden on everybody's plate to seek to understand and to be understood.
What has happened as a result of these racial reconciliation groups?
The primary story that always comes out from white people is, "I never really understood what this burden was like." White people who are coming from a place of privilege gain a better understanding of what it's like to be black in America.
For example, there's an African American lady in our church who lived with us for a little while. She came home from picking up some of her friend's kids from preschool, and was stopped by a police officer. She was questioned and her bag was searched for no real reason. She was really rocked by that. It was the first time that my wife realized that this stuff really happens and it really affects people—it wasn't theory anymore. When you start to hear people's stories and their burdens, that's where compassion is birthed. That's always a good thing.
For white people, guilt is a big issue. So what we say is, if you were born into privilege, if you were born white, it's not your fault that you were born into a society that favors white people. We try to make it very clear that this isn't a guilt thing. You haven't done anything wrong. You're not guilty, but you are responsible. You're responsible to carry others' burdens and to fight to reflect God's kingdom.
People who aren't white are exposed to the fact that a lot of times white people really don't understand—not because it's willful neglect, but we're not exposed to it. White people typically grow up in very segregated areas where we're not forced to deal with it. And so understanding that is a big takeaway from the group.
We've also seen changes flowing out into relationships. We can see differences in how we're resolving conflict and seeking to understand one another. When people have parties and invite people over for dinner, we're starting to see those tables become much more diverse. People are living with a lot more intentionality because they're realizing they don't want to be part of the problem—they want to be part of the solution. And we continually encourage people to be very intentional about that.
We've found that when we start with these kinds of relational connections, the journey leads people to get involved in more systemic issues like mass incarceration and gun violence. Because there are people you love and know who are living in this reality, you want to do whatever you can to help on a systemic level.
With all the struggles involved, what keeps you going?
I think we're sitting on top of the greatest missed evangelism opportunity that we've ever seen, at least in this generation. People are screaming and wanting to know if there is any hope that a collection of people who carry a lot of racial animosity and a history of racial hatred can ever live in peaceful society—not just coexisting, but really living together.