Book Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson Review

The book is a general attempt to shed light on the racial prejudices that exist in American society. People, through various institutions, have brought back the racial boundaries that have existed there before. As much as people are trying to fight racial prejudice that is a source of inequality in a society, they have not been able to do so as they sometimes consciously or unconsciously discriminate against others on the basis of race.

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The book has mainly tried to assess the influence of the white evangelicalism on the relationship between the Black and the White person. The book, Divided Faith has been written by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. The writers of the book have been able to expound on the relationship between the White evangelicalism and Black evangelicalism. The book further critically examines meticulously the post-civil Rights race relations activities of the White evangelicals. The writers have been able to collect the views of common evangelicals’ on the problem of racial discrimination in the United States. In this view, the book has given views by different people explaining the racial inequality and the kind of solutions that can be offered to the same problem. In addition, the book generally looks at the wider or general American religion. It explains why the church worshippers in the United States of America are inclined towards internal similarity, which is a feature of the American racialized society. The book did reflect on the effects of the organization of the US religion on racialisation as well as the consequences of internally similar worshipers on racialisation.The book focuses on the economic inequalities that exist between the White and Black population in the wider American society. It gathers views from the national survey to explain the economic inequality that is there in America. It seeks to find out if the views of the evangelicals differ from those of the other Americans in their explanation of the racial inequality. The writers have stated in the book that the problem of inequality can be explained at least from two different levels. First, the problem lies with the Black individuals; that is, they lack the ability and self motivation. Secondly, there is the structural and education problem that simply lies outside the Black individuals.

In the book, the writers make use of the term “racialised society”. They have argued that the term is more valuable than the terms prejudice and racism. A racialised society in this book simply means that the intermarriage rate between the races is low. This society is characterized by the socioeconomic inequality and residential segregation. It is clear in the book that racial categories are socially constructed and can as well be based on physical attributes. Race as a social construct was started way back in the sixteenth century to justify the enslaving of the Black person. The book in its second chapter highlights some of the patterns that are significant in the history of slavery up to the passage of the civil rights movement. In the 1700s the Christians headed by the clergy did solidified the position of slavery in the American society. Later on the evangelicals came to question the issue of slavery. They gave theological interpretations to dispute the legitimacy of slavery. Those who supported slavery did indeed give some biblical reasons for their support of slavery. For example, in the American south slavers argued that Christians should just follow the law that simply protected slavery. Even as the laws and policies were passed to bring harmony between the Blacks and the Whites, the Whites and Blacks were seen to be growing even further apart. Religion has been used by both Blacks and Whites in the American society to realize positive ideals. Despite this religion has been unable to bring the Americans to overcome racialisation.

The third chapter of the book talks about reconciliation and how the contemporary Americans can become active in issues dealing with racial prejudice. People should reconcile their differences and come together. Evangelical proceedings in the 1990s were more common and were calling on people of different races to treat people of a different race like brothers. During the twentieth century, the evangelicals were more involved in the issues of race than ever before. In this chapter, the writers give a background on the genesis of the modern evangelical reconciliation. To people like John Perkins, the religion of the Black people made them to be subservient to an oppressive structure. The Blacks were not courageous enough to stand up for their rights; they were cowed by the white Christians who were dehumanizers. Different Black people reacted differently to this dehumanization from the white society and more so white believers. Others like Tom Skinner for instance resorted to violence. Most Black leaders in the United States went through similar experiences in the racialised American society. These leaders were willing to use the term evangelical and connect with the white people to sell the idea of reconciliation. People were made to believe that antagonism, racial segregation and inequality were as a result of sin. People were supposed to acknowledge that the problem was spiritual and that they should seek God’s guidance to solve the issue of race. The African American messengers strongly suggested that Blacks must be willing to forgive the whites and repent for their anger towards the White people. Curtiss De Young, a young white man who is head of a multiracial reconciliation organization, has added his voice on reconciliation by saying that reconciliation is an art that Christians need to be skilled at.

In chapter four, the writers have expounded on a slightly different view. The problem of race is viewed from a somewhat different angle. The only problem that is there is that there is always misinterpretation in the normal course of interpersonal communication. When conflicts arise in the process of communication between people of a different race, it is assumed that the problem is race. From isolated personal opinions or views of many white evangelicals, there is no such thing as race problem; what are there are only bad interpersonal relationships. On the other hand, the white evangelicals’ cultural tools and racial isolation limit their ability to assess why people of different races do not get along: Lack of equal opportunities and to the extent to which race is a matter in the American society.

To explain economic inequalities between Blacks and Whites in the American society, the writers have gone ahead to give us the perspective of White evangelicals on this issue. To them race problem does not include the economic inequality. They admit this problem exists; going by what they see in the media, but economic inequality is not at all related to race. Some traditional Protestants have blamed Blacks for lacking self motivation as compared to White Americans and that is why they are poor.

Chapter six deals with the issue of how solutions to the race problem can be implemented. This problem can only be solved through the personal influence strategy. In the Christian approach the one on one friendship at a personal level must be present for racialisation to be eradicated. Residential neighborhoods should be integrated to include a multiracial population. For this problem to be solved, there should be some kind of integration of the congregation, to have people of different races in the churches. Other evangelicals strongly believe to solve this problem successfully, the people of different races need to relate with and know people of other races better.

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The book is about the sociological aspect of race and how it is perceived by the white evangelicals in the USA. The writers of this book did not adequately survey the social class locations among the white evangelicals and how this impacted on their perspectives on the issue of race. They should have posed various questions in their survey. Like for example, is there a possibility that the working class evangelicals feel a more pending economic threat from the African Americans than their white counterparts who are rich?; secondly, are there any regional variations on the problem of race? Finally, they should have asked the question, are there differences among the evangelicals in the American society? By dealing and looking at these questions critically, the writers would have made the book more profound and excellent (Randal Jelks, 2004).

The authors of the book are of the opinion that the evangelical faith is the solution to the suppression of racism. They have laid out principles that support this perspective; the Bible is the supreme authority and that believers faith offers solution to the race problem that is sociological. In this respect, this is a shortcoming for the researchers in the beginning of the book laid the foundation for their argument that suggests a completely different result (Rose Metts, 2008).

References

  1. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America Randal Jelks 2004.
  2. Rose Metts. Book and Article Reviews. 2008. Web.
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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Book Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson Review'. 14 October.

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