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A New Socio-Economic Time

October 26, 2012

Native American Mark Charles, who blogs from wirelesshogan.com

Last month in Minneapolis I had the privilege of doing a plenary talk with Emmanuel Katongole on “A Theology of Reconciliation” before 2,500 people at the annual Christian Community Development Association conference.  CCDA may be the largest and most enduring multi-ethnic and cross-class network in the Christian community in America – perhaps even in the entire history of America.  I was part of the first CCDA conference 23 years ago when 150 gathered.  One sign of CCDA’s capacity for renewal is growing from a largely black-white network in 1989 to embracing large numbers of Latinos, growing numbers of Asian-Americans, and most recently some Native Americans.  Yet Minneapolis and its theme of “Reconcile” pressed a need for deeper questions in a changing racial and socio-economic time.  Alarming justice gaps between blacks and whites were named in plenary sessions, such as in public education and the prison system.  “White” was often a synonym for privilege.  Yet over meals, two African-Americans added to this analysis the dynamics of an emerging black upper class (and the book Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America which names a “parting of the ways” in four African-American groups:  the mainstream, the abandoned, the transcendent, the emergent), an emerging white underclass (and Coming Apart:  The State of White America), and a new multi-ethnic mainstream high on seeking prosperity and low on engaging the margins.  “Oprah is not on welfare,” said African-American Barbara Williams-Skinner in plenary.  One of the freshest voices was Native American Mark Charles, a Navajo from Arizona.  Charles contrasted two worldviews, not along color lines, but “American” versus “Native American” – the first a paradigm of gaining power (which dominates discussions about race and ethnicity, contended Charles), the second a paradigm of communal peace between God, land, and people, with a deep theology of “enough” over the “never enough” of American consumption and materialism.  Perhaps Native American witnesses are emerging among the church’s most important next prophetic voices.

See also:  Credibility for Christianity:  A Revival at America’s Margins

About the Author: Chris Rice is Director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes at the blog Reconcilers.

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