American race relations are a trouble for the soul that considers them with any depth. Ours is a history laden with sorrow, sin, and pain. The tone of someone’s skin has meant more to us than the person they are in the depths of their souls. We are those with a history of shame.
Because of my understanding that all men are created equal I have often struggled with understanding the depth of the human experience as related to this issue. It is so greatly at odds with my belief. Skin color ought to be treated for what it is – a difference in the amount of melanin. A God-given difference.
I hold with a fury that all people are image bearers of God – He created us, and we have worth because He bestowed it on us. I, however, do not want to diminish the experience of others because though it is wrong, it is true.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration burst into my life with a soul bothering strength. I knew of the atrocities of race relations in the south intellectually. I believe it was a terrible thing to own slaves and the things that were done to those slaves while claiming the name of my Savior makes me want to puke.
In the greater sense I, however, did not understand the civil rights movement. I knew a few facts but the story of the people behind those facts was never conveyed in a transformative sense in my history lessons.
Isabel Wilkerson digs deep into the story of American migration from the south to the north but she does so in a way that captivates the reader and leaves us weeping at their trouble, broken over their human experience, and rejoicing when any shred of victory or dignity is found.
Wilkerson follows the lives of 3 specific subjects over the course of this book, chronicling them as they grow up, are married, move north, and face new obstacles in the broken promise lands of Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. Captivating and engaging, Wilkerson addressed this profound issue of race relations with such clarity the reader wants nothing more than to continue with the story.
We must learn history or we are doomed to repeat it. I believe brokenness over the atrocities found in these pages and a resolve to fight for justice for the rest of our lives are the only true responses to such a work.
The Implications of this Book & Race Relations for The Church
Delving into this book as a Christian, I was particularly broken. I see the heart wrenching results of the fall of Adam and Eve on every page. Yet I also see God’s continued grace. I am more disturbed than ever that Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about the church ring true today. He said that Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation.” What a travesty!
The beauty of the gospel, though not explained in The Warmth of Other Suns, gives us the only hope for race relations. Christ is redeeming a people for Himself from every tribe and nation and tongue! In heaven we will stand beside brothers and sisters from every national and ethnic background and we will worship the same Savior.
Oh to see that beginning today!
We may have nothing else in common but if we have Christ in common, we have everything!
Governments and social programs have been trying to accomplish racial understanding, compassion, empathy, and unity for generations but they will not succeed with everyone. There will always be those who see people differently based on race and are filled with hate. But in the church it should never be!
We should be united around Christ, thankful to celebrate justice, rejoicing over other cultures, weeping over other’s experiences.
Christ can unite His people. He can give the racist man a repentant heart that loves his African American neighbor. He can give an African American person hurt by the effects of racism a compassionate, kind, and forgiving spirit that confounds the wise. Only He can do this.
Our churches ought to celebrate this! He gives victory.
The Warmth of Other Suns left me informed, broken, repentant, and aching for a better hope.
Please take the time to read this important work. You will be changed. If you are looking for other book recommendations, check out 6 Must Read Books for Christian Women and “Adoption Isn’t Charity, It’s War!” Review of Adopted for Life by Russell Moore