Join us for a special episode of Today’s Conversation podcast with Bryan Stevenson and Bishop Derek Grier. Hosted by NAE President Walter Kim, the leaders discuss the promise of greatness that’s available to a society unburdened by hate, violence and discrimination.

They talk about why we must reckon with the past in order to experience racial healing and reconciliation, and why the aspiration for a society that’s rooted in love, peace and joy is essential to the work of racial justice.

You’ll also hear about a recent trip, hosted by National Unity Weekend and the National Association of Evangelicals, with 100 Christian leaders to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Bryan shares his vision for the museum as a place of truth-telling where narratives are recovered and where people can grapple with dreadful elements of America’s history and at the same time be inspired by the perseverance of those who suffered.

They also discuss:

  • How fear and power are barriers to racial reconciliation;
  • Why there can be no reconciliation without reckoning;
  • How the conviction in our hearts motivates change; and
  • How we can be liberated through repentance and experience redemption.

Read a Portion of the Transcript

Walter: It’s not just about retribution or somehow a return of violence against violence. Bryan, you’ve used language of beloved community and of being liberated from sin to experience redemption. These are very positive aspirations.

Bryan: Oh, absolutely. My faith and the evangelical background that shaped my point of view is one of the lion laying down with the lamb. It’s the joy, the beauty, it’s the studying worn on war, it’s turning swords into plowshares. It’s the promise of the greatness that’s come when we are unburdened by hate, bigotry and the things that keep us apart, and I want that for everybody. For me, it is rooted in an aspiration for joy, peace, community and love. That is what motivates me. It’s not just to fix the harm and to get pay back; I don’t want that. I want restoration, but I know that we can’t avoid talking honestly about the harms. For me, that’s key.

But yes, you’re absolutely right. What animates my work and motivates my desire and to see the kind of liberation and transformation that happens when people are unburdened by bigotry, hate and they’re no longer bound by these histories that can cause us to not see the full humanity of others in ways we’re not even conscious of or aware of until we begin to understand all of these forces that have shaped and constrained us.

Walter: I’m going to bring the church leader into the conversation. Derek, what are some of the barriers and the aspirations when it comes to racial reconciliation?

Bishop Grier: I think Bryan said it well that there can be no reconciliation without first reckoning. It’s painful to look at history, but if we’re going to learn from history, we have to look at it. That’s the only way we’re going to learn from it. I think for a lot of folks, it’s a painful subject and they’d rather not look at it, however, if we’re going to get past it, we do have to look at it, and the hope is: it’s the whole message of Christ that he suffered unjustly, but on the third day he was raised from the dead. The worst day of your life doesn’t have to be the final thing that happens to you. The worst thing that happens to you doesn’t have to define you. Every Good Friday, we talk about what Jesus went through and celebrate what happened on Sunday. We have to talk about Friday to really appreciate Sunday.

So the hope is that as a nation, there’s a greater willingness to look at where we come from and an eye to where the Lord ultimately wants to bring us. And, that’s a nation that wants to fulfill Dr. King’s dream where people aren’t judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character, and that can happen as we are willing to humble ourselves …. And, there’s tremendous hope, particularly as we look to the gospel as we recognize that in Christ, we are one, and there’s neither Jew nor Greek before God. He just sees human beings. And with that said, if we would really allow the gospel to speak to our thinking and decisions, I think America would be a much better place.

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Relevant Resources

Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Ethiopian Evangelical Churches Fellowship in North America.