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An outsider’s view

BOOKS | Personal lessons on racial reconciliation

An outsider’s view
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Maria Garriott claims no deep expertise in racial reconciliation.

In her humbleness, though, she offers on-the-ground lessons she and her husband Craig have learned in 40 years of church service in inner city Baltimore.

Her book Stronger Together: A Gospel Lens on Unity is a contrast to other efforts to lecture Christians on racism and poverty. Many books offer vision, but little personal application or illustration. This author writes from the depth of her own life and family experience.

Her lessons are practical, such as learning cultural differences among church members of several races and ethnic backgrounds. She and her family have lived and ministered in a predominantly African American area. As an outsider, she grew in sympathy for the Biblical stranger within the church and other circles.

A simple sharing of a new lawn mower with an old friend gives one practical illustration. Her husband providentially had the new mower when the old friend needed one.

Other lessons spell out good ­theology. “The concept of hating or devaluing people based on differences is as old as the Fall,” she writes. “This isn’t a white problem; it is a human problem.”

Confession of racial prejudice is hard because of an unconscious competition to be the least racist. Yet the gospel begins with the assumption that we all have sinned and can’t claim any righteousness of our own. “Because of the cross I can move from denial to understanding, from despair to hope, from rage to forgiveness,” she writes.

She keeps a good balance between Scriptural principles and practical illustrations. Raising children was a special challenge in urban Baltimore, but their children learned valuable lessons. She spells out that story in more detail in an earlier book, A Thousand Resurrections.

In this book her stories about victories and defeat are realistic. Not everyone lives happily ever after. Addiction is a huge challenge, spiritually and physically, but persistence yields some victories.

The author points beyond the family’s experience to an eternal hope: “We see glimpses, never the full restoration.”

Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of the WORLD News Group board of directors.


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