Some thoughts from the leaders of the Duke Center of Reconciliation


Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole 2

One of my favorite sessions at CCDA 2012 was the conversation with Chris Rice & Emanuel Katongole, both professors at the Duke Center for Reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a really important but equally complex idea. One of my early lessons at River City was that you could put 10 people who all cared about “reconciliation” in a room together, yet that could easily represent 10 different understandings of the word, and 10 different visions of what that means to move towards that ideal.

Therefore I find that I always enjoy any opportunity I can get to sit under some folks who have really wrestled with that word from both a theological and a real life perspective. Dr.’s Katongole and Rice fit that bill. They shared what they called, “3 handles” for a theology of reconciliation:

1.) New Creation – We are tempted at times to too narrowly define reconciliation.  Reconciliation is a whole new world that God is opening up in our midst.

When we say “reconciliation,” we have to immediately ask, “towards what?”  What is the goal?  Dr. King lifted up a vision beyond diversity or even equality.  “It’s true, that as we struggle for freedom in America we will have to boycott at times.  But we must remember, the boycott is not an end to itself.  The end is reconciliation, redemption, and the creation of the beloved community.” (This comes from a speech he gave entitled “Facing the Challenge of a New Age” – I have been reflecting on this speech and intend to do a blog post on it at a later point)

That is why we need the disciple of Biblically informed imagination.  In the bigger story God doesn’t leave us locked in categories of who “our” people are.  When we say, “we,” who is “we?”  In the book of Acts, “we” no longer works – the categories explode.  The Spirit breaks Jews out to join enemy Romans and unclean Gentiles and hated Samaritans.  This new reality interrupts the city of Antioch.  Reconciliation does not bring about the destruction of culture – it is the bringing the gifts of culture to each other.  This new reality requires a new language, and a new name.  The “we” can’t be bound just by ethnicity or culture – it is defined now by the Risen Jesus.  Unknown ground now becomes holy ground, and God creates a new “we.”

2.) Lament – How do you define lament?  Dr. Emanuel says this is like the night at the kitchen table where Dr. King was having a moment of weakness and even crisis of faith.  It is Jesus on the Cross – “my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Lament is both a discipline and a gift.  It requires courage and conviction.

3.) Spirituality for the Long Haul – Reconciliation is not a romantic bandwagon to jump on.  We are bridges, and bridges get walked on from both sides.  The powers of darkness gather where division, disunity, and inequality exists.  The wounds of history are deep, the cost is high, the challenge is profound.  Why bother?

God’s ways are not our ways.  We have to make paradigm shifts to receive God’s gifts for the long haul.  We often enter to be a solution – but will we stay to be transformed?  We need to shift from saving to being saved; it requires a spirituality of loss.  What are we prepared to lose to enter a new reality with someone that is totally different?

What does the Bible talk about more…Loving God? or Loving neighbor?   Neither.  There are far more verses that talk of God’s love for us.  You have to get God’s love into your bones.  The most important person in this is Jesus.  Keep Jesus at the center or quit.

What do you think? Do these reflections register with you?

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