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December 11, 2015

EDITORIAL: How to Overcome Hateful Rhetoric

by Jim Wallis

America stands at one side of a bridge right now as a white majority nation — on the other side, a country comprising a majority of minorities. This change is inevitable, but how our nation responds to it is currently unclear.

Would-be political leaders like Donald Trump are hurling xenophobic rhetoric against our Muslim brothers and sisters, issuing calls to prevent them from coming to the U.S. based on some kind of religious test. These appeals to racial fear have become far too common in our political discourse. Meanwhile, as the media report daily on police violence against people of color, a vast majority of white Americans — including white Christians — believe these are simply isolated incidents, while more than eight in ten black Americans, including black Christians, believe they are part of a broader pattern.

Are we headed for more conflict as too many in the shrinking white population try desperately to cling to the past? Or can we cross this bridge to a new America where we begin to see the "beloved community" that Dr. King envisioned?

On Jan. 19, the day after our country commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my new book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, will be released. As members of our Sojourners community and readers of my weekly column, I wanted you to be among the first to watch this preview.

In the midst of such divisiveness, I believe there is an opportunity to look forward to the new America we can become. These are deeply moral and spiritual issues, and so we must speak in the context of sin and repentance, truthfully acknowledging our past in order to turn toward a different future. It is time for us all to help right the unacceptable wrongs of racism, a result of colonialism and slavery, and truly America’s original sin. Repenting doesn’t mean just being sorry, but moving in a different direction.

Are white Christians ready to become more Christian than white? Are we ready to challenge white privilege to make racial healing possible? Isn’t it time to truly listen to one another, to find the moral compass needed to lead America to a better place, and for our churches to put their own houses in order as the gospel calls us to do?

These are the questions at the heart of the book, and I invite you to join me as we seek honest answers and real solutions to these vital questions. Find a quiet place to sit, take a breath, and watch the video. Share it with your networks of friends, and let’s cross that bridge to a new America.

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