Book Review: One Blood

Writer’s Note: First, I apologize for calling this a “Book Review”. I’m not sure how to write those, to be honest. But, I didn’t know what else to call it. I don’t mean to mislead in any way, but I am passionate about what this book has to say. 
Please read my additional thoughts at the end of this post for context of why I read and wrote about “One Blood“. 

 

I first came across Dr. John Perkins through Twitter.

Rare are the athletes I follow on Twitter, but I do make a few exceptions. The why of that, even though I work in sports, is for another day. One such athlete is Benjamin Watson.

Watson is an NFL player with the New Orleans Saints. Like me, Watson is a Christian. It is through Watson’s Twitter feed that I came to learn about Dr. John Perkins.

Perkins is a civil rights/social justice activist, son of sharecroppers and a Christian. At 87, he wrote a book called “One Blood” that I found intriguing. So intriguing that I bought it sight unseen.

I only needed to see the cover to know that it was something I needed to read.

IMG_5014

Needless to say, I devoured this book.

At its core, “One Blood” is about reconciliation. A concept that runs contrary to what we see on social media nowadays. Perkins understands that, but this isn’t about racial reconciliation. 

No, this is about a recognition by the American Christian church of its role in race relations in the past and today. It will never truly be Jesus’ church until it recognizes that mindsets change to a One Race – One Blood vision. 

*

The problem of reconciliation in our country and in our churches is much too big to be wrestled to the ground by plans that begin in the minds of men. This is a God-sized problem. ~ Dr. John Perkins, “One Blood

For better or worse, the American Christian church is coming upon a reckoning. My words, not Dr. Perkins. 

It’s often been quoted that 11 am on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. Paraphrased from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (and, as Dr. Perkins points out, Billy Graham). It is in that context, I view the opening of Dr. Perkins’ book in Chapter 1 – “The Church Should Look Like That”. 

Reflecting on Revelation 7:9-10 which describes a large gathering of people worshipping God together with one voice, Dr. Perkins describes what the “Christian” church should be. The focus should be on Jesus Christ. 

He quickly gets to the crux of the issue when he says in Chapter 1, “…then we got sidetracked. Our personal interests took priority over the equality of other human beings.”

Christians want to “make an impact” and lead others to Jesus. But, what we forget is that our history has an impact on leading others to Jesus.  That history includes slavery and civil rights issues that have plagued this country for centuries. 

*

“…race as we know it today is mostly a social theory that was denied and refined over the centuries to serve the economic and religious goals of a majority culture, first in European territory, then later in America” ~ Dr. John Perkins, “One Blood

I wrestled with this book at times.

It’s black-and-white.

This is the only point I take issue with Dr. Perkins. To be fair, I get it. The racial issues in this country at least in the past few centuries have been a mostly black vs white issue with slavery, segregation and racism. 

There is no mention of any other race. It is just black-and-white. Native Americans might have something to say about treatment by whites, especially Christian whites.

But, what he has to say about it comes from a viewpoint of one who has endured trouble and sorrow at the hands of whites. 

He has fought for civil rights and social justice. As documented in Chapter 1, his brother was killed by whites. He himself was treated disgracefully, beaten because he was black (chapter 4 – The Healing Balm of Confession). God, in His grace and love, used Dr. Perkins time in the hospital to heal not only his body, but his soul. 

I had to remind myself that this isn’t a book about race. It is, but it isn’t. If you come expecting a race book, you’ll get some of that. Race is a label, but it is a label that the church has marched along with and Perkins challenges. 

God created US. 

*

We enthusiastically fought for the end of segregation in the school system yet we have not fought at all for the integration of the church. ~ Dr. John Perkins, “One Blood

As I look around the American Christian church today, with all of the denominations and mega churches, I see how much personal interests have taken over. I see churches that are mostly white. Or, mostly black. Or, mostly Hispanic. Or, mostly Islanders. Or, mostly East Asian. Or, South Asian. Or…

How do we get over the hump of church-segregation? (My words, not his.)

Dr. Perkins lays it out for the American Christian church in this book. Ideally, I’d like to continue a chapter by chapter look, but you’d be here forever. I think this next statement sums it up. 

It’s not just about integration. The indictment comes in chapter 3 when Dr. Perkins says, “…we have settled for an Americanized version of the Church that mirrors whatever culture says, and there is no collective sense of loss, no sense of remorse.”

My words: Recognize. Lament. Repentance. Prayer. Communicate. Be purposeful. 

Through his own stories of challenge and faith, as well as others powerful fights for social justice, Dr. Perkins brings it home to the church. We are, in fact, one race. We are all a part of the human race. And despite our different outward appearances, we were still made by the same God, in His own image. 

We were created to be one, not separate. We are the human race.

Reconciliation is needed, but it is one of “biblical reconciliation”, as Dr. Perkins calls it.  (Chapter 8), “The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples encourage them to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. 

In heaven, there will be a large gathering of people worshipping God. On earth as it is in heaven? We, as Christians, ain’t gonna be surrounded by “our own kind” (my words). We must have this mindset, Perkins asserts throughout the book. 

As he closes, Dr. Perkins reminds us of an old hymn:

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

All. 

One blood

***

Writer’s Note: When it comes to the topic of race, if I am going to write about it, I think it’s important for you, the reader, to understand my point-of-view. 

I am Hispanic and was raised in Arizona surrounded by many different races in school and neighborhood. I am a woman in my 40’s married to a white man. I have three mixed-raced children, one of whom was born to me while I was a teenager in high school. Her biological father is black (African-American). My daughter looks black, one son looks like me (Hispanic) and one son looks white. 

Throw in grandkids (all mixed-race) and we would very much look like a melting pot family. 

I don’t want to say I have a unique perspective on race just because of that, but let’s just say I have a different perspective than most. 

It wasn’t always like this. I am very proud of my heritage (culture). When I started working in sports, I would get frustrated by the ignorance displayed by sports media. They only looked at sports through black-and-white glasses. 

In their minds, no other races matter when it comes to sports. If it’s not a sports dominated by blacks and whites, it’s not worth their time. I felt like they marginalized Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans – anything that didn’t fit in their black-and-white viewpoint, they weren’t going to write about it. 

I still see this played out in sites that say they write about “sports, race and culture”. Sport isn’t just black-and-white. Race isn’t just black-and-white. Culture isn’t just black-and-white. 

All other races are marginalized in the black-and-white world of American sports journalism. 

Something inside me wasn’t okay with that. I tried to write about it. Call it out. Tried to say we’re all one, we’re all the same. Treat us all equally. But, I’m just a po-dunk little no-name sports writer.

No one listened. 

Rather than letting the frustration grow, I pulled back to rethink my own POV. I was unsettled in my soul. It was difficult to explain or understand. The frustration grew. 

Why can’t people just see us as one? Why do we have to be so divided? 

After reading “One Blood”, I get it. We’ve strayed from who we were created to be. We exalt our own personal ideas of what church, identity, life, race are above what God made. 

I was realizing that what is happening now is no different from what has been for centuries. The only difference now is that it is on display for the world to see on social media. 

There are problems in this country. There will always be problems in this country as long as we put us above God and others. Because it is a daily topic on social media, I feel like it is coming to a head. 

That’s why I call it a reckoning for the American Christian church. That’s why I was so excited to read this book. It was affirmation of what I had been feeling God has been impressing upon me in my personal prayer times. 

In his epilogue, Dr. Perkins said, “We are at a pivotal moment in history, and the things that are happening now reveal how much work is left to be done.” Contrary to what some think in this contrary, “This struggle for reconciliation will not be won in the streets,” he said. “It’s going to be won by believers in Jesus Christ who choose to live out the truth of the gospel”. 

My children will be affected by this. My grandchildren and on down the line will be affected by this. The reckoning for the American Christian church is here.

Question is, what will we do about it?

***

Knees Down, Prayers Up

Sunny