Race

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Within conservative evangelicalism, the cutting edge approach to race today is the theme of "racial reconciliation." Ralph Reed seized on this approach when he was executive director of the Christian Coalition, which also later became a hallmark of the Promise Keepers (PK), which says it seeks to eliminate race as a "barrier" to Christian brotherhood. Racial reconciliation has been criticized as a superficial analysis of racism, rooted in both religious and gender supremacy and used to deflect historic and contemporary injustices to African Americans and Native Americans, among others.39 Dr. Loretta Williams, [Director, the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards in the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights], told a conference at Hampshire College in 1997 that the Promise Keepers are treating men of color as "trophy friends". "People of color are there [at PK rallies] to be hugged" she said, "to be there for the white male who is afraid of being labeled racist. The black male is there to serve, once again." While people are talking about race, she observed, "They are not talking about racial justice."40

One aspect of racial reconciliation involves public ceremonies featuring people of different races mutually asking for forgiveness for past and present transgressions. These requests for forgiveness, which can be personal or on behalf of institutions, or even on behalf of one's race, can be moving and often are authentic in spirit. Such ceremonies have marked PK events, notably at the 1997 Stand in the Gap rally in Washington DC. The notion of racial reconciliation was the brainchild of the late Rev. John Perkins, an African American whose work was substantially bankrolled by Christian Reconstructionist philanthropist, Howard Ahmanson.41 This is significant in part because a central argument in Christian Reconstructionist theory is that change comes through evangelization and conversion, and that the government of the converted would be a biblical theocracy, for which the blueprint has already been drafted.42 Reconstructionists, like many on the Christian Right, oppose governmental intervention in significant part because the government is not yet theocratic, and therefore is illegitimate.

In one of the strangest alliances in recent American politics, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Unification Church head Sun Myung Moon joined as the principal sponsors of the Million Family March on Washington, DC in October 2000. 43 The two aging demagogues adapted the rubric of racial reconciliation in staging the event. Like the overwhelmingly White Christian Right, the Black Nationalist Nation of Islam and the Moon organization have sought to soften their notorious reputations. Both have seized on images of racial and religious inclusion in an effort to inoculate themselves against charges of racial and religious bigotry that have defined each for decades. Echoing PK, Rev. Chang Shik Yang, co-chairman of the march and a top official of Moon's World Family Federation for Peace and Unification, (formerly known as the Unification Church), called for "all the walls" of race and religion to be torn down. "Color is meaningless," he said. "All human beings are brothers and sisters in front of God."44 At the rally, Farrakhan denounced abortion and implied that it was a White plot. Despite these efforts by Moon and Farrakhan to divide the African American and other people of color electorates with the "family values" rhetoric of the Christian Right, in the 2000 elections even most socially conservative African Americans and Hispanics stuck with the Democratic Party, where their perceived economic and civil rights interests lay.

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