On the Lived Theology Reading List: Race and Restoration

Race and Restoration: Churches of Christ and the Black Freedom Struggle, by Barclay KeyChurches of Christ and the Black Freedom Struggle

In Race and Restoration: Churches of Christ and the Black Freedom Struggle, author Barclay Key discusses the interracial congregations of the Churches of Christ and how they managed race relations during the Jim Crow era and subsequently adapted to the dramatic changes of the 1960s. The churches of Christ had always operated outside of the conventional racial customs in America; Because these exclusionary churches perceived themselves as the only authentic expression of Christianity, it compelled them to embrace peoples of different races, even as they succumbed to prevailing racial attitudes. Many of their congregations, even deep in the South, counted whites and blacks among their numbers.

This meant that as the civil rights movement began to challenge pervasive social views about race, Church of Christ leaders and congregants found themselves in the midst of turmoil. Key shows how the Churches of Christ can offer a unique perspective for observing how Christian fellowship and human equality intersected during this time, and how racial attitudes and practices within individual congregations elude the simple categorizations often employed by historians. Although the Churches of Christ did have a more racially diverse composition than many other denominations in the Jim Crow era, Key shows that their members were subject to many of the same aversions, prejudices, and fears of other churches of the time.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

This is a carefully written study that embraces the messiness of human life, while simultaneously maintaining a fluid, engaging style. Scholars attuned to the importance of religion as a lens for social, cultural, and political analysis will appreciate Key’s fresh insights on the complex interplay between race and faith in an understudied institution common across the American South. — Sean P. Cunningham, author of American Politics in the Postwar Sunbelt: Conservative Growth in a Battleground Region

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