By Escobar, Samuel
International Bulletin of Missionary Research , Vol. 32, No. 1
This Side of Heaven: Race, Ethnicity, and Christian Faith. Edited by Robert J. Priest and AlvaroL.Nieves. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007. Pp. xiv, 356. £541 $99; paperback £19.99 / $35.
Twenty social scientists and theologians from all over the United States have contributed to this valuable symposium on racism in American society from a Christian perspective. They share the conviction that "while Christians claim 'citizenship in heaven' (Phil. 3:20 NIV), we live 'on this side of heaven,' where we find ourselves enmeshed in realities that are anything but heavenly" (p. 323). The editors state clearly their intention to diagnose and analyze "the nature of racial and ethnical problems in our churches, our society and our world" (p. 323), and they have succeeded in this effort.
In Part 1, "Thinking Critically About Culture, Race, and Colour," the authors describe the problem of racism in U.S. society, clarifying concepts and using adequate analytic tools (pp. 19-94). The researchers in Part 2, "Encountering the Other in Ethnic and Racialized Worlds," report surprising and embarrassing data about the racist practices of various Christians, especially of evangelical groups (pp. 97-161). Part 3, "Using and Abusing the Bible in Ethnic and Racial Contexts," offers a rich and seminal reading of biblical material relevant to race issues, with new hermeneutical keys (pp. 165-240). Finally, in Part 4, "Engaging Racial and Ethnic Realities in Congregational Settings," the authors explore promising case studies that show a way forward from the dilemmas and contradictions presented (pp. …