DLGP

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Not really a book review of Shelby Steele’s, “Shame”

Written by: on September 9, 2021

In his book entitled “Shame”, Shelby Steele gives us a conservative viewpoint about white guilt in America, persistent racism, and the failure of liberal ideals to solve these and many others social-economic problems of the past sixty years. Before I read the book, I didn’t know it was written by a conservative–the title made me mentally prepare for another Liberal attack about how horrible America is, how all our institutions are systematically racist, and perhaps some critical race theory thrown in. Steele’s analysis is closer aligned to the opinions I’ve held for the past twenty years.

Ever since the George Floyd incident, the anger of ongoing racism in America has boiled over. I have stayed out of the conversation. This book has been the first book I have read that addresses any of these issues. I’m glad I read it. I grew up in a Christian home and never witnessed racism first-hand. I learned in elementary school that racism is wrong and of course, agreed with my teachers. From first grade to sixth grade the subject was brought up each year and reiterated. In middle school the subject was also brought up each year and it was taught passionately that racism is wrong. I never saw any racism in my middle school, either. In high school racism was also addressed each year and it was strenuously taught that racism is ethically wrong and no one should be racist. I never witnessed any racism in high school. I grew up in Colorado where most of the student population was white, but approximately 35% of the student population, if added together, was African American, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.

When I attended university, I was also taught that racism is wrong. Although I heard about some racism happening with the members of the football team, I never witnessed racism on campus personally. In seminary I also learned that racism is wrong. In my gainful employment since graduating from seminary, it was impressed upon me and my co-workers by the human resources department that racism is wrong and the company is an equal-opportunity employer. “Racism would not be tolerated” has been the consistent message of all my employers my entire life.

So, to be clear, I am not a racist. I have been taught well. It seems so very logical to me that all people are created equal and it really shouldn’t matter the pigment found in one’s epidermis. My Christian faith certainly is in agreement with this. We are all God’s children, dearly beloved and worthy of redemption. Christ died for all and Christianity is not a white man’s religion; it is a faith for all the world. Perhaps because I believe these things so clearly and deeply, that the entire national conversation America has been having since George Floyd has bored me, and I have not participated in any book readings, blogs, podcasts, letters-to-the-editors, small groups, or on-line discussions airing out my opinion. Here is my contribution: “Yea, racism is wrong, everybody knows that.” It is so basic, so simple. Maybe we could discuss the multiplication table next? Let’s review counting by five’s…

I would bet there isn’t a single person in America that has not been taught racism is wrong. Not one person out of four hundred million.  Multiple times through the stages of life, everybody has been taught this, just like me. Education is NOT the problem. So why does it persist? Because of the sin, the darkness, the evil, of the human heart. Racism is the symptom of a deeper disease; the disease of sin found in everybody. And the cure for that is Christ. That is the message that society desperate needs to hear–and The Cross is the solution. But do you hear that in the national dialogue? No way, that is just religious fundamentalism, small minded and over-simplified. Faith continues to be pushed aside. Can you imagine faith in Jesus being discussed in this context on CNN, Fox, or the BBC? “Breaking news, there has finally been a solution found to the on-going problem of racism: it’s Jesus.”

Never, that’s the church’s pressing responsibility. So, let us be bold and tell people that Jesus will solve ALL the nasty problems that persist in the human heart and in society. Let’s keep pointing all these terrible, racist sinners in the world to Christ. What we Jesus-followers have, the world desperately needs.

About the Author

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Troy Rappold

B.A. Communication - University of Colorado M.Div. Theology - Cincinnati Christian University Currently in 2nd year of D.Min. program

4 responses to “Not really a book review of Shelby Steele’s, “Shame””

  1. mm Eric Basye says:

    Thank you for sharing, Troy. In many ways, it sounds as though our childhoods were similar. I hear what you are saying, that you are not a racist, but I wonder, is it possible that we all have these racist tendencies? This is in part what I wrote about in my blog. What I didn’t go don’t to say is that now that I live in Bilings, MT, and in the most diverse community in the entire state, I still find myself fighting racist tendencies! How I wish that weren’t the case, but at least for me, I am still longing for the day when Jesus enables me to fully love as He has loved us.

    I give a loud “Amen!” to your call (and hope) at the end. Thank goodness the Lord is at work through the restoration of the gospel. One day we will be fully united as depicted in Eph. 2 and Rev. 7:9-10. Come Lord Jesus, come!

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Troy, your passion comes through strongly in your post. I appreciate that and hope that don’t always seek to voice a middle ground when I do not possess one. I was also taught that racism is wrong and never believed myself to be so. Over the years I’ve seen a disconnect between what we know and what we do. For example, followers of Jesus know we should share our faith, but all too few do so. The longer I live, the more I fear the darkness in my own heart in any and all areas, including race. I just read a post this morning that includes a quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” As you state, Jesus is our hope, including my own. Looking forward to spending time with you in DC!

  3. Troy, I’m glad you found this book to be palatable, if not agreeable with your prior convictions. I would challenge you to engage where you’ve yet to do so. I believe you when you say you aren’t racist, and that you were taught racism was wrong. However, racism is not simply overt actions carried out by individuals or groups. Racism is first systemic, and what we typically call “racist” are really just symptomatic. If you’re interested in reading a book that may challenge this, I would suggest “Unsettling Truth” (a book that was a turning point for me), which I reference in my post. This book offers the historical accounts of the earliest slave ships arriving in Portugal under direction of the Nicholas V, and may offer some constructive dissonance in the conversation between Christianity and racism. Blessings to you.

  4. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Troy I hear you loud and clear. We each must be held accountable for the sin we do and the sin we do not do and that the church must be constantly self-reflective and at the same time be the vessel of Jesus Christ who definitely showed us racism is not to be a part of God’s Kingdom.

    It is clear you resonate with Steel’s position…and I too had moments of unity with his voice. But there were many more moments of tension for me. I am curious if you were to take a “Balcony view” of what he wrote if you could find points of dissonance?

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