A Christian Approach to Moving Beyond Racial Gridlock: An Alternative to Secular “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” Ideologies

Professor George Yancey (PhD, University of Texas) is professor of sociology at Baylor University, specializing in race/ethnicity, biracial families, and anti-Christian bias. He is the author of Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility (IVP, 2006). The above talk asks whether Christianity can offer a unique approach to the problem of racism and race relations that differs from the dominant secular ideologies of our day. You don’t have to agree with every jot and tittle to benefit from his analysis and prescription.


A racialized society is a society where race matters profoundly for differences in life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships).

The social reality of race:

  • interracial marriage
  • profiling
  • stereotyping
  • residential segregation
  • non-integrated churches

Two contrasting views about racism:

  1. Racism is something overt and only done from one individual to another individual.
  2. Racism is structural as well as individualistic, and social institutions can perpetuate racism even when individuals do not intend to be racist.

Two major manifestations of these models today:

  1. Black Lives Matter
  2. All Lives Matter

All Lives Matter is tied to white identity:

  • individualism
  • comfort in society
  • colorblindness

An All Lives Matter philosophy is tied to a continuation of the social norms that benefit white Americans.

How Black Lives Matter talks about privilege:

  • Only whites have privilege
  • White opinion about privilege does not matter
  • Lack of privilege explains the struggles of people of color
  • To not acknowledge privilege is racism

What both approaches (Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter) have in common:

  • They both operate as if humans are perfectible
  • They both ignore human depravity
  • They are both unable to develop support across the different racial/social groups

A Mutual Obligations Approach

A Christian-based approach whereby we recognize that people of all races have a sin nature that has to be accounted for.

Thus everyone has an obligation to work toward healthy interracial communications to solve racial problems.

Two implications of Mutual Accountability:

  • Institutional problems
  • Interpersonal relationships

Institutional problem examples:

  • Police-community relations
  • Contrasting worship styles in church
  • Curriculum in educational institutions
  • Minority representation in the workplace

Steps in using a Mutual Obligation Approach:

  • Define the racial problem.
  • Identify the critical core.
  • Recognize the cultural or racial differences at play.
  • Develop ideas that address concerns of racial out-groups.
  • Work toward a solution that can be accepted by all.

Personal application: Active Listening

  • Find someone you disagree with greatly on racial issues.
  • Have lunch or coffee with them.
  • Listen to their perspective.
  • Talk to them until they are satisfied that you understand their perspective.
  • If they are willing to listen to you, then explain; otherwise, let it go.
  • Do not feel obligated to agree with them.

What this exercise may accomplish:

  • Help us learn the perspective of others
  • Help us learn how to actively listen
  • Prepare us to communicate with others when the next racial crisis occurs
  • Create a larger atmosphere that promotes real useful interracial communication

Final comments

  • Our previous emphasis on human perfectibility is not working.
  • We need a new model if we are to get out of this racial rut.
  • Christianity differs from Enlightenment movement ideas as it concerns human depravity.
  • Respect for depravity can allow us to work at the types of conversations we need to overcome racial alienation.