Review: One Blood by John Perkins
During Black History Month, the Institute will be highlighting important books whose messages are important for students and ministries to grapple with.
Youth ministries can be guilty of worshipping at the altar of the new, the trendy, the popular. Sometimes fear of this tendency can overshadow legitimate endeavors, such as when biblical concerns for gospel-centered justice are viewed simply as participation in the hashtag of the moment. This is why books like John Perkins’ One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race are so important.
John Perkins is, quite simply, a legend. At 89 years old, he is one of the last of a generation of pastors intimately involved in the intersections of the civil rights movement and evangelical Christianity. Born in sharecropping Mississippi, Perkins’ life was radically impacted by Jesus at the age of 27, leading him to a life of evangelism and pastoral work, where he developed a holistic vision of heart AND community redemption. Perkins experienced incredible hardships as a result of his work – at one point being jailed and tortured – yet continues to unapologetically preach a gospel of grace in Jesus’ work alone and the importance of Jesus’ transformative power to societal change.
Perkins’ work can help students in two very important ways. First, One Blood, being a final summary of Perkins’ message throughout his life, can break down assumptions for students, parents, and church leaders about the gospel-centrality of social justice. Rather than having to shoehorn the gospel into modern justice movements, Perkins’ work helps students see that the gospel can be at the core of their own passions for social renewal. Second, the fact that it comes from a pastor and historic civil rights activist with a history of orthodox, evangelical Christianity reveals this message as one that supersedes all charges of simply being trendy, popular, or even political.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
1. How do your students compare Perkins’ argument against race as a concept with the popular notion that ‘people should be colorblind’?
2. In light of other accounts (such as Austin Channing Brown) how should largely Caucasian youth ministries put Perkin’s words about repentance into practice?