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Uniting the Body of Christ: Conversations About Race With the Authors of “Colorful Connections”

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the divisions in our world, especially with issues regarding race. Friends of the Busted Halo Show Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith and Lori Stanley Roeleveld help Christians start to heal these wounds in our communities with their new book, “Colorful Connections: 12 Questions About Race That Open Healthy Conversations.

Dr. Dalton-Smith and Roeleveld, two women of different races, did not know each other well before beginning this project. Roeleveld felt moved by racial issues in the summer of 2020 but she says, “I was avoiding talking about race, largely because I didn’t really see my onramp, like who wants to hear from an old white woman right now? This is the time when I should listen. So I was staying quiet, but one reader said, ‘Lori, we need to know how to have hard conversations about this.’” Roeleveld, a speaker and author, wrote a blog post that led to her emailing Dr. Dalton-Smith with the book idea.

“It’s not a topic I’ve ever thought about writing about…nothing that I had ever thought about making public,” Dr. Dalton-Smith says, “I think what actually made me take that next step with [Lori] is her sincerity even approaching the question, and her desire to have the conversation with someone she didn’t know.” 

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Part of their goal is to illustrate what kind of questions help lead to a productive conversation with others about race, but this starts from within. Dr. Dalton-Smith notes that one has to look beyond the basic question of asking yourself, “am I a racist?” because when the answer is “no,” it is too easy to brush off any further discussion. Instead, she says we need to ask ourselves, “Am I proactive in helping other people? Am I proactive and loving like Jesus, or being slow to offend? Or engaging in conversation with people who don’t look like me?”

One crucial question the book poses is, “How do we respond like Jesus when we disagree?” Roeleveld says one way is by, “slowing down the conversation, which is what Jesus often did. Slow down the conversation, look for clarification, ask questions back….God is a God who listens. We should be a uniquely listening people in order to reflect that.”

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Dr. Dalton-Smith adds, “Jesus wasn’t afraid of other people’s pain, and I feel like that sometimes is what keeps us from having these conversations. We feel if we’re engaging with someone else’s pain, we’re responsible for it, and then we have the shame and the guilt associated with that.” 

She says that overall, “The hope is that people will have an interest to really be more culturally diverse and open themselves up to new experiences. I think that’s the beauty of the world we live in, there are different ways that people worship, there are different ways that people share the Word of God…And that helps us to be better, to enjoy life more and to get to experience more of who God is, when we engage with other people who are also reflections of him.”