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Latasha Morrison at Bethel University
By Cherie Suonvieri

Earlier this month, Latasha Morrison, the New York Times bestselling author, returned to Bethel to share what she believes is required to realize racial reconciliation. Here are some highlights from her presentation. She presented a lecture titled « How Can We Realize Racial Reconciliation ? » in Benson Great Hall on Tuesday, February 15.

On Tuesday, February 15, New York Times bestselling author, Latasha Morrison, visited Bethel to present a lecture titled  « How Can We Realize Racial Reconciliation ? » This wasn’t Morrison’s first time on campus; in fact, she stood on the same stage just one year prior sharing concepts from her book, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. Once again, with candor and conviction, Morrison delivered a message that enlightened, challenged, and inspired her audience.
« Latasha Morrison’s book gives us theological, practical, empathetic insights and practices that are both challenging and liberating, » said Program Director and Professor of Reconciliation Studies Claudia May, as she introduced the author. « She helps us to confront truths and adopt practices that we can implement in our daily lives as lifelong recipients and participants of the ministry of reconciliation. »
May noted that since Morrison’s last visit to Bethel, her book Be the Bridge was named the 2021 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Christian Book of the Year, and it was also the winner of the Faith & Culture category. To a round of welcoming applause, Morrison took the stage.
During her presentation, Morrison reflected on her study of Rwanda, a nation marked by genocide. She explained that when visiting Rwanda, there are memorials and reminders of the conflict everywhere. « The hard part about the work of reconciliation is that we often want to move forward without dealing with the past—but it is not possible, » she said. « We don’t have to dwell in the past, but we must realize and recognize the past. »
Reconciliation is one of Bethel’s core values, and it’s also a biblical concept. Morrison cited 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, which calls us  « ambassadors of Christ » and speaks of the way in which God reconciled humanity to Himself through Christ. « As a people, we haven’t always represented Christ well, » Morrison said. « But we have an opportunity to play a part in making it right. »
Morrison said there are three commitments that must be made in order to realize racial reconciliation: a commitment to repair, a commitment to restoration, and a commitment to reproduction.
  1. We must commit to repair, by not denying systemic racism and its historical past and present impact.
« We see this happening a lot, where I tell you my hurt, but someone wants to change the narrative,»  Morrison said. Repentance requires acknowledging the pain, turning away from the sins of our past, and walking toward something reparative. « Those who’ve benefited from past wrongs—we have to work together to make it right. »
Like the concept of reconciliation, Morrison said, the concept of repair is biblical. From Luke 19, she recalled the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who after meeting Jesus was inspired to make things right. Zacchaeus gave away half of his possessions, and to those who he’d cheated out of money, he paid back four times as much. « He didn’t just talk about it. He didn’t just apologize. He confessed, repented, and made amends, » Morrison said.
Morrison said we must remember that reparation is not punitive: « It’s not a punishment. It’s about choosing to do the right thing at any cost because we’re walking toward true repentance—toward repair. »
  1. We must commit to restoration, by not defending systemic racism through silence and complacency.
The aim of reconciliation, Morrison said, is the restoration and communal healing of relationships. She referred to the biblical account of the disciple, Thomas, who initially doubted Jesus’ resurrection, saying he wouldn’t believe the news until he felt the wounds in His hands and side.
« Truthfully, I probably would have been like Thomas. If I hadn’t seen it, I probably would have doubted, » Morrison said. « But wrestling through doubt can lead us to better clarity of faith. » Later, when Jesus appeared among the disciples, He approached Thomas in effort to bring restoration.
Jesus’ act of restorative reconciliation shows us the significance of love to His ministry and its capacity to heal relationships. « Love allows the offending party to see the scars, even to feel them,» Morrison said. She also explained that the other disciples played a role in this act as well; they could have turned their backs on Thomas, but they allowed him to be vulnerable and honest about his doubts. « That’s why Jesus came, to mend the broken relationships—to restore us not just to God, but to one another. »
  1. We must commit to reproduction, by not neglecting our roles and responsibilities in continuing the work for generations to come.
There are seasons of reconciliation work when we may be tempted to become complacent, but Morrison emphasized the importance of forging ahead despite difficulty or pushback. « This work of reconciliation is not a movement; it’s a lifestyle, » she said. « It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon for all of us to participate in. »
While everyone’s role looks different, Morrison said, every person has a role to play in the work of racial reconciliation. It might be educating yourself so you can change your family dynamics. Or perhaps you’ll go on to change your community, your school, or your church. 
For action steps, Morrison recommended the following:
  • Ask God not just to change our world, but change our own hearts.
  • Listen to those impacted by injustice. If you’re looking for truth, ask the people who have been marginalized.
  • This is heavy work. Let yourself have deep sorrow for those impacted by injustices.
  • Be led by leaders of color.
  • Educate yourself on the issues.
  • Raise your voice against injustice.
  • Get involved in local groups that are doing reconciliation work and dealing with injustices in society.
  • Join a Be the Bridge group—or start a Be the Bridge group.
“Remember that change begins with you,” Morrison said. “Systems are made up of people, and as you transform, systems will follow.”
Study reconciliation at Bethel.
Students in the reconciliation studies program learn how to connect with other cultures, resolve healthy conflict, understand the importance of their own backgrounds, drive systemic change, and embody what it means to love their neighbors well. These skills transform workplaces and have proven priceless far beyond the classroom.
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