The Jewel Of Gresham Green
Claudia Mair Burney 

Claudia is the author of the popular Ragamuffin Diva blog and the David C. Cook novel Zora and Nicky: A novel in Black And White. She is also the author of Death, Deceit, and Some Smooth Jazz, and the Amanda Bell Brown Mysteries and the Exorsistah series for teens. Her work has appeared in Discipleship Journal magazine, The One Year Life Verse Devotional Bible, and Justice in the Burbs. She lives in Michigan with her husband, five of their seven children, and a quirky dwarf rabbit.

Visit her blog, Ragamuffin Diva.

The White’s and Colored’s Only Fountains

More than fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King quoted the Reverend Billy Graham saying, “Eleven o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.” That this statement was true in America, this august land of opportunity, fifty years ago is bad enough. That it remains true today is a sad commentary on race relations among American Christians.

If our churches are still segregated, what can we expect of Christian publishing? Pretty much the same, I believe. I started writing Christian fiction in 2004. Even then I noticed a troubling fact: I rarely found African American Christian fiction in Christian bookstores. Secular bookstores were another matter. There the shelves buckled under the weight of novels about the faith of people of color, the authors scarcely known by the faithful who frequented Christian bookstores.

This made me wonder. I thought about the era that birthed the civil rights movement, and the terrible Jim Crow laws that kept blacks and whites legally separated. I mused about whether or not something akin to a white’s and colored’s only drinking fountains was in Christian publishing. It seemed clear to me that whites published, supported, and consumed one kind of story and not another. And where did that leave writers of color? At the colored “reading” fountain? We were writing, publishing, and consuming work of writers of color somewhere else. Why was that?

If we are in Christ, then aren’t we all—black, white, Asian, Latino—Christians? Doesn’t the Bible proclaim our shared “oneness”? Why are we not publishing, writing, and reading to reflect that truth?

Of course, complex sociological issues are at work here, far too complicated to dissect in this short column. And then we simply all enjoy the comfortable and familiar. We go to our predominately white or black churches because we love certain things about the styles of worship. Perhaps it is the unique music, or the way the pastor preaches. Maybe we love to see faces that mirror our own—not that we wouldn’t welcome others! I seriously doubt that most of us hear blatant, ungodly messages of white or black supremacy preached in our churches. That doesn’t seem to be our problem. So, what is? Why are so few writers of color in the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) market? And is this kind of segregation what Christ wants for us, when in His own prayers He asked His Father to make us all “one”?

First Corinthians 12:13 tells us, “For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (NIV). I love that: “we are all given the one Spirit to drink.” It’s the same Spirit who washes our sins away, and the same Spirit who refreshes us in our dry and parched places. This Spirit quenches our thirst, and this life-giving Spirit is the same Water of Life flowing through both fountains.

The funny thing about Jim Crow laws is that they were laws! They were put in place by trusted elected officials. These unfortunate blights on American history were passed to make some citizens feel safe and comfortable, which shows that in Christ we are sometimes called go beyond what society says is safe and comfortable—even in what we read.

I’ve decided to open my heart and read what may feel unsafe and unfamiliar. I’m going to read books about Christians who are not like me, especially in Christian fiction. I’m going to read about Scottish Christians, Amish Christians, French Christians, and Asian Christians because I believe I can enjoy those books. I can benefit from them. I believe that they will teach me something about myself that I may not have learned otherwise. They will certainly teach me something about people who aren’t like me.

It won’t be easy reading, and it won’t be safe. I may stumble upon something I find offensive to my race and culture, but I am certain this reading outside my comfort zone will be good for my soul. It will have the added benefit of being good for publishers, good for writers, and good for Christian fiction consumers. I want to read, and even write, as if I am an answer to Christ’s prayer: one with all Christians.

I invite you to join me until there is a single fountain of grace quenching the thirst of the whole world.

“In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:28 MSG).

Wounded: A Love Story