Small group discusses race and religion

Sam Fishel, Staff Reporter

A Bible study group from the Vineyard Church in Charleston is meeting once a week at the Charleston Carnegie Public Library to discuss issues of racism and what the church has to say about them.

Each week, Racial Reconciliation aims to give its members an outlet for their questions about race and its impact on modern society. They strive to provide answers to these questions through the church’s teaching.

During their meetings, the group discusses specific Bible passages in order to understand God’s vision for interpersonal relationships and how they should be engineered to follow Christian teachings.

In addition, they seek to create a safe space where churchgoers of all races can discuss their feelings and opinions openly, without fear of reprisal, in order to create a dialogue between groups.

Danelle Jackson, group leader for Racial Reconciliation, says she believes the group’s larger goal is “breaking a lot of the stereotypes and racism that we don’t realize we have.” She adds that it is important to learn about different cultures and “what God says about them.”

Jackson acknowledged that sometimes, when broaching the subject of race relations, people can become defensive about their beliefs, especially if they are entering into the conversation from a position of power. To head this off, Jackson says that she has established several ground rules that encourage members to vent their emotions constructively while not directly attacking the opinions of others.

Jackson believes that this sort of group is necessary because racial tension is everywhere, including Charleston and Eastern. “It’s engrained at such a level,” she said, “that we don’t realize it.” She notes also that often, the amount of power and influence someone has in society can make them blind to the ill effects of their power.

“If we don’t acknowledge [our personal racial prejudice],” Jackson articulated, “there’s no way we can move passed it.”

In a larger sense, Jackson hopes that these group meetings and the conversations its members have going forward create “shalom” or peace and harmony in their community.

“It’s to encourage them to know, to see the big picture and to see the harmony that can exist between the different races,” Jackson said, “or to accept people that aren’t like you because no one is [exactly] like you.”

Racial Reconciliation will be meeting each Tuesday for the next four weeks at 6:30 in Rotary Meeting Room B at the Charleston Carnegie Public Library. For more information or to join the small group, contact Danelle Jackson at [email protected].


Sam Fishel can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]