Talking About Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations

Reviewed by:

Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Talking About Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations


Isaac Adams


Zondervan Reflective

Publication Date:

January 4, 2022




222 pages


Race continues to be the topic no one wants to talk about in church. At least, not in a civil manner. Isaac Adams has felt that tension every time an African-American person dies in a police shootout. He’s had racist remarks directed at him. While many find the race discussion too political or heated, Adams suggests there is a clear path forward. He outlines this path in an imaginative manner: he describes a fictional church, Lincoln Ridge Baptist Church, as its congregants react to a breaking news story about Malachi Brewers, a 22-year-old African man gunned down by police. Key characters respond to the story. The characters include:

  • An African-American deacon who’s tired of being the only one at Lincoln Ridge to discuss race questions wonders if this is the last straw.
  • One of the deacon’s Caucasian friends wonders how he can support his friend. A young Caucasian woman who hates racism gets irritated at her parents’ apathy.
  • A Korean woman who’s discovering the church wonders how she can talk about her own struggles with racism.

After a chapter following each character’s perspective, Adams steps back and discusses the flaws and strengths of each person’s perspective. From there, he explains the advice he would try to give as their pastor.

Since racism is a messy, complicated issue, no one book can cover all of its facets. What Adams does well here is fill in a particular space in the discussion. There have been excellent academic studies on race from a Biblical perspective (Intensional, The Beautiful Community), a socio-cultural perspective (Faithful Antiracism), and other lenses. There have been some compelling memoirs from African-American authors (Permission to Be Black, A Dream Too Big). Each of these books serves its chosen focus and its audience well.

However, alongside these books exists a need for creative work. Sometimes telling a good story is the best way to say something. Adams’ fictional scenes provide that creative touch—his scenes pull readers inside the race debate, helping them engage with it in a new way. By picking a multitude of characters with different racial profiles and experiences, he avoids false dichotomies about the race debate.

The struggle for many pastors who turn to fiction is that they struggle to tell the stories well. Partly this is because not everyone can be like Walter Wangerin, Jr. or Frederick Buechner—talented ministers who are also talented novelists. The other struggle is that so many pastors have written mediocre novels or films that tried to communicate a didactic message. There’s a lot of baggage whenever someone says, “a pastor has written a story that has a moral message for today.” Adams pulls off the delicate balance—his scenes feel compelling, his characters like real people. He naturally leads each character into their reflections on race, making their perspectives clear without making any of them seem like puppets repeating clichés.

A well-delivered mix of pastoral guidance and storytelling, engaging with a crucial subject in a clever way.


Rating (1 to 5 stars):

5 stars

Suggested Audience:

Christians interested in an inside look at the race debate, considering the many viewpoints and obstacles.

Christian Impact:

Adams makes a compelling case that engaging with racism arises from a proper understanding of the gospel, and carefully shows how Christians can embody gospel values as they discuss racism.

Talking about Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations

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