Trillia J. Newbell is a new author and voice in evangelical leadership which has already captured the hearts and minds of many who regularly read her blog, and articles at The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, or The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. She is a young, African American woman who was raised in the South, married a white man, and is now the mother of two beautiful biracial children. Beyond the identity markers of writer, speaker, wife, and mom, Trillia is a passionate follower of Christ and her love for Him has inspired her love for his church. It is with this love that she has written and published her first book, United: Capture by God’s Vision for Diversity, through Moody Publishers (March 2014).
Why I picked up this book:
Over the past couple years, I have watched Trillia pour out her heart concerning the issues of race, racism, partiality, thriving in an interracial marriage, and mothering her kids in an ever changing culture. Compelled by her writing voice and presence, I asked her to participate in a racial reconciliation series on my blog by discussing author and theologian, Dr. John Piper’s book, Bloodlines: Race, the Cross, and the Christian. I know that the reading of that book deeply inspired her to share her own story and convictions, and I wanted to hear more of that.
The Power of Story:
We all have a story. Most often, the story is headed in a certain direction or down a firm path long before we realize what God is doing to shape us into his liking. It is very much like God to use every interaction, relationship, struggle, sacrifice, and suffering to transform us into the image of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the truth found in Trillia’s story. She was raised in a loving and supportive home of African American parents who lived through the Civil Rights Movement and believed that all people had value. This is a nugget Trillia took with her when she left her home as an adult. Like myself, she is a child of the 80s and 90s, who heard the stories of our parents, witnessed the national racism through the beating of Rodney King who asked “Can’t we all just get along,” and even experienced some racism of our own.
But race and racism was not the only topic of her family discussions or personal struggles. Trillia was raised in a predominantly white environment and in some instances, it was clear that she did not belong. Among Blacks and among whites, she did not fit in. Like every man, woman, boy, or girl, Trillia struggled with her identity, that is until she met Christ at a cheerleading camp. That encounter affirmed her identity, her love for his Word, and a desire for a church that reflected the diversity of all people whom God loves.
Trillia spends the rest of the book giving a theological presentation and her personal longing for diversity, the divisions of sin and partiality, finding a safe community in her predominantly white church, and the unity that we all have and can intentionally seek in Christ. She questions whether “race” is the proper term to use when discussing the cultural or ethnic differences among people. She also shares how God shaped and knitted the hearts of her (an African American woman) with two of her close friends and sisters, Amy (a Caucasian American) and Lillian (a Chinese American). She closes the book by reminding the reader that God loves diversity and she challenges us to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream where children of all ethnicities will grow and play together and be judged only by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Even with all of the progress and change in America, she still longs for that dream to be a full reality for her own children.
What’s in Store for You:
This is a book about racial reconciliation. It is about how we can intentionally choose to surrender our will and comforts to God and humbly submit to entering personal relationships, church membership, and fellowship with people who may be different from us. In some ways the book indirectly addresses racial insensitivity, but it does not address racial or systemic injustices. You will need to read another book if that is the conversation that you want to enter.
However, with the issues of racial reconciliation and racial injustices, I believe that we need a both-and—top-down and bottom-up—approach, along with a clear and biblical view for the redemptive practices to take shape first in our own heats, in the hearts and minds of those we will enter into relationship with, only then can we use our convictions, power, and influence to change broken structures that encourage or simply allow racial injustices to continue. Trillia has been captured by God’s vision for diversity. It is a biblical vision and she has done an excellent job of giving a theological presentation of that vision, along with presenting the practical reality of what that looks like in the heart of a believer. This is solid contribution to the racial reconciliation conversation and it is worthy to read, own, and practice.