Gracism: The Art of Inclusion – David Anderson with David Heiliger

Gracism: The Art of Inclusion by David A. Anderson, David Heiliger
Published by IVP on May 9, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Racial Reconciliation
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We can't ignore color, class, or culture. Instead, we must engage matters of race with a different posture and embrace radical inclusion of the marginalized.

Now with David Heiliger, David A. Anderson revives the biblical model for showing special grace to others on the basis of ethnicity, class, or social distinction―one of gracism. Responding to ongoing problems of prejudice and injustice, the original seven sayings of the gracist now become eight with a new chapter alongside a revised conclusion.

Take this opportunity to extend God's grace to people of all backgrounds in this edition of Gracism.

Another book on racial reconciliation? Well…sort of. Gracism: The Act of Inclusion was originally released in 2007 and a lot has happened since then. This revised and updated edition takes all of that into account and reflects on the work that Gracism Global—the organization founded out of Gracism’s principles has done in that time. Even though it treads well-worn ground, Gracism is still an important work for the way in which author David Anderson contextualizes the fight against racism.

Using 1 Corinthians 12, Anderson makes the argument that the central element that would drive racial reconciliation is sacrificial inclusion. From this thesis and text, he develops eight statements, which bear repeating here:

  • I will lift you up. Others are to be given “special honor” and that means assisting and elevating others toward success.
  • I will cover you. Others are to be allowed “special modesty” which means protecting the vulnerable from embarrassment, harm, or exploitation.
  • I will share with you. Others are not to be shown favoritism or special treatment, which means ensuring that there is equal access to networks and resources.
  • I will honor you. Others are to be treated with honor, particularly those who are vulnerable or in need.
  • I will stand with you. We must be committed to unity, which means standing up as allies with minority groups.
  • I will consider you. Others are to be shown equal concern, which means special focus on the perspectives and needs of the marginalized.
  • I will celebrate with you. This means that we are called to rejoice with others and give others a reason to rejoice.
  • I will heal with you. This is a call to suffer with others, empathizing with their pain, acknowledging our role in that if any, and shouldering some of their burden if possible.

Gracism offers a chapter outlining how each statement can be fulfilled theoretically, practically, and spiritually, engaging the head, hands, and heart and completely revolutionizing the way in which we consider our treatment of others. Anderson does tend toward the more conservative side in this conversation—think more Tony Evans than James Cone—but even though that means I mind personally find him insufficiently radical in some areas it does mean that his tone and his calls to action are accessible and palatable to his primary audience of Christian evangelicals.

Again, it’s the 1 Corinthians 12 construct that sells it for me. Anderson, using a clear and easily-interpreted passage of Scripture succinctly and powerfully makes the case for overcoming racism with grace. And, yes, that includes those of the marginalized groups offering grace to those attempting reconciliation. Gracism is a thoroughly biblical, practical, and time-tested manual for racial reconciliation within the church.

And yet, is it enough? Gracism is simply-written, well-packaged, and easily understood. There’s not too much here to rock the boat and Anderson does only the barest minimum at challenging Christian majority culture. There’s nothing here that is wrong, but if it was all really this easy why hasn’t the church already done it. There’s something that makes reconciliation more difficult than is presented in this book, but Anderson largely stays away from that messiness.

In the end, I’m left conflicted. I believe Gracism is a bit simplistic and insufficiently radical to foment real change. Yet, I believe its accessibility to those who would never listen to liberation theologians and irenic call to do the simplest things gives it an audience that allows the conversation to begin. Gracism is the start of a conversation with a well-presented structure, but it’s far from the full discussion.