Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: "Under Our Skin" by Benjamin Watson

Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race–And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide UsUnder Our Skin: Getting Real about Race–And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us by Benjamin Watson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply excellent.

Benjamin Watson goes to the heart of our problems with race, and that is the problem of the heart. What he says is simple while not being simplistic. I found myself nodding and agreeing on just about every page. This book is an expansion of this professional football player’s thoughts from his widely-read, widely-shared, and widely-appreciated article following the Ferguson grand-jury verdict in 2014.

Watson writes, “What is under our skin, and under the skin problem in America, is a spiritual problem. Every time we point at someone else or at an entire race–reducing them to a single story, diminishing them by stereotypes and assumptions–we overlook our own failure. When we point outside ourselves and say, ‘You should have done this...’ or ‘You were wrong to...’ we miss the point. When we focus on another person’s skin, we miss the reality of our own sin” (pg. 188-189). And he does an excellent job of pointing us toward the answer to our sin problem, too–the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But in playing the “spiritual problem” card, don’t think that Watson lets anyone off the hook. As a Christian, I was encouraged to see him address all kinds of people coming from all kinds of directions. He has a knack for seeing things from other people’s widely different perspectives and then saying what each one needs (not necessarily wants!) to hear.

Watson also has a knack for seeing solutions that are “both/and.” He knows that the answers to our ongoing racial strife will not be singletary or simplistic. He is not only able to see how the problems come from multiple competing directions but also to envision how the solutions might require holding two or more seemingly exclusive things in faithful tension.

For me, this was a perfect read for this 2018 Martin Luther King Day because in many ways Benjamin Watson is articulating “the dream” for a new generation. May we be both convicted by our failures and encouraged and empowered to press on to see the dream come fully true.

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