Race and Christianity in the United States is an eight-part video series on the history of race and Christianity. It focuses on black/white relations and covers important episodes from before the beginning of the American colonies (we have to go back to Europe and Africa to talk about the development of race) to the 2016 election.
I designed this curriculum with church groups in mind. I know how hard it can be to find good, accessible material for Sunday School classes and small groups–particularly if your adult education budget is limited! I also know that many Christians want to explore history, but don’t know what sources to trust or where to begin amid the reams of books and articles on their topic. This series brings together some of the most current, respected research on race and religion in a format that is easy to understand.
I have also created a curriculum to accompany the video series. The curriculum includes a pre-session, reflection questions for each episode, and episode outlines. The curriculum does not demand any prep (unless you count printing and copying the pages), although having a leader willing to facilitate the sessions might be helpful.
Who is Sarah?
If you are going to trust me as your historical guide, you should probably know something about me. My name is Sarah Ruble and I am an associate professor of religion at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. I earned a Master’s of Theological Studies from Duke Divinity School and a Ph.D. in U.S. Religious History from Duke University. (I also, for several years, pretended to care about A.C.C. basketball.)
I am both an active scholar and teacher. I am the author of one book, The Gospel of Freedom and Power: Protestant Missionaries in American Culture After World War II. I’ve written articles for publications like Christianity Today and Christian History as well as book chapters for academic books. In addition to teaching undergraduates, I also present for lay audiences–which is how I came to this project. Although my primary area of specialization is not the history of race and Christianity, I found that many people wanted to learn more about it. As I presented on the topic, I saw a need for easily accessible sources, particularly for church groups. Hence this video series.
I also created the series because I’m a Christian*. I care deeply about the church and the witness of the faith in the world. As a Christian, I believe that we are called to be people who tell the truth about ourselves and the world. That means, sometimes, that we will have to say difficult things about the past and its implications for the present. It sometimes means saying that people who we love or who were a lot like us got some things very wrong (thankfully, it also means acknowledging that some times people got things very, even miraculously, right).
I know, as a historian, that learning about the past can be challenging. I also know, as a Christian, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Of all people, we should be the first to confront hard truths, because we know that we are safe in God, and that, no matter what we must confront or the way the past challenges us, we cannot shake the love that God has for us, our neighbors, our enemies, and the world.
(*I’m an historian of U.S. religion so I know that some folks will want to know a little bit more about what I mean by “Christian.” I mean that if you are looking for me between 9 a.m. and noon on a Sunday morning, your best bet is to check for me at my church and that I can–to steal a line for Justin Welby–affirm the Nicene Creed without crossing my fingers.)