Among those interested in racial justice, there is significant interest in how to help people become interested in racial justice. I frequently have used the metaphor of evangelism both because there is a sense of a message being that is necessary, and there is some sense of the Holy Spirit awakening the person to be open to that message.
David Swanson’s main focus in Rediscipling the White Church is discipleship, not evangelism. Somewhat similar to my own interested in racial justice and spiritual direction (a method of discipleship) evolving in parallel, Swanson is emphasizing that the way to correct a distorted church is an emphasis on correct discipleship.
Dallas Willard claims that a disciple is, most basically, an apprentice “who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.” While there is more that could be said about what a disciple is, for our purposes a Christian disciple follows Jesus to become like him and to do what he does.
Swanson is building on the work of Dallas Williard, James KA Smith, and others that remind us that discipleship is not about intellectual knowledge acquisition, but building habits.
Building on Augustine’s understanding of people as desiring creatures, philosopher James K. A. Smith writes that it’s our habits that “incline us to act in certain ways without having to kick into a mode of reflection.”7 Remember my implicit bias at the beginning of the chapter? Because we are not first and foremost thinking beings who rationally engage with every encounter, it is our habits which shape our imaginations or, in Augustine’s vocabulary, our loves. My unconscious assumption about who wrecked my cement was inculcated in me through a set of racially oriented habits. We aren’t usually aware of our habits.
The central point of the book is that Swanson wants to transform the goal of discipleship around racial justice is solidarity (regardless of how visually diverse a congregation is) and not some abstracted racial reconciliation or unity.