A Sin by Any Other Name
Reckoning with Racism and the Heritage of the South
by Robert W. Lee

Growing up in the south with a name like "Robert Lee," the author has been pulled into more conversations about the Civil War, the south, and race than the average person. As a member of the Lee family, (Confederate General Robert E. Lee was a distant uncle) Confederate history has always been a significant part of his life. And, at one point in his adolescence, he sheepishly admits that he even decorated his bedroom in Confederate flags.

However, during his childhood of private schools and an all-white country club, he came to meet people who would gently encourage him to rethink this preconceptions of the past and reconsider the effect that commemorating that past may have on people living in the present. This book is partly a letter of appreciation for a few kind and patient older black women who lovingly molded him in his formative years, eventually leading him to join the ministry.

This book is also a lamentation on the state of the American church, including his heartbreak at losing his pulpit after speaking against white supremacy and in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement. Why, he asks, are there often two churches of each denomination in southern cities -- one for white believers and one for black? Doesn't the Bible that both of these churches read say that God "has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility"? He doesn't have the answers, but he is asking the questions, and suggesting that the obligation to answer them shouldn't fall solely on the shoulders of the black church, but is something that the whole church should figure out together.

Reverend Lee, despite his outspoken presence in the pulpit, writes in an almost quiet voice, clearly torn between his fear of drowning out other voices and his fear of staying silently complicit. His attitude reminds me of something Senator Cory Booker said on an episode of "Finding Your Roots" recently, that I feel is worth sharing here: "You have a choice in life, you can just sit back, getting fat, dumb, and happy, consuming all the blessings put before you, or it can metabolize inside of you, become fuel to get you into the fight, to make this democracy real, to make it true to its words that we can be a nation of liberty and justice for all."

This is a short book -- the hardcover comes in at 256 pages -- and is recommended reading for Christians with an interest in racial reconciliation. (Which, the author would argue, should be ALL of them.)

arc received from the publisher