As outlined on the back cover of Intensional, D. A. Horton sets out to reframe the hostility and tension surrounding ethnicity, shifting the reader’s mindset from searching for “racial reconciliation” to “ethnic conciliation”. He believes “the words racial reconciliation usually trigger greater chasms of division rather than healing, repentance, and togetherness.” Horton argues that ethnic conciliation “is accomplished when we affirm (not ignore or idolize) the ethnic heritages of every human being and seek to remove animosity, distrust, and hostility from our interpersonal relationships.” going on to advocate that those who follow Jesus are the only qualified people to take up this holistic work.

He elaborates on this point, referencing Scripture, to illustrate the conciliation and reconciliation highlighted from Genesis to Revelation and the global mission given by Jesus to bring everyone into His family. Equipped with His Word and the Holy Spirit, as Christians, we are best placed to live out this ethnic conciliation work, and through it, share the power of the Gospel. Horton makes a compelling and well-thought through argument which I found enlightening and challenging.

“All people, of every ethnicity, gender, and social class, have the dignity of an image bearer and are therefore due equal respect.“

From Intensional by D.A. Horton

Building on the above premise, that all people are made in the image of God and worthy of love, Horton summarises the creation of the concept “race” and it’s origins in privilege and dehumanization. Using history and the Bible, he explains the importance of, in comparison, ethnicity and our understanding of where we come from without allowing it to divide us.

“Privilege is not evil in and of itself. But we should be aware of it, and we should leverage our privilege for the benefit of those in the margins, to amplify the voices of those who are dismissed.”

From Intensional by D.A. Horton

Using the Biblical story as a guide, Horton illustrates a practical way to work towards ethnic conciliation. He paints a picture of what it would look like: compassion in our character, our communication, and our communities using Jesus’ parables to explain each. He creates a vivid representation for the importance of each, both to live more as Jesus did and to draw others to Him.

Being a pastor, Horton talks of how the church falls short for those in both the pulpit and the pews. He highlights the partiality the church shows explaining “partiality would not be a sin if it were consistent with God’s character. But Scripture shows us clearly: Our God is not a prejudiced God.” I’ve never heard the negative of partiality summed up quite so elegantly. Drawing on Matthew 7:12 “So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”, Horton reframed it in the context of ethnic conciliation as “we do this when we refuse to show partiality or neglect people because of their ethnicity.” He continues the discussion through an analysis of the Last Supper before explaining a Biblically-based way to go about calling out partiality.

At this point of the book, I was sold on Horton’s approach and fascinated by the way he weaved the Bible into his argument. Believing myself an impartial person, I had only agreed with him and then I hit chapter five where he reframed “colour blind” for me, explaining “Unity is not the same as conformity – and Christian color blindness suggests that conformity is what is required for people of color to be a harmonious part of the body of Christ.” Continuing on from this, he shows God to be the designer of ethnic diversity. He unpacks it into practical steps to appreciate and advocate unified diversity through intellectual equipping ourselves, building interpersonal relationships, and operating with interpersonal endurance.

The next chapter talks of tangible repentance and walking alongside the marginalized. The Bible speaks of this frequently and Horton links this approach to that of the changes needed in the church, in our communities and in us as individuals. He walks the reader through our marginalized presuppositions and how to shift them to a compassionate posture, how to engage with people in the margins; and adjusting our prayers to stay in God’s strength and will.

Chapter 7 outlines a plan to mobilize transformation through the church and change how it responds to racism and prejudice. It is succinct, well-argued and, if actioned, would radically change our communities. Hortons discusses it’s challenges and shares his success and failure stories, he’s walked this talk. He doesn’t pretend it will be quick or easy but rather worthwhile and rewarding.

The closing chapter frames unified diversity as kingdom ethics for a kingdom ethnicity – becoming a brochure of Heaven. It is Horton’s call to look to eternity, to live out God’s principles and prepare to live in a diverse Heaven.

“We can root our identity not in where we live or where we were born but in God’s Kingdom, which transcends every country, culture, and comfort.“

From Intensional by D.A. Horton

The book covers a tough topic and doesn’t beat about the bush when talking about the scale of the challenge but Horton does it in a way that instills hope! Hope in the power of God, in humanity’s ability to change, in the power of love and in compassion. Full of stories, Biblical truth and practical steps, I loved this book from start to finish and will be chewing over it’s wisdom for days to come! It’s a five out of five on the en-JOY-ment scale and highly recommended!

From the back cover:

When it comes to the ethnic divisions in our world, we speak often of seeking racial reconciliation. But at no point have all the different ethnicities on Earth been reconciled. Animosity, distrust, and hostility among people from various ethnicities have always existed in American history. Even in the church, we have often built walls—ethnic segregation, classism, sexism, and theological tribes—to divide God’s people from each other.

But it shouldn’t be this way. God’s people are the only people on earth who have experienced true reconciliation. Who better to enter into the ethnic tensions of our day with the hope of Jesus?

In Intensional, pastor D. A. Horton steps into the tension to offer vision and practical guidance for Christians longing to embrace our Kingdom ethnicity, combating the hatred in our culture with the hope of Jesus Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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