Yesterday I was feeling all ambitious and took a photo of four books with a similar theme (race & faith) with plans to blog about all four.
I made it through half of them. I could have kept going (as I write, it’s five minutes after I wrote yesterday’s post), but then I remembered: most people don’t like to read long blog posts.
(I actually do, but I am not “most” people; I’m a bit of an oddball who would rather read an entire transcript of a podcast than listen to a podcast.)
Anyway. Here are the other two:
Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (by Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson, and Soong-Chan Rah) is amazing. I recommend that every single Christian read it. It’s a tough pill to swallow, honestly, but it is so so so so important.
The book talks about how, as Christians, we are quick to point out the sins of “the world” and sloooooow (to never) to point out our own sins against others. Chapter by chapter, we read about the American church’s sins against: creation, indigenous people, African Americans and people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, Jews, and Muslims.
“When we fail to take seriously enough what our tribe has done to others, what its implications have been and are, and what steps are necessary to bring about reconciliation, we undermine the gospel we proclaim.” (p. 18)
I learned so much history that I never knew (and, frankly, wish I didn’t know, because it’s so hard to hear), and I learned how “our captivity to the hyper-individualism of Western culture may lead us to acknowledge that individual Christians have acted in an unworthy manner, but if often does not lead us to recognize our own complicity in corporate sinfulness.” (206)
And this (which is sooooo appropriate right now in 2017):
“The absence of true confession reveals the church’s cultural captivity to American triumphalism and exceptionalism. If the American church is, like the country itself, exceptional and destined for triumph, then there is no need to confess the sins of the past, because the end goal of elevating the American church justifies the sinful actions that lead to that triumph. Confession requires a deep humility that recognizes human sinfulness in light of God’s holiness. American triumphalism and exceptionalism also need to be confessed in order to recognize the corporate sins of the American church.” (209)
It’s a very well-written, thoughtful, fascinating book.
The Cross and the Lynching Tree (by James H. Cone) is a tough, tough book to read. And that’s why we all need to read it.
How many of us know that, from 1880-1940 (well after enslaved people were freed), that over 4,000 African Americans were lynched (burned, tortured, dismembered, beaten, hung) to death by white people who were never punished in any way for their crimes?
“Blacks and whites and other Americans who want to understand the true meaning of the American experience need to remember lynching. To forget this atrocity leaves us with a fraudulent perspective of this society and of the meaning of the Christian gospel for this nation.” (p. xiv)
Who were these people committing these acts of horror against other human beings?
Most of them would have called themselves Christians.
“The claim that whites had the right to control the black population through lynching and other extralegal forms of mob violence was grounded in the religious belief that America is a white nation called by God to bear witness to the superiority of ‘white over black.’“ (7)
Read this and try to picture it in your mind:
“By the 1890s, lynching fever gripped the South, spreading like cholera, as white communities made blacks their primary target, and torture their focus. Burning the black victim slowly for hours was the chief method of torture. Lynching became a white media spectacle, in which prominent newspapers, like the Atlanta Constitution, announced to the public the place, date, and time of the expected hanging and burning of black victims. Often as many as ten to twenty thousand men, women, and children attended the event. It was a family affair, a ritual celebration of white supremacy, where women and children were often given the first opportunity to torture black victims–burning black flesh and cutting off genitals, fingers, toes, and ears as souvenirs. Postcards were made from the photographs taken with white lynchers and onlookers smiling as they struck a pose for the camera. They were sold for ten to twenty-five cents to members of the crowd, who then mailed them to relatives and friends, often with a note saying something like this: ‘This is the barbeque we had last night.'” (p. 9)
This isn’t a horror movie. It’s real life history. The kind they conveniently leave out of the history books.
Cone does a brilliant job of comparing the lynching tree to the cross of Christ and demonstrating why he believes “God’s liberation of the poor is the primary theme of Jesus’ gospel.” (p. 154)
Highly highly recommend.
Any other books written by Christians of color on the topic of race/racism/racial reconciliation that you’d recommend?
Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a brilliantly written novel about parenting a transgender child.
(All links are Amazon Associate links.)