In this timely and powerful book, Jemar Tisby speaks as professor and prophet. As professor, he carefully documents the history of racism running through the American church from the colonial days all the way up to the present. As prophet, he reveals the sin of being complicit with racism and calls Christians and the church to “a repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10 ESV).
With well-documented research and captivating storytelling, each chapter recounts a different era of American history beginning with the colonial era and the American Revolution and running up to the modern era of the Religious Right and the Black Lives Matter movement. In each time period, the reader is invited to see how matters of race in America could have gone differently had the church not been complicit in racism—at times actively working for racism rather than courageously standing up against it. The reader will be challenged to confront hard truths of our past and to reconsider an idealized version of American Christianity including some of its beloved heroes like George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and even Billy Graham. An idea that runs through the book is this: Had Christians acted more courageously, “American history could have happened another way.”
Because facing the church’s long history of racism is difficult, some readers will want to reject the historical evidence. However, Tisby suggests that facing these hard realities is like having surgery to cure a disease.
“Although the truth cuts like a scalpel and may leave a scar, it offers healing and health. The pain is worth the progress.” As Jesus says, “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31). In that spirit, Tisby invites the reader to examine the documented truths of our history so that we might be freed to live a better future together.
The book concludes with a hopeful yet urgent call to action. Tisby outlines a number of action steps Christians and churches can take to change the narrative of racism in America. However, when it comes to working against racism, he suggests that Christians are often needlessly held back by fear—fear of what others will think if we speak up or take action and fear of doing racial reconciliation wrong. In the end, he encourages the church to embrace the command to Joshua to be “strong and courageous” and not be afraid (Joshua 1:9) for we do not do the work of racial reconciliation alone. Instead, with Jesus—the great barrier-breaking reconciler—as our guide and his Spirit working in us, we are empowered to live out a “courageous Christianity” that works against, not with, the evils of racism. (Zondervan)
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