Since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, many white Christians have looked to black writers and thinkers for how we should respond to the continuing violence carried out on black bodies.
Many excellent reading lists on understanding racism and becoming antiracist have emerged in the last few days, but few are oriented toward Christian readers. Since our launch in 2008, we have been committed to opposing racism and featuring the work of diverse writers. We offer the following guide to antiracism books for Christians that have been helpful for us. (There are a lot of books here, some of which you may have already read, but we have tried to organize them in a way that you can quickly find ones that are of most interest to you.)
Race and Theology
The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
A ground-breaking, magisterial account of the potential and failures of Christianity since the colonialist period
Why has Christianity, a religion premised upon neighborly love, failed in its attempts to heal social divisions? In this ambitious and wide-ranging work, Willie James Jennings delves deep into the late medieval soil in which the modern Christian imagination grew, to reveal how Christianity’s highly refined process of socialization has inadvertently created and maintained segregated societies. A probing study of the cultural fragmentation—social, spatial, and racial—that took root in the Western mind, this book shows how Christianity has consistently forged Christian nations rather than encouraging genuine communion between disparate groups and individuals.
Weaving together the stories of Zurara, the royal chronicler of Prince Henry, the Jesuit theologian Jose de Acosta, the famed Anglican Bishop John William Colenso, and the former slave writer Olaudah Equiano, Jennings narrates a tale of loss, forgetfulness, and missed opportunities for the transformation of Christian communities. Touching on issues of slavery, geography, Native American history, Jewish-Christian relations, literacy, and translation, he brilliantly exposes how the loss of land and the supersessionist ideas behind the Christian missionary movement are both deeply implicated in the invention of race.
Using his bold, creative, and courageous critique to imagine a truly cosmopolitan citizenship that transcends geopolitical, nationalist, ethnic, and racial boundaries, Jennings charts, with great vision, new ways of imagining ourselves, our communities, and the landscapes we inhabit.
Race: A Theological Account by J. Kameron Carter
In Race: A Theological Account, J. Kameron Carter meditates on the multiple legacies implicated in the production of a racialized world and that still mark how we function in it and think about ourselves. These are the legacies of colonialism and empire, political theories of the state, anthropological theories of the human, and philosophy itself, from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to the present.
Carter’s claim is that Christian theology, and the signal transformation it (along with Christianity) underwent, is at the heart of these legacies. In that transformation, Christian anti-Judaism biologized itself so as to racialize itself. As a result, and with the legitimation of Christian theology, Christianity became the cultural property of the West, the religious ground of white supremacy and global hegemony. In short, Christianity became white. The racial imagination is thus a particular kind of theological problem.
Not content only to describe this problem, Carter constructs a way forward for Christian theology. Through engagement with figures as disparate in outlook and as varied across the historical landscape as Immanuel Kant, Frederick Douglass, Jarena Lee, Michel Foucault, Cornel West, Albert Raboteau, Charles Long, James Cone, Irenaeus of Lyons, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor, Carter reorients the whole of Christian theology, bringing it into the twenty-first century.
Neither a simple reiteration of Black Theology nor another expression of the new theological orthodoxies, this groundbreaking book will be a major contribution to contemporary Christian theology, with ramifications in other areas of the humanities.
I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision for Racial Reconciliation by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
Disrupting the racist and sexist biases in conversations on reconciliation
Chanequa Walker-Barnes offers a compelling argument that the Christian racial reconciliation movement is incapable of responding to modern-day racism. She demonstrates how reconciliation’s roots in the evangelical, male-centered Promise Keepers’ movement has resulted in a patriarchal and largely symbolic effort, focused upon improving relationships between men from various racial-ethnic groups.
Walker-Barnes argues that highlighting the voices of women of color is critical to developing any genuine efforts toward reconciliation. Drawing upon intersectionality theory and critical race studies, she demonstrates how living at the intersection of racism and sexism exposes women of color to unique experiences of gendered racism that are not about relationships, but rather are about systems of power and inequity.
Refuting the idea that race and racism are “one-size-fits-all,” I Bring the Voices of My People highlights the particular work that White Americans must do to repent of racism and to work toward racial justice and offers a constructive view of reconciliation that prioritizes eliminating racial injustice and healing the damage that it has done to African Americans and other people of color.
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