Here are a few resources on the troubling legacy and current crisis of white Christianity in America.
1. Anthea Butler, White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2021).
2. Obery M. Hendricks Jr., Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith (Boston: Beacon Press, 2021).
3. Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about The American’s Church’s Complicity in Racism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019).
4. Joel Goza, America’s Unholy Ghosts: The Racist Roots of our Faith and Politics (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2018).
5. Jim Wallis, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016).
6. M. Shawn Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race and Being (Minneapolis: Fortess Press, 2010).
7. Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and the Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America 1890-1940 (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
These Books Provide Context
These and other books introduce readers to the deeply troubling history of white churches in America as it relates to African Americans. Here are a few the things I’ve learned over the years that provide context on issues we face today.
· White churches gave moral and theological support for slavery, racism, and segregation;
· White churches refused to evangelize and disciple enslaved Africans;
· White churches used the Christian religion as a social control for enslaved Africans;
· White churches opposed attempts to integrate worship and be led by African American leaders (Negro Pews, blacks on balcony, all-white denominations) and divided their denominations by race or when blacks joined their churches/denominations, whites formed separate “Negro” divisions or conventions; and
· White churches opposed abolitionist and civil rights movements and in essence were on the wrong side of history.
Books like these uncover the theology employed to justify these things. Readers should know that the theology of many white churches and institutions
· Ignores its history of slavery, racism, segregation, and the systems erected that advantage whites and disadvantage blacks;
· Refuses to interrogate how whiteness functions in America (non-Eucharistic). For example, its refusal to reckon with the false image of a white God, a white savior, and white biblical characters or its deep infatuation with the state that is idolatrous; and
· Fails to use the moral weight of the Bible and faith to correct slavery and racism and to advocate for justice and equality, often falsely claiming these are “social” and not spiritual issues.
Both the history and theology raise hard questions that cannot be ignored. In fact, they provide context and meaning into the modern crisis embroiling Christianity in America. I recommend these books for personal reading, church studies, and academic courses in religion, theology, and ministry.