Publishers are stepping into tough discussions about race, equity, and faith as they look to their 2022 lists. New books propose solutions for divided communities and engage in essential discussions about racism, reconciliation, and change as authors scour scripture and rethink church teachings. Beyond urging readers to look inward and speak up for marginalized groups, these authors lay out actionable items and tangible goals for creating a more inclusive and just future.
Up first, releasing on January 18 from HarperOne, God and Race: A Guide for Moving Beyond Black Fists and White Knuckles is written by two pastors—one white and one Black. John Siebeling and Wayne Francis, close friends who each have built racially diverse congregations, examine racial tensions and answer uncomfortable questions regarding family, work, relationships, and the church, while suggesting steps to take for coming together and finding healing. “Unless we make a solid intentional choice to connect, understand, reach, and love one another,” the authors write, “we will remain divided.”
In Faithful Antiracism: Moving Past Talk to Systemic Change (IVP, Mar. 22), Christina Edmondson and Chad Brennan draw on new data collected by the Race, Religion, and Justice Project, one of the largest studies of racial dynamics in U.S. Christianity ever conducted, to offer analysis and interventions for challenging and resisting racism. Cindy Bunch, editorial director at IVP, says the book “incorporates both the latest research and spiritual guidance to point the way to lasting change.”
Another book on entering the fight against racism, Willie Dwayne Francois III’s Silencing White Noise: Six Practices to Overcome Our Inaction on Race (Brazos, Aug.) weaves together personal narrative, theology, and history to address “the racist speech, ideas, and policies that lull us into inaction on racial injustice,” according to the publisher. Francois, senior pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville, N.J., and president of the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality, provides six anti-racist habits that are based on Christian teachings as he encourages readers to move away from a “colorblind” stance to “one that takes an honest account of our national history and acknowledges our complicity in racism,” the publisher says.
Lisa Sharon Harper follows up The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right with a book on her family history, writing that it represents the story of America. Titled after Fortune, Harper’s first ancestor born in the U.S., Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World—and How to Repair It All (Brazos, Feb.) traces 10 generations of family members to show how “America intentionally crafted systems and structures in ways that blessed some and cursed others,” according to the publisher, including “allowing European Americans to make a fortune from the colonization, genocide, enslavement, rape, and exploitation of people of color.”
Harper points toward what Martin Luther King Jr. called the “beloved community”—one in which every person is safe and cared for. “There are two paths set before the oppressed: one path leads to rage, compounded pain, sickness, and death,” she writes in the final chapter of the book. “The other leads to the Beloved Community. On that road there is truth-seeking, truth-listening, and truth-telling. There is reparation and equity. And there is mercy—release.”
Also from Brazos, Reading Black Books: How African American Literature Can Make Our Faith More Whole and Just (May) by Claude Atcho, a pastor and teacher, examines literature from 10 great African American writers, including Zora Neale Hurston and James Baldwin, in order to inspire conversations about racial justice.
Musician and Religion News Service columnist Andre Henry chronicles his path to political action in All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep: Hope—and Hard Pills to Swallow—About Fighting for Black Lives (Convergent, Mar.). In the book, he describes how deep divisions formed between himself and white friends and family who were “more interested in debating whether racism existed” and being “polite” than investing in non-violent social change, according to the publisher. The book calls for a revolution—“one that moves beyond symbolic progress to disrupt systems of racial violence and inequality in tangible, creative ways.”
How We Love Matters: A Call to Practice Relentless Racial Reconciliation (FaithWords, Mar.) by Albert Tate, a pastor, public speaker, and host of the Albert Tate Podcast, looks to the life of Jesus Christ for examples of how Christians should treat and love others as siblings and neighbors, regardless of differences such as skin color or beliefs. “This is my call for hope and healing, for a family... gathered to hear and learn from Christ,” Tate writes. “For us as a family to practice sibling love so that we may honor one another, honor Our Father, and make positive, lasting change for the generations to come.”
Organized into nine letters, including “Dear Whiteness,” “Dear America,” and “Dear Church,” How We Love Matters calls on Christians to “sit together in racial discomfort and examine the role they may play in someone’s else’s struggle,” according to the publisher. Faithwords’ editorial director Beth Adams notes, “Albert Tate uncovers the ways racism has been discipled into the church and helps imagine a way forward, toward justice and freedom for all of God’s children.”
Finally, in How to Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, About Racial Reconciliation (Tyndale Momentum, Apr.), pastor and speaker Derwin Gray draws on scripture to make a case for how God envisioned a reconciled, multi-ethnic family in loving community. The book “has a singular focus on the Bible, tracing what scripture says about God’s desire for a multiethnic gathering of the people of God,” says Tyndale acquisitions director Jon Farrar.
“Gray is a healer and reconciler,” he adds, “and he points the way for other Christians.”
Ann Byle is a freelance writer and editor living in Grand Rapids, Mich.