As racial inequality persists in American institutions, society, and even the church, six new books are taking a closer look at the role white Christians can play in healing the division.
“More and more white Christians are waking up to the reality that the church—and our nation itself—is deeply broken along racial lines,” says Ethan McCarthy, associate publisher at IVP.
In May, the press will release Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson, a Chicago-based pastor who speaks around the country about racial justice and reconciliation. The book aims to replace scrambled and superficial attempts at adding diversity within churches with new ways of thinking about the church habits that formed segregation in the first place.
“Swanson contends that, while diversity is important, the core issue is discipleship: white Christians have been malformed as people who minimize, ignore, or explain away the racism in our society,” McCarthy says. “So he proposes ‘rediscipling’ the white church, and suggests ways we can rethink our churches' practices, or liturgies, to that end.”
Kerry Connelly, a life coach and host of the White on White podcast, examines the ways white people unknowingly perpetuate racism in Good White Racist?: Confronting Your Role in Racial Injustice (WJK, out now). She defines a “good white racist” as someone who is not actively working toward antiracism, and each chapter lays out action items for becoming more involved in racial justice initiatives.
“In our hyper-individualistic culture, white Americans tend to reduce systemic problems to a question of personal beliefs or behavior, thinking we are exempt from racism if we don’t personally use the n-word or consciously discriminate against people of color,” says Jessica Miller Kelley, senior acquisitions editor for WJK. “What books like Connelly’s show us is that our belief in our own innocence and goodness blinds us to the reality of ongoing racial injustice and our complicity with white supremacy.”
Kelley also notes that the book demonstrates for white readers how to recognize the damaging culture of white supremacy, rather than putting the burden on people of color to educate others about racism.
John Compton, a political science professor at Chapman University, pinpoints how and why white Christians became more right-leaning and less empathetic toward underprivileged groups within society in End of Empathy: Why White Protestants Stopped Loving Their Neighbors (OUP, June). Highlighting a shift away from mainline Protestant churches during the 1960s, Compton argues that conservative leaders of large evangelical congregations began discouraging the government’s attempts to promote a more equitable distribution of wealth and political authority, which has resulted in the current state of social and political unrest.
Citing public opinion surveys, history, as well as personal experience, CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) Robert P. Jones analyzes Christianity’s role in the formation of white supremacy in White Too Long: Reckoning with the Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity (S&S, June). Further, Jones challenges white Christians to accept responsibility for the past and work toward racial reconciliation.
Also looking at America’s history—including slavery and westward expansion—White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America by Khyati Y. Joshi (NYU, July) explores how Christian privilege and white racial norms impact the lives of all Americans. The book demonstrates how Christian beliefs have been built into the Constitution and beyond, and the sometimes subtle and overlooked ramifications it has for religious minorities.
Finally, Giving Up Whiteness: One Man’s Journey (Broadleaf, Oct.) details author James Jeff’s investigation of what it means to be white in modern America. He explores questions such as how misreadings of Scripture have bolstered white supremacy, and why it has been so difficult to extend to everyone the privileges and protections accrued to white people.
Valerie Weaver-Zercher, acquisitions editor for Broadleaf, says: “Our team knows that white people have a lot of work to do to understand the formative nature of whiteness. The provocative questions that James investigates—can white people get rid of whiteness? Can he?—are compelling, even if they don’t have a simple answer. We believe his book offers a substantive and nuanced take on an urgent issue of our day.”