Many have been looking for something to “do” during this time in which many of our black brothers and sisters are hurting and protesting about racial injustice. One thing that you can do to start with is to read good books, as well as watch good videos. Below are a few recommendations:
Editor’s Note: I wrote this article back in May of 2019 in response to reading Jemar Tisby’s book “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism”. We thought now would be a good time to publish it.
I recently read Jemar Tisby’s thought-provoking book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. That was a difficult book to read, and it should be, as it showed the American church’s active and passive involvement in racism. As I was reading the book, a thought came to me – Am I a racist?
Growing up I would occasionally hear racist words at home. I know my parents had experienced difficult situations with black students at school in Chicago. I remember my mother telling me of being pushed down the stairs by black students, and that experience had stuck with her. I can remember as a child being in the car as we drove through black neighborhoods to go to a relative’s house in Chicago and my mother instructing us to make sure the car doors were locked. There was certainly fear involved.
As I went through grade school, junior high school and most of high school, I rarely interacted with black students as there were not many who attended our schools. But during my senior year, Jeff transferred to our school and was a member of our school’s basketball team. Jeff was cool. The guys wanted to be around him. Although we never voiced it, we wanted to dress like him, talk like him and even walk like him. I remember going to a mall in the area with Jeff and others to pick out clothes similar to his. Rather than being racist towards Jeff, we embraced him. On the basketball court, we didn’t see color.
Our high school coach encouraged us to play basketball year-round, and to play against college students who were better than us. He told us that is how we would improve, and he was right. As we played on the basketball courts of the local university, many of those students we played against were black. To me and my friends, these players were just like us, not black or white.
A significant change regarding race happened in our community when Illinois State University hired Will Robinson as the first black Division I head coach. Robinson then began bringing in many talented high school players to the school, several of them black. I remember hearing comments about the number of black players on the team, but by that time in our nation’s history, the racist comments were more said under their breath. Tisby writes that racism never fully goes away; it just adapts to changing times and contexts.
When I met Tammy, who would become my wife, I remember noticing some prejudice in her. We talked about how racism and Christianity are not compatible, which was a new realization for her. She would now quote Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.”
Over the years, I have had a few close black friends. One of my faults is that too often when I’m around a black person I find myself talking about black sports figures like Tiger Woods, or music artists like Lecrae. I don’t know why I do this, it’s probably just trying to make a connection, but I need to stop doing it.
So, am I a racist? I hope not. But Tisby tells us that the refusal to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice. I know that I haven’t done enough to promote racial justice, nor have I always done everything I could to address inappropriate racist comments.
One last thing. Remember Jeff, the black basketball player that became part of our team my senior year in high school? The last year of my career at a Fortune 50 organization I worked with his wife and have run into him a few times in the community. Small world.
I highly recommend Tisby’s book. It is sobering and heart-breaking, and would be a good book for Christians to read and discuss, especially church leaders. Here is a link to my review of the book. You can also watch it for free on Amazon Prime Video.
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. Zondervan. 256 pages. 2019
This was a difficult book to read, as it should be. In his “Foreword”, Lecrae writes that the author challenges us to take history seriously and account for it. He warns us that the account we are about to read is sobering and challenging. I would add to this that it is heart-breaking. I believe that it is an account that all Christians should read, especially Christian leaders. It is a well-researched survey of racism in America, what the author refers to as more than 300 years of race-based discrimination. The author tells us that this history of racism and the church shows that the story is worse than most imagine. He states that the stories in the book tell the tale of racial oppression. It is up to the reader to determine whether the weight of historical evidence proves that the American church has been complicit with racism. Although the entire history is essential to know, I focused on the author’s emphasis, that is, the role of the church in racism.
The author focus is primarily on Protestant churches, and when he talks about the “Religious Right”, he focuses on those white evangelicals that align with the Republican party. The book focuses on prominent figures, precipitous events, and well-known turning points in American history. He writes that, historically speaking, when faced with the choice between racism and equality, the American church has tended to practice a complicit Christianity rather than a courageous Christianity. Even if only a small portion of Christians committed the most notorious acts of racism, many more white Christians can be described as being complicit in creating and sustaining a racist society. Christians deliberately chose complicity with racism in the past, but the choice to confront racism remains a possibility today. The book is a call to abandon complicit Christianity and move toward courageous Christianity. The author tells us that it is time to practice courageous Christianity.
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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…And reviews of Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain H. Murray, and How Can I Be Blessed? (Crucial Questions No. 24) by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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