SUMMARY: Exceptionalism. Triumphalism. White Supremacy. Mythology. These are just a few of the words that are the bedrock of the United States of America and the white American church. The blending of Christianity with conquest, and the white church’s allegiance to the Doctrine of Discovery justified white supremacy and influenced the racist and sexist wording of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. This blending led to boarding schools, internment camps, and people groups forcibly moved off of their ancestral lands. As a result people of color and white people experience vastly different lives.
Quoting from papal bulls, the Doctrine of Discovery, the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence pastors Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah tell the story of the systemic racist ideologies that started over 600 years ago and still affect all Americans to this day.
From tearing down the mythology of Abraham Lincoln, to pointing out the saturation of white supremacy in churches to calling attention to the conflation of Israel’s covenant with God being adopted by Americans for genocide, many of the issues discussed by Charles and Rah are so baked into American church and culture it feels like a personal attack.
For white American Christians Unsettling Truths can be a sobering, and at times, disorienting read. Many people will be overwhelmed and/or angry – and that’s okay. Take the time to listen, learn and lament.
KEY QUOTE: “The United States of America has a white majority that remembers a history of discovery, opportunity, expansion, and exceptionalism. Meanwhile our communities of color have the lived experiences of stolen lands, broken treaties, slavery, Jim Crowe laws, Indian removal, ethnic cleansing, lynching’s, boarding schools, mass incarceration, and families separated at our borders. Our country does not have a common memory.”
BONUS: Don’t have time to read the book? Listen to Mark Charles on The Fascinating Podcast to whet your appetite.
BONUS II: Charles live streamed a book study on Unsettling Truths in the summer of 2021. The videos are archived on Instagram.
MORE GOOD READS: Sunday to Saturday has a Good Reads page where we post all of the books we have read – even the ones that didn’t make the cut.
DID YOU KNOW? We have distilled the media we have curated into five guided learning paths to help you learn about racism in your preferred learning style.
More curated books on racism:
When a major cultural event, such as George Floyd’s murder, shifts the focus of a country, it is easy to assume that critiques of the American church and racism are a recent phenomenon. Oftentimes we are simply unaware of prophetic voices from the the past such as Howard Thurman and his quintessential Jesus and the Disinherited. Penned in 1949, Thurman critiques the church and its seduction with power while detailing the psyche and motivation of the oppressed. His ultimate conclusion is that belief in Jesus, in conjunction with community, can empower the disinherited.Read more
To this day church services across the nation are some of the most segregated times of the week. Is this by random chance or was this intentional? Author Jemar Tisby details the sordid history of the American church and its complicity with racism in the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller The Color of Compromise.Read more