This was the 2nd book I got an advanced copy of in 2018. Makes me feel like a I’m in the book world’s cool-kid group. Seriously, though, it was an honor to get to put eyes on these books before they hit the shelves and engage with the authors online. The Color of Compromise is already making an impact. I’m excited to share more about that and how I hope to see this book used in Christian community.
When I talk to (usually white) people about racism, the idea of “complicity” is often a struggle; like holding onto a slippery wet fish. Especially when we start talking about complicity among Christians and the church in general.
The failure to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice. Indifference to oppression perpetuates oppression.Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise
Jemar Tisby helps us nail down that fish. Surveying over 350 years of American styles of racism and inequality, readers can see how the church has (as he put it) “chosen comfort over constructive conflict”, often creating but always maintaining a status quo of injustice.
So how does The Color of Compromise use a historical survey to present us with this information?
As I read, I saw three interwoven timelines, spanning from the colonial era of America to the present day:
Going chronologically, this book connects the dots between the 3 timelines to reveal the patterns of the church’s response (or lack thereof) to various forms of racism, focusing on the black-white binary.
For example, Chapter 2 starts with explaining a dilemma in the Virginia colonies over baptizing African slaves who converted to Christianity. The old-world custom was that spiritual brothers in Christ could not enslave one another. Therefore, if a slave converted, there was religious pressure to set him free. Therefore, many slave owners refused to let slaves hear the gospel. However, that didn’t sit well with the church. What to do?!
Tisby explains how the economic priority of free labor influenced the Virginia General Assembly (the governing body at the time) to dictate that baptism would not change someone’s status as free or slave. The church and the slaveholders no longer needed to be at odds over the spiritual salvation of slaves. Missionaries began to focus on the spiritual, not physical, liberation of Christian slaves, and obedience to their masters as a biblical concept. In other words, the church not only went along with chattel slavery but twisted truth to support it.
This clash of economics, politics, racism and the church over the status of slaves is how chattel slavery became law on American soil; 109 years before the Declaration of Independence.
Well, it’s one thing to read that “ancient” history and say…“Yeah, they were so wrong back then.” We are far enough removed from the colonial era that the truth of complicity back then isn’t as threatening to us today. So it’s quite another thing to follow the timeline of racism to our front door and realize how little has really changed in the church.
Yet that is what this book does. It keeps connecting the dots through the Great Awakening, Antebellum, Civil War, Jim Crow, Civil Rights era, turn of the century and on to today with a look at the varied responses to Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump as President of the United States.
Here is one example of how The Color of Compromise brings historical complicity home to the present day.
The idea that the church’s realm is confined to spiritual and ecclesiastical things (like individual salvation or church organization) as opposed to physical or societal things (like slavery or social justice) might be rooted in the early church’s struggle with heretical gnosticism. At any rate, the tendency to think this way was demonstrated in the above example of the Virginia General Assembly.
So it’s no surprise, then, that leading up to the Civil War, an influential southern theologian, James Henley Thornwell, would crystalize this sentiment into a doctrine of the “Spirituality of the Church”.
Tisby explains how this doctrine allowed pro-slavery Christians to sleep at night and kept others silent on the issue. Tisby doesn’t stop there, though. He connects the dots to how this doctrine is still selectively applied today for ignoring racism (e.g. “That’s not a gospel issue”), but is conveniently forgotten for other social, ethical and political issues (e.g. legalized abortion) where the church suddenly springs to action quite visibly.
By chapter 10, the historical survey is complete. The footnotes throughout are more than sufficient for us to do our own further research. Tisby could’ve stopped there, but he doesn’t.
He dedicates the final chapter to presenting solutions and suggestions for the church to break the pattern of complicity. These selective ideas are not exhaustive, but enough to encourage readers to action; to move against the current of racism, instead of continuing to go with the flow of racism by remaining still.
That is why this book makes such a huge impact. The Color of Compromise isn’t about shaming and blaming white Christians. Jemar Tisby presents the church’s racist history and present reality from a place of deep love for the church and desire to fight for true biblical unity and racial solidarity.
If the twenty-first century is to be different from the previous four centuries, then the American church must exercise even more creativity and effort in breaking down racial barriers than it took to erect them in the first place.”Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise
I believe The Color of Compromise will help us move beyond asking “Is there a problem?” and get on with the business of “Let’s fix this problem.” Any church community, whether or not it is currently racially diverse, can benefit by learning from our collective history.
The church can learn to be a credible witness in the midst of injustice and oppression. The church can learn to lead the way in love and unity, showing the world the power of the gospel to reconcile us to one another as well as to God.
I believe The Color of Compromise is an essential resource to that end.
There can be no reconciliation without repentance. There can be no repentance without confession. And there can be no confession without truth.Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise
It’s time to listen to and tell and retell the truth.
BUY THE BOOK:
LISTEN TO THE FIRST CHAPTER FREE:
Click here to open iTunes and listen to Jemar Tisby narrate the first chapter of The Color of Compromise. You will appreciate the gracious and loving way he introduces his book without diminishing the urgency of the church’s current situation.
Friends, we need more mental exercise. I’m not talking brain teasers or word puzzles. I’m talking about challenging our assumptions, exploring other cultural perspectives, unlearning false history, etc.
It’s 2019 and our world is as “Us Vs Them” as ever. We all suffer for it. Most of us put more effort into seeing what’s flawed in others than taking stock of our own shortcomings and changing. So, it’s time to learn up, lovie.
Now…I’ve always loved reading and learning! So it’s easy for me to claim mental exercise should be a priority. However, books aren’t the only way! There are really well-done documentaries and podcasts, historical art exhibits and historical sites to visit, plus cultural events to experience.
I started 2018 wanting to learn more about racial identity development, and broader Christian perspectives on justice and activism. I ended the year seeking out more author’s of color and women. I bought more books than I was able to complete, so 2019 is gonna be a real page turner.
Available on 1/22/19! I got a free advanced copy of this historical survey of the American church to review and help promote. This has a lot of historical facts and quotes, but it doesn’t read like a bland history book.
It is easy to understand, but the subject matter can be hard to confront and digest. It connects the dots, throughout American history that show how the American Christian church has, with few exceptions, silently gone along with the racism of the culture at the time.
Get your pre-order bonus here: www.thecolorofcompromise.com
I got an advanced copy of this before it was released as well. 2018 was a great year for social media book launch teams. Kathy Khang does an excellent job explaining our biggest fears and obstacles to speaking up while making a compelling argument for why we need to learn to use our God-given voices. She is encouraging and provides great practical wisdom on discernment, handling backlash, and even tackles how best to use social media.
I will share a more comprehensive review soon.
A just-for-fun novel! This is part mental exercise though, with a heap of guilty pleasure reading. Kevin Kwan is a wildly successful Chinese-Singaporean-American author and that deserves to be celebrated. This trilogy provides comedy and romance, Chinese & Singaporean culture clashing with western values, #richpeopleproblems and sinful descriptions of tasty foods I will probably never get the pleasure of trying in my lifetime.
Thank you, cousin, for sending me these books!
The first book I read in 2018. Daniel Hill, a white pastor, shares his racial awareness journey and the common struggles in faith and identity for white Christians.
I started the year with this book because I grew up in white culture and hoped this would help me decode and deconstruct some things. I think it helped. I would recommend this to all my white Christian friends.
Such a loving and gracious book. I found this enormously helpful in learning to differentiate what is praiseworthy and redeemable in my God-given ethnicity vs seeing myself through the harmful/sinful lens of the man-made concept of race. Sarah Shin does a great job of giving us positive language to use when speaking of ethnic and cultural differences.
I would recommend to anyone struggling to see past the brokenness in their racial or ethnic identity.
Fiction & Fantasy!
Ken Liu created a wonderful world and great characters and put them in an epic story that folds in elements of east asian culture and folklore. This is a beast of a novel, though, so not for the reluctant reader. It is refreshing and thrilling to read a novel of this scope and magnitude that features asian customs and traditions.
Can’t wait to read the next book and continue the story.
Oh my. This was the sweat fest my brain never saw coming. Took me months to work through this. Why? Well, for one, Christena Cleveland packs a lot of education into this book. It is part autobiography, part sociology and part social psychology.
And then, she made my spirit do some hard work. This book focuses on our life in the church with fellow believers and how we are called to a costly and deep level of unity with one another across racial, political, and cultural, lines. This is something I wish we would all read but I’d probably save the recommendation for the truly committed spiritual leader.
Finally a “Meh” rating. This was read as a group study. I wouldn’t have read it otherwise. Let’s see, this book was supposed to present how Proverbs speaks to everything. To me, it read more like how a white woman of a certain age interprets Proverbs. There were a few helpful insights, though.
I wasn’t the only one in the group study who raised an eyebrow. Can’t say I’d recommend it. Maybe to my mom. She’d probably find it encouraging.
The antidote to the last book! Haha. If you bristle at the title, calm down. This is actually way less controversial of a book than you’d think. Sarah Bessey kind of whimsically rambles a bit I think, but she shares some great insights into just how subversive Jesus’ care and attentiveness for women was in the Bible.
See, Christians have a reputation for being kind of anti-woman, but the Bible’s view of women shows crazy love for the ladies…IF you understand the cultural contexts of the stories. So I liked it. My mom probably would too if she could get past the word “feminist” on the cover. Haha. Love ya, mom. Actually, she isn’t reading any of this. Don’t panic.
Oh holy, historical (science fiction) horror!
Kindred was a very engaging and well written novel. Amazing character development, tackling two different time periods, interracial marriage, and a strong female protagonist. HOWEVER, it was hard to read sometimes as it presents some intense themes and devastating imagery (read: chattel slavery, violence, rape, misogyny). Death comes to life in this one.
That ending, though! I’m both excited and scared to read more from Octavia Butler.
Binti was a super fast and wild Young Adult Fiction read. The setting is a futuristic sci-fi space fantasy featuring a young mathematical prodigy. Binti has deep roots in her ethnic culture and has to learn how to keep her identity while breaking traditions and forging a new, controversial path. You can literally finish a book in a morning, but the story stays with you. Surprising and enjoyable storyline, even if you’re not all that into aliens and space travel and whatnot.
This 3 part documentary may be 16 years old, but the information is STILL SO NECESSARY! I’m talking debunking the idea that race has a biological reality, explaining how it functions as social construct, showing the systemic oppression of non-white people generation after generation. These are still things people do.not.understand.
So watching this as the foundational learning experience of a small group I started last year was perfect. I bought the DVD with a Home License but you can also rent it on Vimeo for less than $5 I think.
So this was the first podcast that I really got sucked into. It’s only a 14 episode series from Scene On Radio, but it’s so well done. John Biewen, a white journalist, tackles the questions of where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for? He interviews all kinds of scholars and dives into some really interesting stories and histories. And it’s FREE!