The faculty of the John Wesley Honors College (JWHC) at Indiana Wesleyan University join with much of the world in mourning the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and recognize that their recent deaths are part of a centuries-long pattern of dehumanizing treatment of people of color, especially black persons, in our country.
As a community of Christian liberal arts learning committed to pursuing reconciliation as the heart of the gospel, moments such as these compel us to ask how we might redouble our efforts to root out the ways our country’s dysfunctional racial history continues to shape our institutions, communities and personal lives. We are especially concerned with how our own Christian tradition and evangelical heritage are implicated in the problems of race.
To know how we can more effectively undermine the personal and systemic malformations of race in church and society, we endeavor to understand the historical, sociological and theological foundations of racism that have brought us to this point.
A Wesleyan vision of social holiness affirms that thoughtful action towards others requires sustained thoughtfulness about how our country’s racialized realities continue to create challenges, inequities, biases and misunderstandings that must be addressed if the Church is to fulfill its calling as a spiritual community of reconciliation.
To this end, a reading list of 12 books has been compiled that members and friends of our community might consult for an overview of the historical, sociological and theological practices that have kept us divided along racial lines. The purpose of the list is precisely to provide an understanding of how the church has contributed to racism and what pastors can do to address it.
Recognizing that members of our community hold differing degrees of familiarity with issues of racialization in the church, we’ve grouped these recommendations according to levels of experience: introductory, intermediate and advanced.
Introductory texts are for Christians who have never given a moment’s thought to race and/or racism in the Church. If you’re brand new to the idea, start with the introductory texts. Intermediate means you’re not new to the conversation. You and your church have started kicking around ideas about a Christian response to race but haven’t made much concrete progress yet. Advanced is for those Christians who have been thinking long and hard about how to address race in their congregations and have even take intentional steps to do so.
The selections below will help identify the problem of racialization in the American Church and inspire thinking for how we might undo this problem.
- Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Role in Racism
- Christena Cleveland, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart
- Michael Emerson, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
- James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree
- Brian Bantum, The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World
- Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
- Jason Shelton, Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions
- Korie Edwards, The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Multiracial Congregations
- Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
- Mark Noll, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History
- Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race
- James Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account
We look forward to continuing to process through these important matters in various JWHC courses in the fall and trust that students will return to campus eager to engage in this work of inquiry and learning.
It is our hope that by engaging this topic thoughtfully and charitably, we will evermore live out the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand, To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
Information and resources provided by faculty and staff in the John Wesley Honors College at Indiana Wesleyan University.
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