A few weeks ago I picked up Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise while my daughter was having ballet class. when spring break arrived, I consumed this book. I cannot say the book was a “delight” to read due to the reality it unconcern regarding the complicity of the Christian church in America and racism I can say, however, that the book was excellent! It is a must read for Christians. Period.
Jemar Tisby masterfully describes how the church from the 1500s through to present day has far to often been silent on the issue of racism. At times, sadly, the church has built up and propagated racism through “biblical” injunctions for slavery and racism. Though much of the history concerns the American south, Jemar shows how racism has been and remains a national issue, and the church from sea to shining sea has been complicit in the nations’ history of race.
Mich of the book was painful to read. It should be painful to read. As a white follower of Christ, I don’t think I had a clue of how much the Christian traditions served the purposes to uphold discrimination, if not argue for it. One example from The Color of Compromise might help here. I knew of the connection between the KKK and Christian ideology, but I thought the KKK was an extremist view, one on the margins of society. Yet, the KKK had multiple millions in its membership, including 40,000 ministers.
40,000 ministers of the “good news”? How many people were influenced by those ministers? How many generations?
The “good news” wasn’t the same preached by Jesus who came “to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19) While Tisby does mention that there were ministers who fought for equality and the elimination of slavery, or spoke out against the Jim Crow laws, Tisby’s point is how normal racism and discrimination were in the American church.
This book is filled with painful truths. But, if reconciliation is going to be worked for, this truth has to be encountered, acknowledged, and repented. Tisby does not just include the historical survey the church so desperately needs to relearn, but he also offers ways forward with practical steps both individuals and institutions can take. These steps may not be complicated, they may be hard. People, me, are (or can be) fearful of difficult conversations or speaking out. But, as Tisby quotes, “be strong and courageous; do not be discouraged, for the Lord God is with you.” (Josh 1:9(
Read this book!