Book Reviews -- By: Matthew S. DeMoss
BSac 176:703 (July-September 2019) p. 373
By The Faculty And Staff Of Dallas Theological Seminary
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. By Jemar Tisby. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019. 253 pp. $21.99.
Tisby is president of The Witness, a black Christian collective, cohost of Pass the Mic podcast, and, at the time of publication, a PhD candidate at the University of Mississippi. This book focuses not on the causes of racism but the role of the American Protestant church’s complicity in it and concludes with multiple suggestions of ways to improve in the future. In the foreword, Lecrae observes, “As a student of history, [Tisby is] careful with stories and data, seeking to let history speak for itself by boldly telling the truth and helping us connect the dots between events over 400 years of our country’s history” (9).
The author defines racism as “prejudice plus power. It is not only personal bigotry toward someone of a different race that constitutes racism; rather, racism includes the imposition of bigoted ideas on groups of people” (16). He writes, “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. They chose comfort over constructive conflict and in so doing created and maintained a status quo of injustice” (17). However, Tisby explains, “Given the history, complicity is a weak word for describing how American Christianity has often interacted with race. . . . Complicity connotes a degree of passivity—as if Christianity were merely a boar languidly floating down the river of racism. In reality, white Christians have often been the current, whipping racism into waves of conflict that rock and divide the people of God. Even if only a small portion of Christians committed the most notorious acts of racism, many more white Christians can be described as complicit in creating and sustaining a racist society” (ibid.). It is hard to argue against this; the church’s record on dealing with racism could surely be better.
It is important to Tisby that his readers know that he is not criticizing the church from the outside. He writes, “I love the church. My concern for the church and for the well-being of its people motivates my exploration of Christian complicity in racism. The goal is to build up the body of Christ by ‘speaking the truth in love,’ even if the truth comes at the price of pain” (19). He acknowledges that “the church has not always and uniformly been complicit with racism. The same Bible that racists misused to support slavery...
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