In light of the horrific killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, many churches and Christian organizations have scrambled to assemble books lists to help fellow believers learn about race. Unfortunately, these recommendations rarely come with guidance about the extent to which a particular book is helpful or biblical. In particular, little is said about the ideology of critical race theory, which is playing an increasingly important role in our culture and even among evangelicals.
Below, I’ve compiled my reviews of popular books on race, many of which I’ve seen recommended recently by Christians. We should always be willing to let books challenge our views. But we should also always read them with discernment, subjecting authors to biblical scrutiny and weighing what they say against the Bible. Some of these books will do far more harm than good to the pursuit of racial unity within the Church.
See short summaries below. Click on links for the full review.
- The New Reformation by Shai Linne – solidly biblical, gracious, and unifying. Highly recommended.
- Beyond Racial Gridlock by George Yancey – compares and critiques various secular models before offering a biblical, gospel-centered approach to racial dialogue based on active listening and a recognition of our own sinfulness. Highly recommended.
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson – a beautiful, heart-rending, but ultimately redemptive book calling attention to injustices within our judicial system. Thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
- The Decline of African American Theology by Thabiti Anyabwile – despite its title, shows the deep, orthodox roots of the Black Church. Excellent historical overview. Highly recommended.
- Reviving the Black Church by Thabiti Anyabwile – excellent suggestions for “reviving the Black Church” that are just as applicable to the church as a whole. Highly recommended.
- Liberating Black Theology by Anthony Bradley – a good analysis of the problems with Black Liberation Theology. Recommended.
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – a kafkatrap of staggering proportions. Whites can admit they are racist or deny they are racist and thereby show they are fragile. Racism is everywhere and every interracial friendship is tainted by racism. Poison.
- How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – antiracism as a secular religion. Kendi posits that true antiracism requires the dismantling of sexism, racism, classicsm, homophobia, transphobia, and other interlocking systems of oppression.
- Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi – a good overview of our nation’s sordid racial history mingled with questionable presuppostions and some factual errors.
- The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby – a fair review of the church’s tepid historical response to slavery and racism, but framed in a way that makes disagreement difficult.
- Be The Bridge by Latasha Morrison – helpful accounts of the author’s experience, but troubling in its theological commitments, alliances, and recommendations.
- I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown – a memoir that draws heavily on the categories of critical race theory and calls for power reversal within the church.
- White Awake by Daniel Hill – engaging and orthodox, but naive about the ideological underpinnings of the authors cited and the dangers inherent in its assumption of white racial blindness.
- Reconstructing the Gospel by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove – a diatribe against the vaguely-defined “slaveholder religion” of white evangelicalism and a call to embrace an equally vague “reconstructed gospel”
- Can ‘White’ People Be Saved by Love Sechrest – the end result when we syncretize evangelicalism and critical race theory. A cautionary tale.
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone – a meditation on the failure of American theologians to notice the connection between crucifixion and lynching. Cone’s own theology is latent, but rarely discussed.
- A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone – very heterodox. Some of Cone’s statements are breathtaking for their anger and bitterness.
- God of the Oppressed by James Cone – strikes a milder tone than the previous work but the preface especially shows how Cone’s theology became even more liberal over time.
- The Myth of Equality by Ken Wystma – contains unobjectionable reflections on America’s sad history of racial injustice but includes analyses rooted more in contemporary sociological trends than in a biblical worldview.
- Rediscipling the White Church by David Swanson – an genuine attempt at racial unity that is, unfortunately, suffused with bad ideas about race.
- After Whiteness by Willie James Jennings – more poetry than prose, Jennings’ book offers interesting personal anecdotes, but little by way of sustained argument.
- We Need to Talk About Race by Ben Lindsay – a mixture of helpful insights and wrong assumptions.
- How To Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby – while some of Tisby’s suggestions are good and laudable, the book is plagued by imprecision, ambiguity, and faulty assumptions.
- Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham – identifies a legitimate, serious problem but paints with an overly broad brush.
- White Evangelical Racism by Anthea Butler – fundamentally flawed for several reasons, especially an absence of any citations and a lack of theological reflection.
See all content on critical theory here.