This book is equal parts memoir, historical account, and sociological research. Jones' own words at the start of the book summarize well the central thesis: "White Christian churches have not just been complacent; they have not only been complicit; rather, as the dominant cultural power in America, they have been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect white supremacy and resist black equality. This project has framed the entire American story."
I heard an interview with the author and was curious to read more about the specific findings from his research. One of the most disturbing parts of his statistical analyses was the finding that in the U.S. today, "the more racist attitudes a person holds, the more likely he or she is to identify as a White Christian." This relationship between racist attitudes and identity held even after the author controlled for many other variables, including church attendance.
Another aspect of Jones' findings that impacted me quite a bit was his section on how white supremacy has shaped theology. I'm aware of how certain biblical passages have been misused to justify slavery, etc. and I've read other sociological studies looking at how the different racial experiences lead to certain religious ideas and practices, but what Jones presents is different. He traces the evolution of broader theological ideas from white supremacy. White Christians emphasize certain things from the Bible and in their teachings that have come to be accepted as part of a Christian worldview but were influenced by white supremacy. The author give example of example of how, as he writes, "in human hands, the Bible is as much a screen as a projector."
In the final chapter of the book, Jones says, "And that really is the takeaway everyone should leave with: What are you going to do?" He argues that actions must go beyond racial reconciliation to racial justice. I believe this book can be instructive for our new initiative aimed at bringing about greater racial and ethnic equity at Concordia. As both an institution of higher education and one that professes the importance of Christian faith, I think this book calls us to scrutinize every part of who we are as we take concrete steps forward toward racial justice. The book offers some real-life stories of what that might look like.