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WHITE AS SIN by Scott Garber


A New Paradigm for Racial Healing

by Scott Garber

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-977208-13-2
Publisher: Outskirts Press

A writer offers an indictment of six centuries of white Christianity and a guide to racial reconciliation in today’s church.

As a white minister who spent most of his career affiliated with majority black or multiracial churches, Garber is attuned to the “ecclesiastical apartheid” of America’s houses of worship. He devotes the first half of his narrative to a systematic history of the intertwining of Christianity and racism. Beginning with Pope Nicholas V’s 1455 papal bull that encouraged Roman Catholic nations to subjugate non-Christians through Protestant defenses of slavery in the 19th century based on Pauline epistles and an amorphous “Curse of Ham,” Christians justified white supremacy for centuries. Even after the abolition of slavery, white Christians passed Jim Crow laws, participated in lynchings, and responded at best with skepticism, if not outright hostility, to the civil rights movement. The author extends this historical pattern to contemporary Christians who embrace a convenient ideology of “colorblindness” that self-servingly benefits whites and ignores racial injustices like the mass incarceration of black men. The second half of the book centers on healing, which Garber suggests must begin with the confession of racist sins, both historical and contemporary “colorblind” iterations that treat structural and historical racism with ignorant ambivalence. After confession comes redress, which centers not on ignoring race and treating everyone “equally” but on providing justice to those harmed, which often comes at the expense of the culprits, as shown in biblical stories about repentance. Though Garber does not pull any punches in this illuminating and vital work, his analysis is particularly nuanced in differentiating between Catholic, Evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Pentecostal histories and approaches to race. And while his focus is on the white church, he deftly highlights an alternate black religious universe that spans from the liberation theology of James Cone to the Beloved Community of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But this extreme thoroughness comes at the cost of an often overwhelmingly dense book whose central points are sometimes overshadowed by a deluge of supporting evidence.

An indispensable work that challenges white Christians to confront and atone for past sins.