Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Roseanna's Review of "The Color of Compromise" (book by Jemar Tisby)

Review by Roseanna M. White’s review of Jemar Tisby’s book, 
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism

When I heard about this book, it was with a warning: “This isn’t an easy book. It’s a challenging book. And it’s a necessary book.” Cue me all but running to order it. Because when things aren’t easy to learn about, when they challenge preconceived notions…well, that’s when I really come away with new knowledge capable of changing me. That’s what I wanted when it came to the subject this book tackles: the American church’s complicity with racism.

Tisby begins his book with more modern history, taking his readers by the heart and diving directly into the bombing of a black church in the 1960s that killed three pre-teen girls. This kind of hate is the sort we can all call out today, that we can all stand against. But then the author takes us back in time to the very founding of the Virginia colony. And he shows us through documentation and history how our nation ever arrived at the place where people thought it was okay to destroy a church simply because its worshippers were people of color. He shows us how race was a concept deliberately created by one group of people as an excuse to dominate another, how misinformation and gross misconceptions were taught about the nature of said group of people, and how, rather than standing up against it as an institution, the American church instead compromised. Purposefully. Willfully. Repeatedly.

There’s too much history for me to share in a short book review, and honestly, my advice is simply to read this book yourself. But there are a few things I want to touch on, because they represent a history that’s usually ignored, overlooked, or denied. The first being how from its very inception, the Virginia colony acknowledged the duplicity of its stance in its laws. First, it recognized that the slaves being imported from Africa were indeed people with souls capable of being saved—something that had been debated at the time, sadly, but which missionaries insisted upon. But secondly, that they were an inferior sort of person who could be saved, but for whom the usual side-effects of salvation were to be denied. In Europe at that time, if one’s bondservant became a Christian, they were freed from their terms of service. This was the reason slaveholders in Virginia fought to establish a rule that said Black people were not people capable of salvation—they didn’t want to be forced to set them free. So when the missionaries insisted, they struck a compromise: people, but lesser people. Freedom of the soul, but not of the body. That was all the Church was allowed to teach.

And so began a history and a gospel diluted and perverted by our own greed.

I can’t say I enjoyed this book—it’s impossible to enjoy something that shines a light on the evils done not just by one’s country, but one’s brothers and sisters of faith. And yet I couldn’t put it down. With a vivid writing style and carefully chosen examples, Tisby really brings to life the history too long ignored. And ignites in the reader a desire to be better. To right wrongs. To cleanse our lives and churches from the stain of this sin.

Until reading this and Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison, I’d never really pondered that the very splits in many denominations—such as the Southern Baptists breaking away from the original Baptists—were over slavery. But they most assuredly were, which just illustrates the main point of this book: that many Christians not only didn’t speak against slavery, they spoke for it. They believed and taught that it wasn’t only not sinful, it was righteous. It was what God intended. And even though Northern churches drew a different line on slavery itself, very few leaders were willing to take it so far as equality of the races. Even in the North, Black pastors were required to have a White man supervising them, for instance.

The history of racism in America is long and grievous; and though the terminology has changed over the years and acts of violence have become nearly universally condemned, the seeds of it are still there. Harmful ideas are still being taught.

But there’s hope. That’s what I also loved about this book. Jemar Tisby doesn’t just illuminate and condemn—he offers real-world advice for how to systematically change systemic prejudice.

And it begins with each of us making a decision to change it. As individuals, as families, and most importantly, as the Church. God calls us to be His love to the hurting, not to be the oppressors. So what can we do today to turn a pattern of prejudice into one of agape love?

Well, as with most things, the change has to begin with acknowledgment. Admission. Repentance. And then, my friends, our hearts will be ready for effecting true change in the world around us.

I highly encourage everyone to read The Color of Compromise and to find someone to read it with you so you can talk about it as you go or once you’re finished. There are supplementary materials for churches and small groups as well.

Reviewer’s Bio:

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. 

When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing for WhiteFire Publishing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself.

Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books … to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.

You can learn more about her and her stories at

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Blurb for The Color of Compromise:

A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller!

An acclaimed, timely narrative of how people of faith have historically — up to the present day — worked against racial justice. And a call for urgent action by all Christians today in response. 

The Color of Compromise is both enlightening and compelling, telling a history we either ignore or just don't know. Equal parts painful and inspirational, it details how the American church has helped create and maintain racist ideas and practices. You will be guided in thinking through concrete solutions for improved race relations and a racially inclusive church.

The Color of Compromise:

· Takes you on a historical, sociological, and religious journey: from America's early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War

· Covers the tragedy of Jim Crow laws, the victories of the Civil Rights era, and the strides of today's Black Lives Matter movement

· Reveals the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about meaningful integration

· Charts a path forward to replace established patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, immediate action

· Is a perfect book for pastors and other faith leaders, students, non-students, book clubs, small group studies, history lovers, and all lifelong learners

The Color of Compromise
is not a call to shame or a platform to blame white evangelical Christians. It is a call from a place of love and desire to fight for a more racially unified church that no longer compromises what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality. A call that challenges black and white Christians alike to standup now and begin implementing the concrete ways Tisby outlines, all for a more equitable and inclusive environment among God's people. 

Starting today.

Author Bio:

Jemar Tisby is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Color of Compromise, president and co-founder of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, and co-host of the podcast, Pass The Mic. 

He grew up just north of Chicago and attended the University of Notre Dame. He went on to join Teach For America and was assigned to the Mississippi Delta Corps where he taught sixth grade at a public charter school and later went on to be the principal.

He received his MDiv from Reformed Theological Seminary and is presently working toward his PhD in History at the University of Mississippi studying race, religion, and social movements in the twentieth century.

Jemar and his family call the Deep South home and especially love the weather, people, and food! His new book, How to Fight Racism releases in January of 2021 and is available for pre-order now.

Connect with Jemar:

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