Review: America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America

Book cover - America's Original Sin
America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wallis explores the legacy of racism in American culture through the lens of religion and spirituality, raising biblical arguments and concerns for the ways in which white America has never truly reflected and confronted that legacy. He engages in this discussion on many fronts from the historical intersection of religion and activism to the ways in which certain denominations have perpetuated systematic racism to the degree of segregation that occurs in churches (exploring the truth in Martin Luther King's words that 11am on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America). His tone is welcoming as he engages with scripture, history, law, and culture as means of invoking God's fairness, equality, and equity as missing elements in religious circles that refused to engage in racial dialogue. Wallis's discussion also includes the discussion of immigration and invokes Christians to embrace the stranger; a message that is prominent within the Bible itself. Through his writing, Wallis does more than bring up the different issues, theologies, and arguments to address racism in the US, he also walks the talk by discussing the various inclusive work he has done for decades with different spiritual and political groups to effect change. It's an inspiring work that can help those also grappling with religion and racism to find directions to go. From the time of this reading and review (fall, 2018) Wallis book is, at times, a curious one to read. He predates Colin Kaepernick and the merging of him with the Black Lives Movement as well as the election of Trump (helped by many religious folks; especially Evangelicals) and the embrace of racist and xenophobic viewpoints that come with Trump. Thus, when he predicts that Evangelicals will lead the way to immigration reform, it can feel like such a different time and place given all that has happened since. Regardless, the essential message is a powerful and still relevant one that many Christians should be thinking about.

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