Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion is about as no-holds barred as the title seems to suggest. The book starts with a broadside from Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: “So-called white evangelicals, who say so much about what God says so little–and so little about what God says so much–have dominated public discourse about religion in America for my entire adult life. They have insisted that faith is not political, except when it comes to prayer in school, abortion, homosexuality, and property rights… What these so-called evangelicals have done is nothing short of theological malpractice” (1). From there, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove issues a call to recognition and repentance that deserves a hearing.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part goes over the history of Christianity in America with an emphasis on both slaveholders and religion and modern anecdotes about religion in some parts of America. The second part focuses on redirecting some aspects of faith back towards true Christian perspective on justice and Gospel.
Wilson-Hartgrove’s account is at least partially autobiographical as he traces his own experiences with observing racism and living in areas steeped with a history of slaveholding religion. He also discusses how we might go about changing the narrative going forward, working to restore Christ to the church.
Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion is a difficult read. It issues a strong call to realize the alliance with racist perspectives that the church in the United States historically has participated in. Though it may not be as robust in possible solutions as some other works, it does a good job issuing a call to action for Christians everywhere.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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Does he quote Douglass or Cone much?
I don’t recall either being very central. The book doesn’t have an index so I checked through the notes and didn’t see references to them, but it was a quick scan. If he did, they were not major figures in the book.