The Gospel and Race: Book Recommendations

Following our time with Leonce, maybe you’ve asked yourself, “What do I do now? How do I learn more?” There are quite literally thousands of podcasts, books, news articles, TED talks, and blog posts on the topic of race in America today. So where do you start?

Don’t forget the relationships

If you were with us for The Gospel and Race: Part 1, you may remember Leonce encouraging us with three “be’s”: be relational, be theologians, and be historians.

By relational, Leonce meant that you should make every effort to start and deepen relationships with people who are from a different ethnic background than you. This is the richest source of insight we can gain in understanding others; it couples the information of their experience with the invested interest we have in them as a friend. Being relational increases your compassion, which is maybe the most important thing for you to work on as you try to relate to people who aren’t like you. Meaningful relationships move us from understanding to empathy. These relationships will help ground what you learn on a historical or theological level.


That being said, if you’re just looking for a place to start learning, here are three excellent, and very different, books. If you read on Kindle you could start right now.

Austin Channing Brown starts off this memoir by telling the story of why her parents gave her a white man’s name. That story, and the book in its entirety, offer a huge benefit to readers: perspective. Through Brown’s experiences you have the opportunity to feel what she feels, to learn from her life, and to grow in your understanding of what it means to be black, and specifically to be a black woman, in America today. If you don’t know where to start, read this book; it’s under 200 pages and 100% worth your time.

In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote an open letter from within Birmingham City Jail, after he’d been arrested for non-violent protest against segregation. In that letter, King sought to lay out his reasoning for fighting injustice, explaining the urgency of the call to justice found in the Gospel itself. In this book, Letters to a Birmingham Jail, pastors and theologians comment on King’s call to justice and how that applies to you. In this book you’ll find some helpful history and a lot of robust theology for understanding the pressing need for equity and compassion in the church today.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once described 11am on a Sunday as the most segregated hour in the United States. In Divided by Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith explain why. They delve into the historical and sociological reasons, digging up the Church’s unsightly past to shed light on the current divide we experience across racial lines. This is the more academic of the three options, but can give you some helpful history to understand the systems and structures that we have to fight against for unity in the church.