Book review: Kwon and Thompson’s book is encouraging in Racial Reconciliation!

I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking and praying through racism and its lasting, crippling, damaging, and long-term effects.

This summer Jodi and I were driving on the loop around Sioux City when we heard a podcast of an interview with Duke Kwon, one of the authors of this book. I was riveted. And broken. And encouraged. And inspired. And hopeful. And broken again.

Though this is a deeply painful reality, it does not have to stay that way. The hurt and the pain and the real history actually goes deeper than I had normally acknowledged. Kwon does an amazing job showing from history where the church has been immensely helpful and also deeply sinful. it is not an “either / or” – and I wish it was – but it is a “both / and.” What do we do with that?

Healing will require cultural changes that impact both individuals and institutions addressing all three areas of theft: wealth, truth, and power. It is based on the God who bestows equal value with one another as his image bearers and restores to himself sinful, selfish people who are transformed to act like Christ who did not merely look out for his own interests and thought of others as more important than himself (Philippians 2).

Here are some of the helpful frameworks that the book points out to understand both the real hurt and practical restoration that we can enter into and be part of the solution as we listen, are quieted, grow in compassion, and much more. May God do this.


The sin and devastation of Racism has three elements to it:

  • “First, classifying human beings into distinct “races” due to presumably fixed and hereditary physical characteristics.
  • Second, assigning notions of inferior mental or moral capacities correlated to those physical characteristics.
  • Third, pushing people who are seen to have those physical, mental, and moral qualities to the margins of a given social order.

Our conviction is that racism is best understood culturally, [vs merely personal or institutional] as a force that shapes the entire ecosystem of meanings, values, ideas, institutions, and practices of American culture.

Some, for example, view racism personally, as a form of personal prejudice whose remedy is personal repentance. Others view it socially, as a form of relational estrangement that requires racial reconciliation. Still others view it institutionally, in terms of discrete institutional injustice whose redress lies in institutional reform.”

Racism at its core is theft that is three-fold:

  • “not only the theft of wealth (as is generally understood);
  • but the theft of truth;
  • and the theft of power as well.

We also contend that this theft is best understood not merely in terms of wealth but in the more comprehensive terms of truth and power. This is an important feature of this work that distinguishes it from most of the literature on reparations.”

Thus restoration and reconciliation and reparation efforts must address all three of the areas where the theft has occurred, not being reductionistic to only consider one.

The Christian tradition understands human identity not fundamentally in terms of race but in terms of the image of God. This unspeakable glory, bestowed on all human beings, is the ultimate anchor of human identity. Likewise, the Christian tradition understands history not primarily as the unfolding of ideological or material forces in the world, but as the unfolding of God’s mysterious and redemptive love, made known in Jesus and expressed by the Spirit in the world. We ourselves view the nature of identity and the meaning of history in just this way.”

Reparations, quotes and my notes from their overview of the arguments in p11-17.

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