Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion

Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion

"I am a man torn in two. And the gospel I inherited is divided."Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove grew up in the Bible Belt in the American South as a faithful church-going Christian. But he gradually came to realize that the gospel his Christianity proclaimed was not good news for everybody. The same Christianity that sang, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound" also perpetuated ra...

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Title:Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion
Author:Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
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Edition Language:English

Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion Reviews

  • Shannon Lewis

    Mandatory reading for all Evangelicals. Timely & relevant, Jonathan cuts to the soul of the significant issues of race & power within the church. I'm going to be reading this over & over to take it all in. I am pretty sure, come the end of 2019, this book will be my "Book of the Year." Thank you for writing it, Jonathan!

  • Adam Shields

    Short review: “There is no way to preach the gospel without proclaiming that the unjust systems of this world must give way to the reign of a new King."

    Reconstructing the Gospel is an attempt to work through the problem of sin and culture infecting the presentation and living out of the gospel. A gospel that justifies slavery, racism and oppression of the poor and marginalized is not the same gospel that Jesus was presenting. I remember reading John MacArthur's commentary on Luke. MacArthur spec

    Short review: “There is no way to preach the gospel without proclaiming that the unjust systems of this world must give way to the reign of a new King."

    Reconstructing the Gospel is an attempt to work through the problem of sin and culture infecting the presentation and living out of the gospel. A gospel that justifies slavery, racism and oppression of the poor and marginalized is not the same gospel that Jesus was presenting. I remember reading John MacArthur's commentary on Luke. MacArthur specifically 'corrected' the reading of Jesus' sermon on the Plains where Jesus says, 'blessed are the poor' to note that Jesus was talking about spiritual poverty and removed the economic implications of Luke's focus. MacArthur never noted (nor have most presentations of Luke that I have read) note that there is a good likelihood that Luke was, or had been, a slave based on his name, background and occupation. Luke's presentation of his gospel as one where Jesus was actually interesting in physically poor and oppressed is often spiritualized by American Christian readings.

    It is this type of misreading of scripture and Christianity that Wilson-Hartgrove is trying to point out and correct.

    Reconstructing the Gospel is a mix of personal memoir of discovery, history and some proscriptions on how we work on reconstructing the gospel for ourselves (plural). The reconstruction suggestions are not simple. As illustrated by his own story, the primary method of reconstructing the gospel is spending LOTS OF TIME learning from people that are poor or oppressed. There isn't really a short cut to discovering blindspots. Reading a couple of books won't really fix it.

    I have a probably too self indulgent review full review on my blog. It is hard not to connect Wilson-Hargrove's book with either the ton of books that have tried to define the gospel or the reading I have been doing on history or the books on race and culture.

    But because we can't really read a book apart from the other related books, I spend about 1400 words making connections on the full review on my blog

  • Crystal

    This is a small but powerful book that helped me define and understand better the concerns that have been growing inside me about (white) American Christianity. While I have refused to give up my faith, I've struggled for the past several years to find a church that I felt comfortable in, that didn't feel segregated, ignorant, or even racist in major or minor ways. I haven't really attended church since the majority of American Evangelicals elected their latest "Family values" candidate, a thric

    This is a small but powerful book that helped me define and understand better the concerns that have been growing inside me about (white) American Christianity. While I have refused to give up my faith, I've struggled for the past several years to find a church that I felt comfortable in, that didn't feel segregated, ignorant, or even racist in major or minor ways. I haven't really attended church since the majority of American Evangelicals elected their latest "Family values" candidate, a thrice married man who has paid porn stars for money and bragged on tape about sexually assaulting women, a man who calls neo-Nazis fine people, but my latinx friends 'drug dealers and rapists', a man who is celebrated by neo-Nazis like David Duke. How can I submit to a church too blind to see the problems with holding him up as 'God's anointed'?

    The answer is simple. I don't. But I've been hanging in limbo, trying to figure out what that means for me, my faith, and any chance of fellowship with other believers. Then I came across a mention of this book, written by a man who graduated from the same college as me, a few years after I did, that I knew distantly through my roommate. Our (distantly) personal connection as well as the topic piqued my interest, so I did what I rarely do, and immediately bought a copy.

    I am very grateful that I did so. Reconstructing the Gospel isn't a large volume, but it is a powerful, heartfelt one. Jonathan is honest about his own roots, in admittedly racist North Carolina Christian culture, and about his own journey away from that, into what he has become and is becoming, a devout Christian in recovery from "whiteness" and growing in fellowship with what he hails as the true American church, the historically black church. There's much about Jonathan's cultural heritage and upbringing with which I cannot identify, as a northern-born descendant of Anabaptists. But I'm still an heir of the foundational white supremacy of our country and of the white American church. and Jonathan helped me see, more than anyone has before him, how much that mistaken identity of "whiteness" has poisoned not only our systems as a whole, but each individual "white" person who has bought the concepts, who has participated in the lifestyle, who has benefited from the systemic racism all around us. That includes me.

    I've read critiques of this book that it's not heavily theological, and that's true, but I'm not sure that the lack thereof deserves criticism. This book examines the big picture of the brokenness of our divided country and church, and the small picture of Jonathan's life, and the lives of those around him who have influenced him and helped (or hindered) him in his walk. It doesn't pretend to be a theological textbook. What it offers to be is a call to change, community, and true holiness for those 'white' Christians who are willing to hear. I'm willing to hear, and therefore much of what Jonathan writes really ministers to me, and I hope that I will continue to follow through on what I've read and learned, as I continue to seek out reconciliation on scales both large and small, and to do the work of justice we are called to, as I recover from the toxic concept of "whiteness", especially white Christianity.

  • Erin *Help I’m Reading and I Can’t Get Up*

    Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in order to produce an honest review.

    This book is a passionate, emotional look at the Southern evangelical Gospel and its inextricable rootedness in racism and slavery. It is charitable, Scriptural, theological, and personal. The author's deep ties to his state (North Carolina, where I also live!) and to the work being done here, particularly the work of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II-- whose books I highly recommend-- drive the feeling that this

    Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in order to produce an honest review.

    This book is a passionate, emotional look at the Southern evangelical Gospel and its inextricable rootedness in racism and slavery. It is charitable, Scriptural, theological, and personal. The author's deep ties to his state (North Carolina, where I also live!) and to the work being done here, particularly the work of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II-- whose books I highly recommend-- drive the feeling that this is not an academic exercise; this is his life. And ours.

    Though Part I is a bit muddled, I implore you to push through-- everything afterward is well worth your time.

  • Ethan

    A personal story of reflection regarding the Christianity in which the author was raised and his reckoning and grappling with its roots in and complicity with slavery, white supremacy, and oppression, and the attempt to "reconstruct" the Gospel to be more consistent with the Good News of Jesus.

    The author is white and shares his story of having to acknowledge how churches in the American South perpetuated oppression both in the days of slavery and long afterward, and how it remains embodied in mu

    A personal story of reflection regarding the Christianity in which the author was raised and his reckoning and grappling with its roots in and complicity with slavery, white supremacy, and oppression, and the attempt to "reconstruct" the Gospel to be more consistent with the Good News of Jesus.

    The author is white and shares his story of having to acknowledge how churches in the American South perpetuated oppression both in the days of slavery and long afterward, and how it remains embodied in much of what passes for Evangelical political action. He speaks of getting to know black people active in the community and the church in North Carolina and how those experiences transformed him. He writes of the work of justice being done which seeks to relieve oppression.

    For those willing to hear, and especially those who already agree with at least most of the author's premises, the book is powerful and compelling. Yet I wonder how it would be viewed by who would be ostensibly the author's desired audience, those who have not yet come to his viewpoint: it may seem strident and overly, to put it nicely, "prophetic" in tone. At times the author becomes guilty of confusing the symptom from the cause: colonialism, and the spread of capitalism as the world's economy, for instance, do not stem from "slaveholder religion," but come from farther upstream, Western cultural and religious chauvinism which defined how it looked at the world, led its people to explore and conquer and enslave, and remains in many forms to this day.

    Overall a challenging message to hear for those willing to hear it. Most of the time the author is not wrong. That does not mean that what he has to say is easy to absorb.

    **--galley received as part of early review program

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