Reparations

A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair

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About

Christians are awakening to the legacy of racism in America like never before. While public conversations regarding the realities of racial division and inequalities have surged in recent years, so has the public outcry to work toward the long-awaited healing of these wounds. But American Christianity, with its tendency to view the ministry of reconciliation as its sole response to racial injustice, and its isolation from those who labor most diligently to address these things, is underequipped to offer solutions. Because of this, the church needs a new perspective on its responsibility for the deep racial brokenness at the heart of American culture and on what it can do to repair that brokenness.

This book makes a compelling historical and theological case for the church's obligation to provide reparations for the oppression of African Americans. Duke Kwon and Gregory Thompson articulate the church's responsibility for its promotion and preservation of white supremacy throughout history, investigate the Bible's call to repair our racial brokenness, and offer a vision for the work of reparation at the local level. They lead readers toward a moral imagination that views reparations as a long-overdue and necessary step in our collective journey toward healing and wholeness.

Contents
Introduction: Generations without Recompense 
1. The Call to See
2. Seeing the Reality of White Supremacy
3. Seeing the Effect of White Supremacy
4. The Call to Own
5. Owning the Ethic of Restitution
6. Owning the Ethic of Restoration
7. The Call to Repair
Epilogue
Index


Endorsements

"We are at an inflection point in our nation. We can either continue with the racial status quo or earnestly engage in the long-overdue process of repair. Reparations is a book for this moment. It is a call to action to offer tangible restitution for the historic exploitation of Black labor. While Christians should have been leading the way on this all along, sadly, too many have demonstrated compromise and complicity instead. Kwon and Thompson marshal deep research, theological acumen, and pastoral tenderness to make a timely call for reparations and the dignity of all people."

Jemar Tisby, CEO of The Witness Inc.; author of the bestselling book The Color of Compromise

"Reparations is challenging in the best way: it challenges Christians to look squarely at our history, to take responsibility for our complicity in evil, and, most importantly, to take our mission as the church seriously. This book is a clarion call to understand the context of our mission and how that context must shape our work and community. Reparations is passionate, clear, smart, thoughtful, and blessedly troubling. I hope every American Christian leader--especially White Christian leaders--will read it because it is truly the rare book that, if taken up with an open heart, has the potential to change the world."

Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest; author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night

"How do we make things whole? That is the question Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair helps us answer. Kwon and Thompson walk us through our complicated racial past and give us a glimpse of a future that is reconciled, just, and ultimately more like Christ. This book should be essential reading in classrooms and Bible studies, in religious sanctuaries and the halls of Congress, and for every single believer who cares about justice and equality. The history is sound, the facts are compelling, and the ultimate case must not be ignored."

Joshua DuBois, CEO, media commentator, and former director, White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

"What hope do we have of racial reconciliation unless we right the wrongs of our past? Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson have argued convincingly that reparations is a necessary part of the healing of our churches and our nation, and that people of faith should be leading the way. They have listened to their African American brothers and sisters. They tell us the sad truth about the significant role the church has played in the problem of racism. They demonstrate that reparations is a thoroughly biblical concept and a work of the gospel. And most importantly, with empathy and hope, they show us how we can start repairing our racial brokenness through local and community-based efforts that every one of us can be part of. Read this book and learn how to be a bridge builder for reparations."

Latasha Morrison, founder of Be the Bridge and New York Times bestselling author of Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation

"Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson do a compelling job of laying out the historic legitimacy, the moral necessity, and the biblical urgency for reparations from slavery. With a kind of whiplash effect, they frequently let centuries-old voices speak into this very moment with shocking immediacy. American Christians, especially those of us who are White, should read, internalize, and act upon these arguments with our whole being. May Christ's loving reign over new hearts, minds, and systems reorder the powers of this world that all may freely and justly live."

Mark Labberton, president, Fuller Theological Seminary

"The subject of reparations has been the cause of much heat and little light in some Christian circles. The objections to the very idea range from 'it's an injustice committed against people who had nothing to do with slavery' to 'it's a ploy used by those who never suffered under slavery to take the hard-earned wealth of others.' Arguments for reparations have often veered into emotional and moral appeals without careful theological, biblical, and historical reasoning. This book ends the era of poor pro-reparations arguments and silences the criticisms of those who suspect reparations as a kind of 'reverse injustice.' Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson have given us the careful yet daring, gracious yet trenchant, historical yet relevant, principled yet persuasive teaching the church and the world has desperately needed. Here is a study written with a rare combination of pastoral tenderness and intellectual rigor. I hope it ends the debate about reparations and helps many to begin the work toward achieving it."

Thabiti M. Anyabwile, pastor, Anacostia River Church

"Two words encapsulate this book for me: indictment and invitation. Writing in the prophetic tradition, Kwon and Thompson are unrelenting in indicting the American church for its complicity and collusion in keeping its relative silence regarding the ongoing cries of the African American communities in the Civil War, during the civil rights movement, and in contemporary contexts. With crisp historical details and analysis, combined with a wide-ranging engagement with sources, the authors are to be commended for exposing America's original sin. However, along with stinging words of indictment come words of invitation. Kwon and Thompson invite the readers to reimagine the shape of human flourishing in the church if we were to seek ways to repent for past sins, repair the breaches of the present, and rejuvenate communities for a more beautiful future. This will not be easy reading, but it will be absolutely indispensable reading for all churches. For by engaging with their pastoral counsel and prophetic courage, we will have a better understanding of what it means to see the image of God in every human person."

Paul Chang-Ha Lim, award-winning historian and professor, Vanderbilt University

"As our country awakens to the difficult truth of our shared story and more and more of us are compelled to engage in the reparative work at the intersection of race and economics, Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson's book Reparations is a powerful and important step in the exploration of what repair looks like, not just for African American communities but for the soul of our country."

Anasa Troutman, CEO of The BIG We

"In a Nazi concentration camp, the theologian, pastor, conspirator, and Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer pondered the future of the German church as it lay in the ruins of its fatal allegiance to Hitler. 'What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today.' Has the church so cheapened its witness to the gospel that it now seems incapable of speaking a redemptive word to humanity and the world? Duke Kwon and Gregory Thompson give us a profound and urgent answer in the context of the American church crisis. Reparations is an exemplary work of public theology, born of chastened Christian conviction and pastoral anguish. Beautifully written and generous in tone, Kwon and Thompson's book illuminates the costs and joys of discipleship in a nation marked by White privilege and its theological disfigurations--to which I can imagine Bonhoeffer replying, 'Yes and amen.'"

Charles Marsh, Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia; author of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Admittedly, I am still working through what my own response will be to this convicting, sometimes disorienting book written by two pastors whom I respect greatly. I respect Duke and Greg especially for their careful scholarship, their love for Jesus and Scripture, their sense of prophetic urgency, and their deep empathy toward people of color in particular. Likewise, I respect them for the moral courage it took to put their convictions in book form. Wherever you end up landing in relation to their message and conclusions, I pray that this book will stir you up as it has me toward deeper introspection, deeper curiosity, deeper humility, deeper repentance, deeper love, and above all deeper freedom in Christ, who came to redeem, restore, and repair all that is broken in you."

Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church; author of Jesus Outside the Lines and A Gentle Answer


The Authors

  1. Duke L. Kwon

    Duke L. Kwon

    Duke L. Kwon (MDiv, ThM, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is the lead pastor at Grace Meridian Hill, a neighborhood congregation in the Grace DC network committed to building cross-cultural community in Washington, DC. Kwon is active in public...

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  2. Gregory Thompson

    Gregory Thompson

    Gregory Thompson (PhD, University of Virginia) is a pastor, scholar, artist, and producer whose work focuses on race and equity in the United States. He serves as executive director of Voices Underground (an initiative to build a national memorial to...

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