Jemar Tisby’s first book does a masterful job describing how White Christians in America compromised on slavery and segregation against Black Americans. But in his attempt to expose the American Church’s supposed complicity in systemic racism today, Jemar Tisby reveals his own complicity in foolish, ignorant controversies that breed quarrels within the Church.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism outlines a history of systemic racism within the American political system and the American Church—a history of complicity in racism that Jemar Tisby argues remains to this day.

The Color of Compromise opens with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 Alabama, when 4 members of the Ku Klux Klan planted bombs inside a Black church, killing 4 young girls and injuring 22 members of the church.

Jemar Tisby’s description of the horrific event serves as a good imagery for racism. Just as the bombing damaged the church building and its people—racism—like the bombing, has hurt many Black Americans and the American church throughout history.

That history has largely been ignored by too many White evangelicals. For instance, many Black Christians learned from their local pastors that Martin Luther King, Jr. rejected biblical Christianity, but they didn’t learn from the same pastors that evangelical heroes like George Whitefield was a notorious slave-owner who held racist beliefs about Black people.

Evangelicals have not written many books on this difficult subject, so I appreciate Tisby’s account of the American Church’s role in racism, slavery, and segregation throughout America’s history.

In the first 5 chapters of the book, Tisby details how White Christians defended slavery from 17th century Colonial America to the Civil War era in the 19th century. Tisby’s in-depth account of the American Church’s position on slavery within that time affirms that racism was the rule, not the exception within American churches.

The Color of Compromise reveals that in the 17th century, Anglicans in Virginia produced a law to ensure that slaves couldn’t be emancipated by baptism. Tisby explains that in the next century, the most prominent Christian leaders in the American church, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, defended slavery and purchased slaves. Then he describes how racism produced segregation in congregations and splits within virtually every kind of protestant denomination. Tisby proves that some of the major denominations in America, including the Southern Baptist Convention, were established because of alliances between pro-slavery churches.

In Chapter 6, he explains how a Southern Baptist pastor, Thomas Dixon Jr., revitalized the Ku Klux Klan by authoring books that glorified White supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan. One of Dixon’s books was later adapted into an infamous film named The Birth of a Nation. The film is apparently America’s first blockbuster movie and became a cultural phenomenon in the early 20th century. One of the film’s biggest fans was American president Woodrow Wilson. Tisby effectively traces Woodrow Wilson’s racist beliefs to his father, a prominent Presbyterian pastor. Then Tisby shares one of the most shocking words from the entire book when he quotes a historian who estimates that 40, 000 ministers were members of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.

If The Color of Compromise was only six chapters long, it would have been, mostly, a good book. However, at the middle of the book, Jemar Tisby approves of heretical theology from social gospel preachers and liberation theology heretics like Walter Rauschenbusch and James Cone. And when he transitions from slavery and segregation to more modern events, he shifts from irrefutable accounts to accusations and relies on perception, not proof.

The second-half of The Color of Compromise is partisan politics and leftist rhetoric masked as prophetic truth. By the 9th chapter, it becomes apparent that Jemar Tisby cannot prove that the American political system and the American Church is systemically racist against Black Americans today. And that is, perhaps, why he writes:

At this point, readers of this book may be wondering if we will find the proverbial “smoking gun”—explicit evidence that connects the American church with overt complicity in racism. While there is no smoking gun here, we must remember that even though racism never goes away, it adapts.”

In other words, Jemar Tisby does not have evidence to back up his claims. It’s concerning that though he admits he doesn’t have “explicit” evidence for his claims, he persists in his wild accusations against millions of Americans within the Church.

When Jemar Tisby claims systemic racism has adapted into different, more covert forms of racism in our era, he immediately points to conservative politicians and conservative policies to validate his claims. He insinuates that by voting for Republicans, White evangelicals in America are complicit in racism. For that reason, much of the last section of the book reads like paid advertising from leftist groups.

At the beginning of the book, Jemar Tisby wrote:

The Color of Compromise tells the truth about racism in the American Church in order to facilitate authentic human solidarity.”

How should we facilitate authentic human solidarity? According to Tisby’s solutions at the end of the book, it isn’t the power of the gospel, but the power of “leftist” politics. His solutions for authentic human solidarity include reparations for Black Americans, removal of confederate monuments, embracing Black Theology, free education for Black students, and establishing Junteeth as a national holiday—all partisan politics and no gospel.

via Kaleoscope

3 Comments to: Book Review: The Color of Compromise

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    John Barbour

    February 12th, 2019

    Thank you for this review. It sounds like this book is great on history but weak on sound Biblical theology and biblical solutions. Does the book call attention to the human tendency to seek the praises of man instead of God? One of the speakers at the recent conference spoke on this. This is key. It was excellent. Was it Josh Buice or another?

    How it applies: Racism was accepted as scientific in the early years of our Republic. This traced itself from Aristotle and only got worse with the enlightenment and Darwin. For example: the beginnings of political science in this country can be traced to John Burgess, who built his discipline on racism. Christians did not want to be seen as odd by not holding to the prevalent “scientific” ideas of the day. This is why most accepted evolution with a ” theistic evolution compromise” which is really just capitulation. Is it any different today? Now, it is the prevailing “political correctness” based upon cultural Marxism which was the “scientific” case for socialism.

    So, the real problem cannot be solved by switching from early science to post WW2 science, that does all it can to distance itself from its racist past. The answer must be a return to scripture and a recognition that Jonathan Edwards et al had blind spots that were not brought under the scrutiny of Holy Scripture. Is this hard to admit? If so, why? Shall we exchange one set of blindness for a new post-modern one?

    Paul said it best, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

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    February 16th, 2019

    Please explain what the gospel is, apart from the Love of Christ. To help African Americans who suffer from the consequences of slavery is love, it’s action, it is doing more than just apologizing. Just think about what the world considers to be foolishness, the message of the cross. But you use this term “foolish” to describe Mr Tisby’s arguments. Please tell me what you think should be done to right the wrongs of the church. How do you reach a people who still feel the weight of oppression? A people who are told that they need a saviour to help keep them humbly under white oppressors. That’s how many African Americans see the Christian gospel. I face this obstacle as I evangelize and disciple in the inner-city. We can’t keep telling them that things are better than they were when we don’t really know. All we know is that things are different than they were.

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    May 11th, 2019

    Hi Samuel, thank you for this post. I just finished reading Tisby’s book myself.

    The quotation you cite from chapter 9 does not contain the sentence “While there is no smoking gun here…” in the copy I have. Perhaps this was in the pre-published copy you read? I think it may be helpful to update this article to account for this disparity.


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