By Patrick Miller
As a pastor, I want nothing more than a diverse local church. But it doesn’t matter what I want. It matters what Jesus wants, and he already has a diverse global church. We do well to listen to many voices from our global (and local) community who do not look like us. I’ve had a lot people ask me what I read in preparation for the sermon I preached on January 3. The list is long. Over the last decade, I’ve read countless books by Christian and non-Christian experts on both sides on issues like race, gender, and sexuality.
Rather than giving a bibliography, I want to share some of the best books I’ve read that challenge the right and the left. I don’t agree with everything in all of these books. But, on the whole, I recommend them as helpful correctives to our current tribalism. If you don’t like being offended and challenged, I’d suggest reading something else ASAP.
Books that challenge the far right:
Christopher Wright is one of my favorite authors. As a non-American, he sees something in our society that we Americans are easily blind to. He confronts the idolatry of the American state and challenges the idols of capitalism, which often go unchecked in far-right circles. You can listen to my interview with the author here.
Is America God’s chosen nation? Where did we get this idea from? What is lost if we starting conflating America with Jesus? Lee C. Camp answers these questions in 15 provocative propositions. If you want the reader’s digest version, Keith and I discuss the topic of nationalism here.
This book is not about the far right, but it does confront issues people on the far right need to consider. Namely, the misconceptions that (1) the Black church is somehow unorthodox or unbiblical and (2) the Black church roots all of its critiques in Critical Theory. Both of those perspectives are terribly uninformed. There is also a great chapter on policing, which Keith and I discussed in a two-part podcast episode. (Listen to part 1 and part 2.)
This book outlines a history of race in the American church. I learned more from this book about church history than I did in a semester of seminary. If you are unfamiliar with how our churches became so segregated (spoiler alert: white people were responsible for it), then you need to read this.
Books that challenge the far left:
How is the far left’s definition of justice different that the Bible’s? This book answers that question while simultaneously calling Christians to robust justice. It also includes interludes by 12 authors of color, which I found deeply moving and insightful. I could have put this book on either list. It’s that good. For more on how critical theory has altered the biblical definition of justice, listen to this episode of Ten Minute Bible Talks.
John M. Perkin’s history as a civil rights activist and a pastor demands our respect. This book is both a challenge to white America to continue confronting racial injustice and a challenge to the far left, which has left behind the truth of gospel and Jesus’s way of doing things. This is another one that could have gone on either list.
The author of this book is not a Christian. He is a gay atheist. And that’s exactly why you need to read him. He is one of countless examples of people whom the far left claims to speak for, and yet he disagrees. That disagreement has gotten him blacklisted and internet shamed. In this book he explores how some of the ideas of the far left have taken root so quickly.
Again, not a Christian author. Abigail Shrier is politically-moderate author who is for an adult’s right to change his/her gender medically and socially. But in this book, Shrier shows how the far left has systematically shut down the conversation on transgenderism among teens, which has caused a tremendous amount of pain and injustice.
What will you read next? Keith Simon shares 11 books on race that can help us learn more about not only the nation’s history but also the church’s history.