Renovare

Reconstructing the Gospel

Finding Freedom from Slave-Holder Religion

by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

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 racial injus­tice and white suprema­cy in the name of Jesus. His Chris­tian­i­ty, he dis­cov­ered, was the reli­gion of the slave­hold­er.

Just as Recon­struc­tion after the Civ­il War worked to repair a des­per­ate­ly bro­ken soci­ety, our com­pro­mised Chris­tian­i­ty requires a spir­i­tu­al recon­struc­tion that undoes the injus­tices of the past. Wil­son-Hart­grove traces his jour­ney from the reli­gion of the slave­hold­er to the Chris­tian­i­ty of Christ. Recon­struct­ing the gospel requires fac­ing the pain of the past and present, from racial blind­ness to sys­temic abus­es of pow­er. Grap­pling seri­ous­ly with trou­bling his­to­ry and the­ol­o­gy, Wil­son-Hart­grove recov­ers the sub­ver­sive­ness of the gospel that sus­tained the church through cen­turies of slav­ery and oppres­sion, from the civ­il rights era to the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment and beyond.

When the gospel is recon­struct­ed, free­dom rings both for indi­vid­u­als and for soci­ety as a whole. Dis­cov­er how Jesus con­tin­ues to save us from our­selves and each oth­er, to repair the breach and heal our land.

2018

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