Book Review of Decolonizing Christianity: Becoming Badass Believers

By Miguel de la Torre

Decolonizing Christianity
by Miguel de La Torre. (Eerdmans 2021)
Book Review By Beverley Burlock

Decolonizing Christianity is a hard book to read – but it’s one white Christians should read, especially those of us who claim to be progressive.

As a brown person and religious scholar, the author writes from various personal experiences, from the premise that doing is more important than believing, based deeply on the sheep and goats parable. He said the book was not even written for white Americans but for the ethnically and racially disenfranchised, ‘the least of these.’

He further clarified he’s not rejecting Christianity, but rather the Eurocentric lens through which it is seen and defined.

Then, in one place, in chronological order, is the ‘history’ of both the US and its theology, illustrating the logical results for both Trump’s election and the ‘reasoning’of  his supporters. Though the book was written before the results of the 2020 election, what he says would happen, regardless of the outcome, has all come to pass.

The stats are startling: In 2016, 58% of Protestants, 60% of Catholics, 61% of Mormons & 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump; 42% of Americans believe discrimination against whites is more pervasive than discrimination against people of colour; 49% believe so-called ‘reverse discrimination’ is real.

The cosmic battle being fought in US politics, he says is between democracy and theocracy, that Trump normalized (Eurocentric) nationalistic Christian undemocratic morality, and the greatest failure of the white liberal church is their refusal to renounce conservative white Christians. Racism is not a belief but complicity with an ideology. Both black and white minds have been colonized.

The FBI has determined that race-based violence is now a national threat with a priority higher than foreign terrorism. White hatred has been mainstreamed, represented as the political realization of the spiritual. White America says it already knows what’s required. What’s lacking is the will.

The chapter analyzing ‘revelation’ was especially enlightening. The final chapter is especially hard reading for a white person. Regarding ‘solutions,’ he suggests we can’t head instantly to Easter. That’s perverting hope and sacrificing justice for the serenity of the dominant culture without dealing with the sorrow and hopelessness of Holy Saturday, the liminal in-between space inhabited by the marginalized-least. He calls the Least, along with supportive Christians, to cause ‘Good Trouble’ (John Lewis).

I came to understand that just as I had to search myself for unconscious bias, so too I had to also search my actions for unconscious complicity.

Beverley Burlock  grew up in a small ocean town in Nova Scotia, Canada, born into an award winning weekly newspaper family. Thus from the beginning, ink was in her blood, questions were in her brain. Since the questions extended into theology, she was often ‘in trouble’ from an early age, though that never stopped the questions. She has both journalism and theology degrees, and has worked in both professions, calling out injustice in both. Always an avid reader, now in retirement, she can blissfully read to her heart’s delight on an even broader range of topics.

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