Ed Gilbreath and Eric Redmond have already commented about this book on their respective blogs, but I thought I would chime in as well. I do not know much about J Kameron Carter, but the thesis of Race: A Theological Account greatly intrigues me. Racial Reconciliation is progressing into a greater conversation within the Christian tradition and theologies have been formed around that concept. However, the simply complex issue of race has never been holistically examined on the context of theology and Christian tradition.
J. Kameron Carter’s thesis:
My fundamental contention is that modernity’s racial imagination has its genesis in the theological problem of Christianity’s quest to sever itself from its Jewish roots. This severance was carried out in two distinct but integrated steps. First, Jews were cast as a race group in contrast to Western Christians, who with the important assistance of the discourses of Christian theology and philosophy, were also subtly and simultaneously cast as a race group. The Jews were the mirror in which the European and eventually the Euro-American Occident could religiously and thus racially conceive itself through the difference of Orientalism. In this way, Western culture began to articulate itself as Christian culture (and vice versa), but now–and this is the new movement–through the medium of a racial imagination. Second, having racialized Jews as a people of the Orient and thus Judaism as a “religion” of the East, Jews were then deemed inferior to Christians of the Occident or the West. Hence, the racial imagination (the first step) proved as well to be a racist imagination of white supremacy (the second step). Within the gulf enacted between Christianity and the Jews, the racial, which proves to be a racist, imagination was forged.
From Race: A Theological Account by J. Kameron Carter, pg. 4.
In Race: A Theological Account, J. Kameron Carter meditates on the multiple legacies implicated in the production of a racialized world and that still mark how we function in it and think about ourselves. These are the legacies of colonialism and empire, political theories of the state, anthropological theories of the human, and philosophy itself, from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to the present.
Carter’s claim is that Christian theology, and the signal transformation it (along with Christianity) underwent, is at the heart of these legacies. In that transformation, Christian anti-Judaism biologized itself so as to racialize itself. As a result, and with the legitimation of Christian theology, Christianity became the cultural property of the West, the religious ground of white supremacy and global hegemony. In short, Christianity became white. The racial imagination is thus a particular kind of theological problem.
Not content only to describe this problem, Carter constructs a way forward for Christian theology. Through engagement with figures as disparate in outlook and as varied across the historical landscape as Immanuel Kant, Frederick Douglass, Jarena Lee, Michel Foucault, Cornel West, Albert Raboteau, Charles Long, James Cone, Irenaeus of Lyons, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor, Carter reorients the whole of Christian theology, bringing it into the twenty-first century.
Neither a simple reiteration of Black Theology nor another expression of the new theological orthodoxies, this groundbreaking book will be a major contribution to contemporary Christian theology, with ramifications in other areas of the humanities.
Personally, this book seems that it would be a great read not only for academics, but also for Pastors and Christian leaders. The reality is, specifically in American Evangelicalism, that Christianity is radicalized and mainstream Christianity is white. Walk into any Christian bookstore, most of the books are from a White perspective, the most popular music on Christian radio is fro a White perspective, our Seminaries are filled mainly with those coming from a White perspective and the list goes on.
I hope to be able to, at least, read a couple chapters in this book. I am sure it will challenge my perspective of the Christian Tradition.