Plundered: The Tangled Roots of Racial and Environmental Injustice, By David W. Swanson


The Tangled Roots of Racial and Environmental Injustice

by David W. Swanson

  • Length: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: October 08, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0774
  • ISBN: 9781514007747

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Two of the world's greatest crises, systemic racism and environmental destruction, share the same origin story. The two are rooted in economic forces that exploit and oppress both people and land.

Pastor David Swanson shows how we have failed our God-given duty as caretakers of creation and how that failure has resulted in the exploitation of people and the extraction of natural resources. Racial and ecological injustice share the same root cause—greed—that turns people and the natural world into commodities that are only valued for their utility. Yet Christians have the capacity to live in a way that nurtures racial and environmental justice simultaneously, honoring people and places in dynamic relationship with our Creator God. Swanson shows how we can become communities of caretakers, the way to restore our relationship with creation and each other, and the holistic justice that can result.

"The West has segmented life into small compartments to the point where few people actually live a whole existence. In Plundered, David Swanson presents us with all the right ingredients: humanity's purpose and our relationship with creation, justice, race, economics, sabbath, and virtue. This book was made to put us back together again and show us how to understand life the way it was meant to be."

Randy Woodley, co-sustainer at Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice and author of Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview

"Drawing from ancient pastoral wisdom and prophetic lived experience, Swanson shows how racial and ecological injustice are intertwined symptoms of the same pervasive disease, and how God's people can live out their calling as caretaking communities of healing and restoration in the world today. Honest, insightful, and inspiring."

Ben Lowe, executive director of A Rocha USA and author of Doing Good Without Giving Up

"This profoundly relevant book offers us a new way forward as participants in a regenerative movement to build a world where all forms of life are respected. David Swanson shows us how racism and other evils, including the degradation of the Earth, are deeply interrelated. No one ethnic, racial, or national group has all the answers, but everyone can contribute to the Earth's healing. So, for all who long for reconciliation to become a reality, I highly recommend this book!"

Brenda Salter McNeil, author of Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now and Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice

"David Swanson is a wise guide—a needed voice in a fraught world. Plundered is a gift to the church, a compelling blend of penetrating insight and expansive vision for the life of the church in the world. Swanson's theological imagination draws us into a more connected world—showing us the intertwined injustices of ecological and racial violence. This is the kind of thinking we need as we move toward a future of unprecedented challenge. The best books help us see the striking similarities between being human and being Christian. Plundered invites us into deeper ways of being both."

Adam L. Gustine, author of Becoming a Just Church: Cultivating Communities of God's Shalom and coauthor of Ecosystems of Jubilee: Economic Ethics for the Neighborhood

"David W. Swanson makes the case that systemic racism and environmental destruction share the same poisonous root—greed. In the name of economic gain, both human and nonhuman resources are abused, ravaged, plundered. In that ugly reality, Swanson calls followers of Jesus to live differently, nurturing radical local community and healing the land. Plundered is a paradigm-shifting, unique, and beautiful book."

Al Tizon, lead pastor of Grace Fellowship Community Church in San Francisco and author of Christ Among the Classes

"Greed is indeed the enemy that we face. David Swanson powerfully draws our human story together with the rest of creation and reminds us that the war against the powers and principalities behind racism, exploitation, and ecological destruction will not be won by individuals but by communities. Join the resistance!"

Malcolm Foley, special advisor to the president at Baylor University and author of The Anti-Greed Gospel

"Finally, a pastoral exhortation that connects systemic racism to the climate crisis! David Swanson shows us not only the connections between the two but also how sin caused the disconnect. More importantly, Swanson shows how plunder is itself predatory on a more primary good: creation as a shared gift that can be plundered but never pushed out of a divine economy that naturalizes us into God's sabbath belonging."

Jonathan Tran, author of Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism

"David Swanson thoughtfully identifies the common roots of racial and environmental injustice in order to invite the people of God into a different way of relating to one another and creation. Rather than exploiting and extracting commodities that degrade our humanity and its precious habitat, Christian communities can practice faithful stewardship that restores our world by healing our shared wounds. The urgency of this work cannot be overstated as all of creation yearns to be made whole."

David Leong, professor of urban and intercultural ministry at Seattle Pacific University

"Rooted in the concrete experience of a local congregation, David Swanson issues an urgent wake up call to our priestly vocation as communities of caretakers who honor the interconnectedness of people and place within creation in the midst of current racial and ecological plunder. I cannot recommend this book more highly!"

Ruth Padilla DeBorst, Richard C. Oudersluys Associate Professor of World Christianity at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan

"In Plundered: The Tangled Roots of Racial and Environmental Injustice, Pastor David Swanson poetically reminds us of the damaging effects of greed and sin. Through beautifully written imagery, amazingly honest narratives, and sound biblical and historical research, he calls Christians beyond reconciliation into the paradigm of repair. Pushing us to recognize, if God is reconciling all things, then the call for the church is to pursue justice in all things. In America, this begins with untangling the roots of our original sins, racial and environmental injustice."

Jonathan Brooks, lead pastor of Lawndale Christian Community Church in Chicago and author of Church Forsaken

"As an Indigenous person and one who follows the teachings of Jesus, I read this book with care. The author presents a sound theological framework for living as a caretaker of the land, with an appreciation for Indigenous wisdom from those who have lived in a reciprocal relationship with the land for millennia. Plundered addresses misbalanced systems of race and power and an extractive worldview with the hope that such systems do not dominate the power of Creation, when certain values anchored in love can help us shape sustaining life on Grandmother Earth."

Lenore Three Stars, Oglala Lakota speaker, writer, and teacher

"Plundered prophetically connects—and courageously confronts—the extractive practices, systems, and worldviews that forged and fuel environmental degradation and racism. This book exposes how these two evils feed off one another to threaten life, society, and our world. It also casts a compelling vision of liberation and repair that calls us to become a rooted people in a rootless world, compassionate caretakers who toil towards sacrificial solidarity, beloved community, and abundant life as expression of our Christian vocation."

Dominique DuBois Gilliard, director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the Evangelical Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois, and author of Rethinking Incarceration and Subversive Witness

Read an Excerpt


Part One: Tangled Roots
1. The Gift of Creation
2. Priestly Caretakers
3. Exploitation and Extraction
4. Severed from Place
5. Caretaking in the Anthropocene
6. Creator and Re-creator

Part Two: Becoming Naturalized
7. Nurturing Belonging
8. Nurturing Sabbath
9. Nurturing Virtue
Conclusion: Better Than Utopia

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


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David W. Swanson

David is an author and the founding pastor of New Community Covenant Church who lives with his family on the South Side of Chicago. He is the founder and CEO of New Community Outreach, a non-profit organization dedicated to healing community trauma through restorative practices.