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You cannot discover lands already inhabited.
Injustice has plagued American society for centuries. And we cannot move toward being a more just nation without understanding the root causes that have shaped our culture and institutions.
In this prophetic blend of history, theology, and cultural commentary, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah reveal the far-reaching, damaging effects of the "Doctrine of Discovery." In the fifteenth century, official church edicts gave Christian explorers the right to claim territories they "discovered." This was institutionalized as an implicit national framework that justifies American triumphalism, white supremacy, and ongoing injustices. The result is that the dominant culture idealizes a history of discovery, opportunity, expansion, and equality, while minority communities have been traumatized by colonization, slavery, segregation, and dehumanization.
Healing begins when deeply entrenched beliefs are unsettled. Charles and Rah aim to recover a common memory and shared understanding of where we have been and where we are going. As other nations have instituted truth and reconciliation commissions, so do the authors call our nation and churches to a truth-telling that will expose past injustices and open the door to conciliation and true community.
"With thorough research, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah share the foundational truths of American history and theologies that have influenced us for over five hundred years, correcting the purposefully hidden erasure of what actually happened on this land and why it continues to this day. Unsettling Truths is a righteous and integral narrative that must be heard and absorbed if we are to move forward with any sense of national dignity and morality. Rah and Charles are courageous in this scholarly telling of these historical truths; the question is, Are we courageous enough to listen?"
"Unsettling Truths is a must-read for all Christians and should become a staple of seminary education. There is virtually no other book targeted toward a biblically centered audience that explains the theological significance of the doctrine of discovery and its legal progeny for not only Native peoples but for Christian settlers. In addition, there are virtually no books that so adeptly analyze the relationship between settler colonialism and indigenous genocide with the history of racialization of other people of color in the United States. Through their masterful and extended analysis of the ideological and legal foundations of the United States, these authors force to us to wrestle the unsettling truths of the foundations of US democracy. As the same time, they provide us the resources to imagine biblically based possibilities for new forms of collectivity and governance beyond settler colonialism. This book provides not only critically needed information about the generally misunderstood political and legal status of Native nations, it provides a paradigm-shifting approach for how to understand the United States (and other settler nations) from a biblical perspective."
"Why should I endorse a book when I do not agree with some of its historical judgments? Answer: for the same reason you should read it. Charles and Rah attack a pernicious principle (the Doctrine of Discovery), review an evil history (the United States' treatment of Native peoples), challenge a persistent stereotype (American exceptionalism), and psychoanalyze white America (in denial about the nation's history). The entire book, even when you think things could be evaluated differently, will make you think, and think hard, about crucially important questions of Christian doctrine, American history, and God's standards of justice."
"In this era of racial tension in the United States, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah offer a corrective lens that brings into sharp focus the seed of Euro-American exceptionalism along with its enduring effects through history up to this present day. Unsettling Truths examines the racially charged yet unrecognized theology that unleashed the slave trade in West Africa and the dispossession of indigenous peoples' lands in North America: the Doctrine of Discovery. The United States' two original sins find their roots here, and the racial tensions that grow from them continue to overrun the American cultural landscape. These Unsettling Truths lead us to self-examination and offer hope for conciliation. This is the true American story."
"If you're Native, you have been waiting for this book. It tells truths that we didn't learn in school about how the ideology of Christian discovery resulted in the dehumanization of the indigenous people of Turtle Island, and how those principles continue to oppress. If you are Native who follows Jesus, you have been hard pressed to explain the difference between your faith and the dysfunctional theology that birthed an exploitative Christian worldview that cultivated genocide and slavery. This book explains the concealed history and theology of truths that this country has not been able to own and shows how we might move toward a restoring narrative."
Introduction: Who We Are and What We Bring
1. The Doctrine of Discovery and Why It Matters
2. The Power of Narratives and the Imagination
3. The Kingdom of God Is About Relationship Not Empire
4. The Rise and Defense of Christendom
5. A Dysfunctional Theology Brought to the “New” World
6. Exceptionalism and the Founding Documents of the United States
7. Dysfunctional Theology and the Spread of Settler Colonialism
8. Genocide, the Impact of a Dysfunctional Theology
9. Abraham Lincoln and the Narrative of White Messiahship
10. Abraham Lincoln and Native Genocide
11. The Complex Trauma of the American Story
12. The Christian Worldview and the Failure of Re-conciliation
Conclusion: Truth and Conciliation