After reading a book we instantly label it. It was a “terrible” book. It was an “ok” book. It was a “decent” book. It was an “amazing” book. If I had to label Ken Wytsma’s newest book, The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege, I’d have to say that it is an incredibly “important” book.
Ken Wytsma is the founder of The Justice Conference and president of Kilns College. He is also the author of a number of other books including: Pursuing Justice, The Grand Paradox, and Create vs. Copy. His book Pursuing Justice is absolutely brilliant and a must read on the subject of justice (find my review of that book HERE).
The conversation on racism here in America is all over the place. It consumes the news networks, it dominates our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and has even become the primary narrative of the NFL and the NBA. It is a conversation that is going to continue and it should continue. It has to continue. But for us to move forward in healthy and helpful ways, we need to do so with open ears, open eyes, and an open heart. I am so thankful that this book has come out at this time.
The Myth of Equality is divided into three parts: The Story of Race, Equality and the Kingdom of God, and The Challenge of Privilege.
The first part alone is worth the price of the book. Although this would certainly be considered a primer on the history of racism and inequality in America, it is a powerful overview touching on subjects like: colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the war on drugs, and redlining. This section completely floored me and opened my eyes to things I had no idea about. To have an accurate understanding of our history as a nation concerning race issues is critical and makes it possible for us to have conversations based in reality about the subjects of racism and inequality. Without an understanding of our history, not only will we be unable to fix the problems we have, we won’t even be able to have a conversation about them.
In the second part, Wytsma does an outstanding job unpacking how justice is not just an add-on to the Gospel, but that it is inherently a part of the Gospel. He walks through portions of Isaiah, the incarnation of Christ, the message of Jesus, and the cross, and shows how justice, righteousness, and shalom are all connected. One of the highlights of this section for me was his exposition of “the golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). To do unto others as you would have them do unto you, isn’t just about not doing bad things to others, it’s equally about being active in doing good things for them (ie. justice). Would I want my neighbor to stand up for me if I was being marginalized or just want my neighbor to not marginalize me?
Finally in the third section of the book, the discussion on charity and compassion is both sobering and deeply convicting. Although compassion and even acts of compassion are great things, they rarely if ever address the root systems and causes of racism and injustice. Wytsma points out that, “Doing acts of compassion is different from helping to make sure people exist in a just state” (p. 161). This is where the Church should shine, not just in acts of compassion, but in actively pursuing justice for our neighbor. To close this section the author also lays out a way forward for us, involving: listening & learning, lament, confession, and laying down of privilege.
The book is full of great content, but here are just a few quotes that stood out to me:
“When we address racism, we often make the mistake of trying to resolve the problem without diagnosing or understanding what or who created it in the first place…Who benefited from racism? Under what conditions and under whose authority did it occur? How was it able to permeate societies and take firm root in cultures across history?” (p. 29-30)
“If our imagination is captured by the empire rather than by Christ, we will defend the empire – even if we are inadvertently defending it against Christ.” (p. 92)
“Speaking biblical truth can be costly when our ears have been attuned to what a political party or the world says about truth.” (p. 96)
“Perpetuating a system we inherit is the same as creating the system anew for those who come after us. To pass along is to create.” (p. 156)
“It is a lack of faith, and a narrow view of the depth and richness of the body of Christ, that fears there will be no trustworthy, biblically faithful, or well-motivated people who might disagree with me or who I can learn from.” (p. 172)
Lastly at the back of the book there is an excellent recommended reading list for further study and education on issues of race, racism, inequality, and justice.
I learned so much from this book. I was heart broken, I felt convicted, I felt sick, I felt angry, I felt humbled, but I also felt inspired and empowered. I felt inspired to live differently, to have greater empathy, to be slow to speak and quick to listen, and empowered to have more informed conversations about racial inequality in my church and my community. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, especially if you are white and consider yourself a follower of Jesus.