As a Millennial growing up in the ’90s, I was largely unaware of Evangelical culture and how its most conservative wing was shaping political ideology and agendas with the “pro-life” movement and more recently, marriage. I have grown with Progressive Christianity, a faith I find to be equally Christian and activist, which, as a single woman of color, has made being in Evangelical Christian spaces a bit confusing.
Deborah Jian Lee’s book, Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, has helped fill in some of the gaps. Discovered while searching for fellow Asian-American reconcilers online, I was pleased to see that Rescuing Jesus highlights notable Progressive Christian leaders such as Lisa Sharon Harper, Reverend Jennifer Crumpton, and Will Haggarty. Each of their stories showed me ways the voice and face of Evangelism is being challenged in its predominately White, patriarchal roots.
Lee, an award-winning journalist, does a masterful job of tracing the history of Evangelicalism and some of its most influential movements and leaders of the last 20 years. This solid foundation helps give one a better grasp of the political undertones and influences that have landed us in our current post election society where ethnicity, gender and faith have become key agents in shaping a contentious climate.
While some observers have speculated that Millennials and people of color will change the face of the Christian church, Rescuing Jesus gives a view of how that is being done. In this case, ideas and issues cease to be about agendas and instead are about people, faces, and friends. As we follow Harper, Haggarty, and Crumpton (as well as a few others), Lee makes space for experiences that show how, as The Washington Post termed it, “White Christian America” is dying.
Overall, Rescuing Jesus is challenging and engaging in all the right ways. Not only does the book shed light on what it means to be “progressive,” but it also helps frame critical frustrations of the dominant White Church. Some readers might even find that Rescuing Jesus provides a helpful contextual response for a common post-election question: “How did we get here?” Rescuing Jesus is certainly a good place to start for anyone remotely curious or concerned about the state of U.S. Evangelicalism heading into 2017. And for those 35 and younger, I would even say Rescuing Jesus is an imperative read.
Ruthie Johnson has a Master’s in Communication Studies with a focus on critical race theory & identity. Her work is regularly published at Missio Alliance (missioalliance.org) and occasionally on her blog, hybridtales.wordpress.com. In her spare time, Ruthie likes to write, read, cook ,and design pretty things. Say hello to her on Twitter: @aquietstrength.