With the start of a new year comes resolutions aplenty, including the commendable resolution of becoming a better reader in 2018. In an age where short-form writing—such as blogs and social media posts—compose much of the average American adult’s annual reading, a resolution to read more books can be a feat in and of itself.
Every niche and specialty seems to have a New Year’s reading list. You don’t’ have to look very far to find a reading list for Christians. In fact, several influential Christian websites, including Desiring God, Christianity Today, and Challies, have provided some of the top Christian books from 2017 as fodder for reading lists. Yet, what is particularly glaring about these and similar reading lists is the overwhelming lack of books written by Christians of color. Likewise, perspectives outside of White American Evangelicalism are pretty much entirely absent.
The church, however, is and has always been a global endeavor. Within the United States itself, robust Christian traditions outside of White Evangelicalism have thrived, and beyond our borders, the church in Africa, Latin America, and Asia is booming at an exponential rate. The further Christians in the United States isolate ourselves from these various perspectives and expressions of the Christian faith, the more provincial and anemic our theology and worship become. If we take the New Testament seriously, Christians around the world are members of one body who are meant to build each other up into full maturity.
“…God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26 NIV
With that in mind, here are five books written by Christians of color from around the world that can help you grow in your understanding and appreciation of God’s global mission.
Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman on Christianity in Africa, by Mercy Amba Oduyoye
Oduyoye, a native Ghanian Christian, writes from the perspective of an African woman in post-colonial Africa. Specifically, Oduyoye writes critically about the church’s co-opting of African patriarchal assumptions and structures that have made it difficult for women’s voices to be heard. Oduyoye previously served as president of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT), a network of theologians from Africa, Asia, and Latin America who are committed to contextualizing theology in the Third World.
Spiritual Writings, by Gustavo Gutierrez
Known as the “father of liberation theology,” Gutierrez is a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest who has written extensively about the power of the gospel in the context of poverty and oppression. While Western Christianity has historically tended to separate body and spirit, Gutierrez and other liberation theologians are helpful leavening voices that remind the church that the gospel speaks to whole people in their whole circumstances.
Water Buffalo Theology, by Kosuke Koyama
Koyama was a 20th century Japanese theologian who strove to compose a Christian theology that was accessible to the peasantry of Asian Third World nations. Water Buffalo Theology offers an Asian liberation theological perspective and a constructive Christian-Buddhist conversation. Many of his contributions were influenced by his years serving as a missionary in Thailand.
The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone
Cone is probably most well-known for his advocacy of Black liberation theology. The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a powerful exploration of the intertwining of the symbols of the Christian cross and the lynching tree in the Black experience in the United States. One of Cone’s greatest contributions is the difficult wrestling with the message of Christianity in the face of deep and lasting injustice in our country.
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah
Rah is a Korean-American pastor and professor who has written extensively on the topic of the Western cultural captivity of Evangelicalism. In this book, Rah presents a gripping picture of the changing face of Evangelicalism in the United States—one that embodies the multicultural and multiethnic realities of the present.