Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery
- 2019 American Society of Missiology Book Award -- Excellence in Missiology
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.
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About the Author
"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."
Andrea Smith, cofounder of Evangelicals 4 Justice and board member of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies
"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."
Mark Noll, author of The Civil War as a Theological Crisis
"There is an inherent danger in attempting to decolonize and deconstruct one's faith without an understanding of how deeply Western Christianity wed itself to the false and dangerous Doctrine of Discovery. Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah skillfully give us an unflinching look at Western political and church history, weave in personal stories, and help connect the past to present policies, appealing to both our hearts and minds."
Kathy Khang, speaker and author of Raise Your Voice