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An Invitation for the American Church to Repent — An Excerpt from "Forgive Us"

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Once in a while a book comes a long that is so compelling, so convicting you cannot not engage it given the weight of its subject matter.

This is one of those books.

Forgive Us names and prophetically confronts the sins of our American fathers, as well as the legitimacy of much anger toward the American church. Bringing together pastors and academically trained historians, the book addresses seven sins the American church has committed and perpetuated against creation, indigenous people, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and Jews and Muslims.

This isn’t a feel-good book. It’s a convicting book. It’s a book that compelled Scot McKnight to say "it makes me want to see the church live up to its calling to be a church for all."

Read the excerpt below and challenge yourself and your people to confront and recognize the truth of our history.

Then humbly ask non-Christians to “forgive us.”

_____________________

Around the world, many people have grown angry and frustrated with organized religion — and with evangelical Christianity in particular. Too often the church has proven a source of pain rather than a place of hope. This book, Forgive Us, acknowledges the legitimacy of much of that anger and recognizes that the church through the ages has experienced significant brokenness, a brokenness that demands to be acknowledged and repented of. This book focuses specifically on the history of the Christian church in the United States and the role it has played in many tragic and harmful events.

In chapter 1, we examine environmental degradation and our failure to properly steward God’s creation. In chapter 2, we look at the history of the genocide of the indigenous people in the Americas and the church’s culpability in this shameful act. Chapter 3 explores the historical sin of racism and the theological roots of modern-day racism. Chapter 4 discusses the ongoing oppression of women and the sinful justification of sexism in the church. Chapter 5 tackles the church’s marginalization and abuse of the LGBTQ community. Chapter 6 explores the sin of nativism and the corresponding acts of sin committed against immigrants. Chapter 7 examines Christian religion-centric assumptions and the accompanying historically sinful actions of the church against the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Many Christians today are unaware of the events that mark the American church’s greatest tragedies. In Forgive Us, we seek to provide brief, accurate, and compelling histories of some of the church’s greatest shortcomings. Each chapter will offer a historical analysis of a situation that needs to be confessed, because awareness is critical in the process of true repentance. After each analysis, we offer biblical and theological reflections on the historical issue. Each chapter closes with appropriate confession, repentance, and ways for us to move forward (including positive models of the church offering confession) that will promote peace, justice, and reconciliation.

When apologies without knowledge are offered, individually or on behalf of the church, they are anemic at best. When the church has a holistic understanding of its failings, repentance is the appropriate response. This book seeks to serve as a church’s confession and to engage with the surrounding culture by issuing a heartfelt request for forgiveness and a new beginning.

Our goal is that these reflections will expose the lies the church has believed about God, the people, and the land. At the end of each chapter, we include invitations to reflect, lament, and agree with God that lies are lies. We invite you to consider how these lies have affected our nation, our cities, our families, and our lives. And we invite you to join both the Hebrew prophets and the saints throughout the ages in prayers of confession and acts of repentance.

The four authors who contributed to this book strongly believe that the church must recognize the truth of its history before it can move forward toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. This book is our confession and our call to repentance. The authors are African American, European American, and Asian American. We are women and men. We are environmentally conscious and environmental over-consumers. We have means and we have less. The one thing we most have in common is our faith. We are evangelicals. As such, we share a common historical, theological, liturgical, and social heritage — one that we want to honor. But we also recognize aspects of our life together that reveal deep complicity with and responsibility for evil. With our confessions we follow the example of Nehemiah, the challenge of the Hebrew prophets and poets, the teachings of Jesus, and the insights of the apostle Paul. We seek to count ourselves among those who stand in the gap, proclaiming the truth about God, others, and our land.

We invite you to join us.

If you are a Christian, join us on a journey through truth and lies, godly grief, confession, and repentance. With each step — and with each tear, prayer, and tangible act of love — we pray that God might restore the walls of our cities, nation, and world.

If you are not a Christian, hear our prayer: “Forgive us.” (pgs. 31-33)

Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith

By Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson, Soong-Chan Rah

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