[Book Review] God Is Not a White Man: and Other Revelations

By Gordon Showell-Rogers |
God is not a white man book cover

God Is Not A White Man: and Other Revelations
by Chine McDonald
Hodder & Stoughton, 2021
256 pages

In an increasingly polarised and fractured world, we all need help to see the world through fresh eyes. Personally, I’m always looking for people who can help me read Scripture from new angles, so that I might understand Jesus better.

This book does all that. McDonald has created an extraordinarily beautiful and illuminating tapestry from the Bible’s story intertwined with her life experience as a black British woman of Nigerian heritage.

It’s a deeply personal book that is both a study of historical and contemporary racial realities and an exploration of how Christian theology has become very white.

As McDonald puts it, ‘it had never occurred to me that Jesus wasn’t white’.

She writes ‘I’m not quite sure exactly why (as a 5-year-old schoolgirl in south-east London) I drew myself as a blonde, blue-eyed child. Perhaps this image is what I hoped I looked like. Maybe somewhere in my subconscious I had come to equate girls who looked like that with goodness and with beauty, and these were two things I desperately wanted to be associated with’.

She is painfully honest about her experience as ‘a Black woman in a world made for white men’, pointing out that (in the UK), ‘hate crimes rose sharply – up 57 percent – between 2014 and 2017’.

It’s full of uncomfortable reminders of ways in which racism has been justified and underpinned by Christian theology – and how totally offensive that is to the God of the Bible.

‘…the realisation that Jesus was not white has brought with it a profound sense of liberation,’ McDonald explains in her book.

She manages to do all that in ways that left this very white native-English-speaking man also feeling freshly energised.

It's a book about power, and its abuse, that addresses the reality of what McDonald describes as ‘the reign of whiteness’ full of lessons about what those of us who are not Black could learn from Black people and churches. As McDonald puts it ‘It is in Black church services that I occasionally attend that I see most clearly the breaking down of the divide between the sacred and the secular’.

She finishes the book on this hopeful note ‘My prayer is that this book will continue a conversation that began long before I started to fill these pages, and that the stories contained within them will act as a clarion call that jolts us out of ignorance and apathy, so that – armed with knowledge and conviction – we might change the world ….’

I warmly commend this wonderfully personal and theologically sound book to all Bible readers who want to live more biblically.