4525 (1)Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery
by Mark Charles and Dr. Soong-Chan Rah.
InterVarsity Press, 2019.

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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.

Publishers Weekly gives Unsettling Truths a starred review. “This sobering critique presents a disturbing yet welcome analysis of how the Doctrine of Discovery has split American church and society along racial lines, and makes a powerful argument for engaging in national dialogue around issues of class, gender, and race.”



Mark Charles’ writing journey began on a blog in 2008 while he and his family were living on the Navajo reservation. He continues to post his reflections on his blog, Wirelesshogan: Reflections from the Hogan.

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Sojourners, Leaven, and Comment magazines

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