Theology prof writes book connecting Christianity to racism

Referencing a 15th Century doctrine asserting that Christians have the right to claim land inhabited by non-Christians, Jeannine Hill Fletcher argues that "these ideas can create conditions [that] have real-life effects.”

Fordham University recently highlighted a theology professor's new book claiming that "white Christians" are responsible "for racist policies and structural discrimination in America.”

Fordham University last week touted a new book that examines the connection between “Christianity, racism, and religious diversity in America.”

Written by Fordham professor of Theology Jeannine Hill Fletcher, the work “proposes strategies that will help foster racial healing in America, the first of which is to demand of white Christians that they accept their responsibility for racist policies and structural discrimination in America.”

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The author told Fordham News that her studies have led her to realize that “the ideology of Christian supremacy was actually a piece that informed legislation that dispossessed native people.”

To support her position, Hill Fletcher references the Doctrine of Discovery: a belief that Christian settlers had the right to claim the land of non-Christians, but not land inhabited by fellow Christians. The professor argues that the doctrine’s historical use to deny Native Americans’ right to land does not only prove the existence of religious intolerance, but also of racism.

“In most cases, you can’t trace a direct cause from something a theologian says to this kind of practical output,” she observes. “But theologians have always had the ability to lend symbolic capital to ideas. These ideas can create conditions [that] have real-life effects.”

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Hill Fletcher argues that while today’s Christians may be well-intentioned, they often do not recognize their own responsibility, through religious association, for social injustices.

“I know a lot of white Christians who are upset by what’s happening at Standing Rock, and upset by our segregated communities,” she noted. “But they don’t necessarily see how our Christian patterns over the last several hundred years have created the conditions for those things, so they don’t feel responsible for them.”

She also asserts that the belief that Jesus is the savior of all people is discriminatory to those who do not share the Christian faith.

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“When a theologian teaches that [belief], he is normalizing that to be human is to be Christian, and to be non-Christian is to be somehow ‘other,’ and that people of other faith traditions might be lesser Americans—maybe even lesser human beings,” she argues.

Campus Reform reached out to Hill Fletcher for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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