Unsettling Truths

Just finished this painful but historically accurate and necessary book co-written by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah, Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery.

Here are some words from its final chapter – Conclusion: Truth and Conciliation

“George Erasmus, an aboriginal leader from the Dene people in Canada, says, ‘Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.’ The United States of America has a white majority that remembers a history of discovery, opportunity, expansion, and exceptionalism. Meanwhile our communities of color have the lived experiences of stolen lands, broken treaties, slavery, Jim Crow laws, Indian removal, ethnic cleansing, lynchings, boarding schools, segregation, internment camps, mass incarceration, and families separated at our borders. Our country does not have a common memory.

[…] Because the problems our nation are facing are systemic and corporate, because our problems are rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery and the heresy of Christian empire, and because the American church still broadly accepts the national identity of Christendom, the church in America literally has nothing to offer. Its only solution to our national problems is to ‘make the nation Christian again.’ But that is precisely what caused our problems in the first place.”


Mark and Soong-Chan do not hold back on the dark and bloody history of a theologically confused European society that ravaged the lands west of the Atlantic, formerly known as Turtle Island but sapped of its resources and peoples to be renamed, the United States of America. An imperialist, colonialist, and exceptionalist push westward that benefited those created in the image of God but in practice that God only resembled white land-owning men of Protestant English descent. This discovery of an already inhabited land was a sign of the immoral compass of a state-church of the past and also lingering avarice of the newly independent American colonies that instead of seeking fellowship and fraternity with the indigenous people they were so near to they instead vowed to erase them and their name from the lands they inhabited. A history lesson so grim that one must look back and wonder if America was or is truly the land of the free and the brave. Because for the most part, all that was accomplished in the inception of this great nation, was the construction of a state on the blood and bones of another nation that lived there before them. The authors ventured into the psychological effects of colonialism on victims and perpetrators. Hence, historical trauma, complex PTSD, and lastly, perpetrator-induced trauma. The whole of the nation is enduring signs of trauma, some, unable to cope with the presence of their perpetrators still surrounding their already diminished and scandalized lands, and others, experiencing the guilt of their ancestors’ crimes and dealing with the denial and culpability of the same.

This nation has yet to grapple with its inception and the lingering trauma it has caused the world. It will one day.

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