When God Became White: Dismantling Whiteness for a More Just Christianity, By Grace Ji-Sun Kim alt

When God Became White

Dismantling Whiteness for a More Just Christianity

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Foreword by David P. Gushee

When God Became White
  • Length: 200 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: May 07, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0940
  • ISBN: 9781514009406

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When Western Christians think about God, the default image that comes to mind is usually white and male. How did that happen?

Christianity is rooted in the ancient Near East among people of darker skin. But over time, European Christians cast Jesus in their own image, with art that imagined a fair-skinned Savior in the style of imperial rulers. Grace Ji-Sun Kim explores the historical origins and theological implications of how Jesus became white and God became a white male. The myth of the white male God has had a devastating effect as it enabled Christianity to have a profoundly colonialist posture across the globe. Kim examines the roots of the distortion, its harmful impact on the world, and shows what it looks like to recover the biblical reality of a nonwhite, nongendered God. Rediscovering God as Spirit leads us to a more just faith and a better church and world.

"This book makes a significant contribution to contemporary Christian theology and has substantial implications for ethics as well. I urge even—especially!—those who may not feel ready for the strength of the critique Grace Ji-Sun Kim offers to ask God to help you lay down any spirit of defensiveness and instead to be open to the breath of inspiration and new life."

David P. Gushee, distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, from the foreword

"I read everything I can by Grace Ji-Sun Kim, but I especially needed this book. As a white man who inherited a white male God, I am grateful for this Korean-born theologian who gently, clearly, and firmly guides readers like me into a bigger, deeper, more awesome and just understanding of the Holy One."

Brian D. McLaren, author of Do I Stay Christian?

"White male ideologies have colonized Christian theologies and practices. The colonizer-subjugator-enslaver-dominator white male god oppresses women, marginalized peoples, people of color, First Nations peoples, and others. Grace Ji-Sun Kim offers a profound road map for a post-white-male-god church and world. This book is essential reading for a more whole and just future."

Graham Joseph Hill, coauthor with Grace Ji-Sun Kim of Healing Our Broken Humanity

"Evangelicalism has nothing to do with the message of a Brown rabbi living on occupied land at the margins of the empire. Grace Ji-Sun Kim's book serves as a corrective to our current white-Christian nationalism that in the name of this white God is death-dealing to all who fall short of the white male ideal. Through recounting her own journey, Kim bears witness against a white religious supremacy that must die—and let the dead bury the dead—if the gospel message is to have any relevance for our own time."

Miguel A. De La Torre, professor of social ethics and Latinx studies at Iliff School of Theology at the University of Denver

"In When God Became White, Grace Ji-Sun Kim allows readers to see how religious values and perspectives become skewed when dominated by only one or a few voices, races, or traditions. A not-so-subtle reminder that 'history is written by the victors,' these chapters invite readers to consider the evolution of Christianity from a Jewish movement toward the religion of an empire, and the many ways it was used to promote the superiority of whiteness. This book is a useful resource for both education and introspection around issues that, if left unresolved, will continue to inhibit our best efforts to be people of faith in a multicultural world."

Jay W. Marshall, dean emeritus of the Earlham School of Religion

"This passionate book debunks the collusion of Christianity with whiteness and envisions an inclusive church and community. Grace Ji-Sun Kim uses her personal history to illustrate the devastating results of racism, colonialism, sexism, and classism. It is a valuable resource in our global racial reckoning and for us to imagine beyond a white God."

Kwok Pui-lan, Dean's Professor of Systematic Theology at Candler School of Theology, Emory University

"When God Became White is an incredibly comprehensive yet personal and intimate look at the history of whiteness in the church and an excellent example of the power that shows up when silenced voices are heard and held with care. This book is an absolute must-read for all who call themselves Christians today, as the story of Christianity is inexplicably tied up with colonialism, racism, whiteness, and oppression. Grace Ji-Sun Kim is a wise teacher and thoughtful theologian, helping us understand the unjust world that we've created and the steps we can take to heal together. Buy this book and let it guide you toward a better world in which we know and embody the truth that God is love."

Kaitlin B. Curtice, author of Native and Living Resistance

"A timely book that reflects the shifting of Christianity from the West to the Global South. Grace Ji-Sun Kim's excellent book dismantles white imperial theology and supremacy that provide legitimacy for settler colonialism, racism, and patriarchy. The book tackles the biggest challenge facing the church today while providing a fresh and liberating vision for a nonwhite and nongendered God, an inclusive Christian community, and a world based on justice."

Mitri Raheb, president of Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem, Palestine

"I have long been nourished and energized by Grace Ji-Sun Kim's body of work, and this book is no exception. A powerful and liberating exposé, When God Became White is the book I wish had existed when I was growing up as a young Black woman in a white Christian world. Even more, I wish the Christians who purported to shepherd me had read this book. I'll be recommending When God Became White to every Christian leader who has ears to hear."

Christena Cleveland, director of the Center for Justice + Renewal and author of God Is a Black Woman

"Grace Ji-Sun Kim's When God Became White is a must-read for all Christians. Those committed to being antiracists themselves and rooting racism out of the church have much to learn from the history and theology of When God Became White. Grace Ji-Sun Kim weaves her personal experience together with Christian theology and practice to demonstrate how God became white and male, why making God into a white man is idolatrous, and what Christians can do to reclaim God from racists, misogynists, and Christian nationalists in order to truly honor and worship the God of justice, peace, and love."

Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

"Grace Ji-Sun Kim's When God Became White is a critical gift to the Western church. Through historical record, personal testimony and postcolonial vision, Kim guides readers into the profound and necessary work of dethroning white male God. Drawing from Korean conceptions of God, she then seeds new vision for the God of all, even as she helps us see more clearly the image of God that is in all."

Lisa Sharon Harper, president and founder of Freedom Road, author of Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World—and How to Repair It All

"Grace Ji-Sun Kim invites us on a journey to teshuvah/metanoia—changing our theological minds and returning to the good news of a God who loved us enough to enter human history as a Brown outsider on a mission to dismantle empire. Grace tackles the ways racism has deformed the church by problematizing white theology, sharing how these theologies wounded her immigrant family, and offering a map to find our way home to the God we know exists. Grace urges us to break the chains that bind the church to a gendered white God by engaging in theological wrestling that will likely bless us and transform the church."

Jacqui Lewis, senior minister and public theologian, Middle Church, and author of Fierce Love

"Readers will welcome Grace Ji-Sun Kim's ambitious efforts to imagine a more inclusive faith through a mix of theological musings and such real-life examples as Korea’s 'women churches,' which ordain female ministers and provide 'solace to... patriarchal oppression in society.' It’s a thought-provoking invitation for readers to broaden their notions of the divine."

Publishers Weekly, March 2024

Read an Excerpt


Foreword by David P. Gushee
Introduction: White Christianity

1. Encountering Whiteness
2. The Problem of Whiteness
3. Becoming a White Christianity
4. A Missiology of Whiteness
5. Christianity and Whiteness
6. A White Jesus
7. A White God
8. The Problem of a White Gendered God
9. Liberating Whiteness
10. Embracing a Nonwhite and Nongendered God

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


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Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Grace Ji-Sun Kim (PhD, University of Toronto) is professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. She is the host of the Madang podcast and has published in TIME, Huffington Post, US Catholic, and The Nation. She is an ordained PC(USA) minister and enjoys being a guest preacher on most Sundays. Her many books include Invisible, Reimagining Spirit, and Healing Our Broken Humanity. She and her spouse, Perry, have three young adult children and live in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.