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America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,593 ratings  ·  260 reviews
America's problem with race has deep roots, with the country's foundation tied to the near extermination of one race of people and the enslavement of another. Racism is truly our nation's original sin.

"It's time we right this unacceptable wrong," says bestselling author and leading Christian activist Jim Wallis. Fifty years ago, Wallis was driven away from his faith by a w
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published January 19th 2016 by Brazos Press
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Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
How To Be Saved

I recently gave a talk on this book to some church-going friends. I summarise that talk here without yet knowing what effect it had on them.

Racism is a spiritual malady; its legal, psychological, and behavioural symptoms are derivative. Racism exists, like language, as something embedded in individuals but simultaneously floating beyond them as an independent fact.

Some racists are indeed criminals or psychotics but all are sinners who have inherited their sin - but not throug
Clif Hostetler
Sep 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: current-events
The following is a review of the book broken down into each section of the book.


The Foreword was written by Bryan Stevenson


The June 17, 2015 shooting at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal AME Church in Charleston South Carolina occurred shortly before the manuscript for this book was scheduled for printing. Jim Wallis used this Preface as a last minute chance address the incident as an extreme example of how African Americans have reason to fear racial violence. Wallis
Jan Rice
This book tied me up in knots, like the question, When did you stop beating your wife?

The book is heart-felt and seems to accord well with liberal values.

Then why do I have misgivings? If it's all so right and true (and some of it may be), why must it work through guilt (if guilt even works)? He says not but I think so.

Then there's the question of whether people really do give up power voluntarily--a question I recently confronted in another review (
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My present-day dream dinner party guest list would now include Bryan Stevenson, Michelle Alexander, Shaka Senghor, Cornel West, Rebecca Traister and Jim Wallis. What an amazing experience that would be!
My favorite books are those that challenge me, make me uncomfortable, make me rethink things I'd always assumed to be true, and help me understand things from a new perspective. This book definitely did all of that and more. After reading "Just Mercy", "Between the World and Me", and "The New Jim
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish it, I stopped about 25% into it. The people who should read this book never will, the people who will read it already know the info it contains... ...more
Wm. A.
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent read and the need for our faith communities to become more vocal about the prejudices we support by saying or being bystanders. We need to take the mountain!
Robert D. Cornwall
Racism is America's original sin. Racism has been deeply embedded in the American psyche since the first European settlers stepped foot on the shores of North America. The Civil War brought an end to slavery, but not racism. The Civil Rights Movement and the legislation that it pursued put an end to most overt forms of segregation, but it did not rid us of racism. The election of the first Black President was a move forward, but it didn't end racism. Indeed, nearly fifty years after the death of ...more
Sharon :)
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Enlightening read! Highly recommended for Christians who want to roll up their sleeves and help make real change.
Steven Tryon
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A call to action and a message of hope. If you are white, this book was written for you. If not, read it anyway.
May 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Terrible book. What could have been an opportunity to truly use biblical truths when dealing with racism turned into what felt like another CNN or NYT article on why white people are bad and everyone else is good. This was literally a struggle to read.
Summary: Explores our nation's deeply ingrained history of racism and particularly the challenges facing white Christians in bridging these racial divides.

"The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the near genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another."

The author of this book contends that this sentence, in a 1987 issue of Sojourners, was the most controversial sentence he ever wrote. The controversy behind that statement supports the thesi
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Do white Christians play a role in perpetuating racism in America and, if so, what can be done about it? These are the questions Jim Wallis explores in his latest book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. In it, he explains why racism is incompatible with Christianity and that it’s time for white Christians to work to end racism in America. It’s clear in the first few pages that this is not a book about a post-racial society because we don’t live in ...more
Byron Fike
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a real eye-opener for me. Terms such as "white privilege" have always caused me to have a knee jerk, negative reaction. Wallis helped me to see what that term really means and how racial injustice is a continuing plague in our nation. The book is well researched and well written. I especially benefitted from his chapter, "A Segregated Church or a Beloved Community?". There is much about inequality that I feel powerless to change, however, in this area I believe I can make some mean ...more
Douglas Pierre
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good read. Ordinarily I would not have read this book due to its religious overtones; however a friend invited me to attend a book club that was discussing the book and the subject matter included an interest we had in common. We all know we are on the cusp of becoming a minority majority country and this book provides a good roadmap for people, especially White people come to grips with the situation and join the movement to make our society a more just society.
Reviewed for THC Reviews
I’ve been following Jim Wallis for a number of years now, mostly through his work with the religious organization, Sojourners. He’s been an inspiring figure to me who has helped me to see my own faith in a different way. Years ago, I picked up his book God’s Politics, although I admittedly never finished it due to not having a lot of time to read back then. When I saw this new book had just been released, I was eager to read it. I’m intrigued by social issues and with the
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is not an easy book to read but it is a vitally important text to process. I so appreciate the author’s voice and his effort to discuss racism and white privilege through a lens of faith, theology and social justice. All people of faith should read this book to truly find answers and direction in an effort to help us as a country face the original sin of racism if we ever want to really be the UNITED States of America. Jim Wallace is also a beautiful writer and I thank him for capturing the ...more
Lene Jaqua
Jun 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a tough one to review. Seriously, it is so political that no matter what I say, someone is bound to be offended.

So let me say this, that the author's aim seems to be to get Evangelicals to wake up, realize that by 2045, whites will no longer be a majority in the US, to get used to that and to build bridges for race relations that usher in the second half of this century in a way that benefits all that live in America.

How he does it, and the philosophical foundation he justifies his metho
Josh Peters
Apr 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A lot of the content we hear when it comes to issues of racial justice in America starts to sound similar. We hear a lot of the same tag lines, statistics, morals, etc. I assume that people reading this review can find commonly shared statements on racial justice on their own, and draw a few things out that, to be honest, I’ve not heard very often outside of this excellent work.

White individuals are not the problem.

We need to understand that white individuals are not the criminals we refer to. W
Lorraine Wronski
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I should start out with a disclaimer that I have mixed feelings about Jim Wallis...he's a bit too conservative for my taste...but he does some good work in this book. As someone who has wrestled with these issues for many years now. some of what he shares was a little bit basic for my taste; however, it would be a good introduction for people (especially white folks) who are new to the concept of the systemic and institutional nature of racism.

Wallis is annoyingly self-congratulatory at times, a
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
The greatest strengths of this book were its hopeful tone and the amount of data it compiled into one place. The data is convicting, and Wallis makes healing and progress seem possible if we all get on board. But sometimes I felt like things were repeated a few too many times in order to make the book long enough to actually be a book. I certainly learned a lot and have a lot to ponder now.
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-book
Some really good stuff here, very in-line with the sentiments of others things that I have been reading...books and news articles. A few reminders and reinforcements for changes I would like to make personally. I would also like to discuss this with some of the folks at church and see how we can move into conversation and listening with others as a congregation.
Margaret D'Anieri
It's a good primer, and a bit of a slog to read - but if you're only going to read one book on race in America this covers the ground for the most part. The chapter on "whiteness" is particularly good. Wallis tends to be too self-referential for me - but maybe you need that kind of ego to do the work he's done in his life. ...more
Georgia Gietzen
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was, for me an excellent read. Perhaps more relevant today than its original 2016 publication. I grew up in a house where my father, a devout Catholic, left the church in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement due to his disenchantment with the lack of church leaders involvement in racial unrest. To him there was a huge conflict between the churches teaching and their inability to call out racism and become part of the movement towards racial equity. How can you preach “love all”, then ...more
Sierra Trotter
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
Jim Wallis presents a phenomenal understanding of racism in American and how much of a problem it really is. I learned a lot about how differently African-Americans are raised and taught versus the way I was raised and taught as a white American. It was eye-opening to learn about the discrimination that African-Americans face on a daily basis. This book showed me how much prayer is needed for our nation, and I would recommend for those wishing to do some Christian research on the subject of raci ...more
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
Published in 2016, this book was clearly written in the few years before that. Yet, the message remains quite relevant, especially for Christians. Wallis’ overarching call to step forward into a new multiracial America is needed now as much as ever.
Adam Starks
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jim Wallis’ courageous work addresses America’s original sins and how the past still echoes through today in the form of mass incarceration and broken immigration policies among other issues. From the perspective of a devout Christian, Wallis convincingly pleads his case to walk across the bridge to a new, increasingly diverse America. His compelling viewpoint highlighting that "we are all children of God" exemplifies the need to unite as one to achieve a more prosperous and just nation for citi ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wallis provides an overview of white supremacy. The first three chapters are fairly redundant for anyone who's been paying attention (e.g., Ferguson, Trayvon Martin). The book gets stronger in chapters 4-5 as he calls out the Christian church to repent of our role in maintaining white supremacy. Chapter 7 has some useful steps towards restorative justice, and chapter 8 has even more concrete steps.

Otherwise, the book seems to be a lot of recap of "I had the privilege of being at X" -- a critiqu
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis, president of the Christian social justice group Sojourners, is not just about Christian living but a book that will raise the heckle of quite some as the social issues he raised in it are quite shocking, and may not go down well with many. Though a man not prone to making controversial remarks, the Reverend Jim Wallis stated that America as a nation was founded by the near genocide of one people and t ...more
Rob Skirving
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Can we find our way to a genuinely diverse society, racially and culturally, where diversity is seen as a strength rather than as a threat?" (page 189)

This question captures my hope for this book ...that it might play a role in helping to move our society forward in important ways. By the time my son is the age I've now reached, it is expected that America will be nation of minorities, with no single racial group representing a majority. God willing, between now and then, we'll be able to accom
V Massaglia
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think this book is well-written, passionate, and provides arguments that we are better together and must address this issue now, with a sense of urgency. He takes a sincere faith-based approach to his thesis and offers many proposed solutions to tackle this very systemic and terrible issue. Sadly, I agree with one of the comments written below that people who need to read this book won't.

I also found this study guide that's filled with video, articles, and more:
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JIM WALLIS is a globally respected writer, teacher, preacher, justice advocate, regular international commentator on ethics and public life, and mentor for a new generation. He is a New York Times bestselling author of twelve books, including Christ in Crisis, America's Original Sin, God's Politics and The Great Awakening. Wallis is the Founder of Sojourners. He served on President Obama's White H ...more

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“Let nobody give you the impression that the problem of racial injustice will work itself out. Let nobody give you the impression that only time will solve the problem. That is a myth, and it is a myth because time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I’m absolutely convinced that the people of ill will in our nation—the extreme rightists—the forces committed to negative ends—have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic works and violent actions of the bad people who bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, or shoot down a civil rights worker in Selma, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. Without this hard work, time becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.” 6 likes
“As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech, whose fiftieth anniversary has now passed, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”1 King’s dream failed that night in Florida when Zimmerman decided to follow Martin because of the color of his skin.” 3 likes
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