Book Review Introduction April 2021

[1] Our first review launches a periodic series of reviews covering books reflecting Native American experiences and issues. Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah is reviewed in light of the ELCA’s action and inaction on these matters. The authors address the damaging theology and destructive social legacy of the 15th century papal bulls establishing the Doctrine of Discovery which gave theological justification to the seizure of indigenous lands by “undocumented” European immigrants. Speaking to the church, the authors not only connect historical trauma, genocide, slavery, racism and other contemporary situations facing indigenous communities and society at large, they also argue that Native Americans should be at the tables developing immigration reform.

[2] Immigration is the topic of the next book, Finding Jesus at the Border: Opening Our Hearts to the Stories of Our Immigrant Neighbors by Julia Lambert Fogg. Professor Fogg weaves together biblical texts and contemporary personal stories drawn from relationships in ELCA congregations and local community organizations to shed light on the real lives of asylum seekers and those struggling to live behind bars in immigration detention.

[3] In The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and how We Can Do It Again, Robert Putnam tracks the rise and fall of community-centeredness versus individualism in American history and finds hope in indications that the United States is due for an “upswing” in community-centeredness during the next fifty years.

Nancy Arnison

Nancy Arnison is a lawyer, theologian and nonprofit executive and serves as the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics.