I appreciate Ta-Nehisi Coates. And I was intrigued when I saw this book because Coates is a vocal atheist. I think he is respectful of Christianity, but he rejects Christianity largely because of its followers. It is a position that I easily understand, even if I do not reject Christianity for the same reason.
Books that are collections of essays are hard to do well. They are almost always uneven in their writing quality. And rarely hold together and build on one another well. And most of the time the sum is less than the individual parts.
I think there were two or may be three essays here that were pretty good. None of them were awful. But in general, while there was thoughtful aspects of to Between the World of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christianity, I would recommend just reading Coates directly.
One of the aspects that I know has irritated Coates and because it keeps coming up, has begun to irritate me as well, is the issues of Coates’ ‘hopelessness’. There were two essays directly about this and two more mentioned it. (Spread the essays out, two essays, both about Coates and Hope right at the end was odd.) Coates has said that he doesn’t believe he is hopeless, he believes that he is a realist. Reinhold Niebuhr led a movement of ‘Christian Realism’ that to me feels more like what Coates is trying to communicate.
The fact that Christians are so hung up with Coates’ ‘hopelessness’ says more about us than it does about Coates. The need of Christians to see hope in the world, in the face of continued sin I think does matter. It is not that we do not hope in Christ’s return. Or that we shouldn’t work in the world today. Coates believes in working for change in the world today, but he also believes that the world is unlikely to change. In many ways, I want to respond to Christians that talk about his lack of hope, that what is more hopeful? Working when you do not believe in either an afterlife or the likelihood of change, or working for change when you believe in cosmic justice and a God that is working to restore all things?
I picked up Between the World of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christianity when it was on sale. And I am fine reading it. It was only a bit over 100 pages and the price I paid was worth it. But I would not rush out to buy it or put it at the top of my reading list.