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Episode Summary

Jonathan Tran (Baylor University) joins Matt Croasmun to discuss his book, Asian Americans & the Spirit of Racial Capitalism.

What are the economic forces that underly racist thinking? What are the theological dimensions of racism? How does the “political economic distortion of the divine economy” impacts the contemporary experience of and response to racism?

In this episode, Jonathan Tran (Baylor University) joins Matt Croasmun to discuss his book, Asian Americans & the Spirit of Racial Capitalism, focusing on the unique experience of Asian Americans, and Jonathan’s own experience growing up as a war refugee in southern California; where race and racialized thinking really comes from and how we can understand its history and its impact today; Christian moral psychology; meritocracy and capitalism; and they discuss a unique Christian community—Redeemer Community Church in San Francisco that offers a unique experiment in bearing witness to the economic and racial realities of life today, but through the theological framing of the Gospel.

About Jonathan Tran

Jonathan Tran is a theologian and ethicist, and is Associate Dean for Faculty in the Honors College and Professor of Theology in Great Texts at Baylor University. His research focuses on the human life in language, and what that life reveals about God and God’s world. Lately, that research has focused on race and racism, and his book Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism attempts to present racism as a theological problem, a political economic distortion of the divine economy, and a problem given to the usual redress, the church laying claim to God’s original revolution.

Show Notes

  • The roots of Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism
  • Are we thinking about racism backwards?
  • Race as a self-interpreting category
  • Is race just obvious? Is it just about the racialized relationships we have with each other?
  • “Rather than thinking of race as basic, we want to ask the question, when and where and how did race come to capture our imaginations, such that we just now assume it as basic?”
  • What is political economy?
  • Connecting an understanding of economy to God’s essence and existence
  • “The structure of creation is in a sense hardwired as gift.”
  • “One of the first ways we talked about the gospel in the early church was as the divine economy, an economy of gratuity and grace over and against the world's privation and predation.”
  • Gift economy
  • Pope Francis’s “Our Common Home”
  • “What is the material political economy out of which the concept and category of race began?”
  • “Race was utilized in Europe and America to create a kind of ideological justification for relationships of property and labor.”
  • Race and unjust labor practices
  • Is capitalism coextensive with racism?
  • Marxism vs theological answers to the problem of capitalism and racism
  • Understanding Marxism with an example: Waco, Texas
  • Black Marxism as a corrective to White Marxism
  • Christianity and Moral Psychology
  • Anti-racism, post-racialism, identitarianism
  • Reverse engineering racism to produce Black dignity, Black power, or Black politics
  • Giving race explanatory power
  • “I’m not essentially Asian, but I've been racialized as an Asian person.”
  • Does racism against Asian Americans count?
  • Double marginalization: first by racism, then by anti-racism
  • Foucault’s “history of the present”
  • “[Race] is necessarily binary thinking.”
  • Meritocracy and capitalism
  • Case Study: Redeemer Community Church in San Francisco (
  • The Joy–Dispossession Elipse: “Joy without dispossession is escapist. Dispossession without joy is sadist.”
  • The Gospel as proclamation instead of resistance
  • “Marxists in our sense are waiting for the revolution to start. Christians are leaning into a revolution that's a few thousand years old.”

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured Jonathan Tran & Matt Croasmun
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Macie Bridge, Alexa Rollow, & Tim Bergeland
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture:

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