Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Politics and Prose

Byron Borger


July 19, 2013

By Byron Borger

Following Jesus: Journeys in Radical Discipleship- Essays in Honor of Ronald J. Sider edited by Paul Alexander & Al Tizon (Regnum) $39.99 SALE PRICE $25.00

A week ago, representatives of the Center for Public Justice attended a gathering to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) and to mark the changing of their executive leadership, as founder Ron Sider steps down.

The gathering included the launch of a new book written to honor Sider, a collection of excellent essays called Following Jesus: Journeys in Radical Discipleship, compiled by Sider's successors Paul Alexander and Al Tizon. The book is a great treat for those who appreciate Sider and his work and is beneficial to those wanting an anthology of some of the best writers on social ethics, Christian views of justice issues, and a Biblical theology of social change.

Following Jesus is a must-have resource for those who have followed Sider’s work and who support his overall project. Furthermore, it is helpful for newcomers to the holistic vision of gospel-driven social reformation. It is an excellent and thorough introduction to Sider’s Christ-centered witness for peace, justice, creation care, a consistent ethic of life, and balanced and thoughtful approaches to public policy.  

Although CPJ is rarely identified with the so-called “evangelical left” (as ESA is), CPJ founder Jim Skillen has long been a conversation partner, colleague, and personal friend of Sider, and the history and development of the two organizations parallel each other in many ways. (See the remarkably thorough Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism by David R. Swartz (University of Pennsylvania Press) for a detailed study of the rise of these movements.) Years ago, ESA and CPJ partnered on a prestigious project to mentor rising evangelical scholars, helping them develop a coherent Christian worldview so they might pursue needed research for helpful policy initiatives.  More recently, the two organizations have cooperated on issues such as generational justice, the national debt, and the “Circle of Protection” calling for funding of essential social services for the poor.

Following Jesus includes chapters on the Biblical basis for holistic ministry, studies about world missions, presentations by women and men on complex issues such as racism, peace building, global climate change, and sexual justice, and some very inspiring reminders of the need to live out our faith in concrete actions. It documents Sider’s significant influence in momentous documents such as the 1973 Chicago Declaration and the NAE statement “For the Health of the Nations.”  From Wes Granberg-Michaelson to John Dilulio to David Gushee to John Perkins, there are friends and fans of CPJ here, each offering excellent work.   

One chapter by Heidi Unrue on civil discourse should be required reading. Also of note is Glen Stassen's piece on Sider's basic methodology, a primer of sorts on Sider's important Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement (Baker) which seems to have been influenced by approaches favored by CPJ. In her essay "Popularizing the Call to Sexual Justice," Kristyn Komarnicki, Prism magazine editor and a very gifted writer, has given us a piece worth reading for several reasons: it is a nuanced look at sexual violence and trafficking, and it is also an affirmation of Sider’s role as a scholar/popularizer. 

Many of the chapters claim that Sider, a Canadian farm boy born in 1939 who grew up wanting to do apologetics in a secular university, helped change the face of contemporary evangelical faith at the end of last century and consequently the religious landscape of the twenty-first century.  It is an audacious claim, but it is true.  There are few religious leaders who have had as much substantive, reforming impact.  And few are as intentional about honoring relationships with Christian leaders from developing nations and who work so congenially with young and old, with women and men, with folks of every race and ethnicity. Sider’s is a global and trans-denominational influence and the authors of this book reflect this. Following Jesus was written by Christian scholars and activists, missionaries and economists, theologians and politicians, from all over the world.  It is a solid testimony and witness to Sider’s forty years of important work.

We, too, want to add our voice of congratulations to Sider, thanking God for him, for our past collegiality and partnerships, and for his consistent, persistent call that we follow the Bible and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ not only in our personal lives, but also in our politics.

- Byron Borger runs Hearts & Minds Books. Capital Commentary readers can get a 20% discount on books listed here by ordering through Hearts & Minds.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”