Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
Politics and Prose
June 21, 2013
By Byron Borger
It has been several decades since the founders of the Center for Public Justice raised the call for a uniquely Christian perspective on public justice. Many of the guiding principles came from the hundred-year-old heritage of the Christian political movement in Holland, inspired by Abraham Kuyper and Groen van Prinsterer. While James Skillen and other CPJ founders were not the only evangelicals calling for a worldview that informed our citizenship in those years, there were not many mainstream evangelicals in the 1970s who were interested in such concerns.
CPJ friend Dr. Ronald Sider was an early and consistent voice. He founded Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) forty years ago this year, and his many books have inspired multitudes to care more about the poor, about creation care, about the rights of the unborn, and about Biblical principles for social and political reform. (See the invitation to ESA’s 40th Anniversary Conference, Follow.Jesus. 2013.)
Dr. Sider’s movement was partly inspired by CPJ, as well as other unique influences: radical Mennonites, young evangelicals like Jim Wallis who had been involved in the student anti-war movements of 60s, and, of course, the black church and its heritage of civil rights activism. Black evangelicals, such as John Perkins, Tom Skinner, and Bill Pannell were particularly influential.
I will write about the legacy of Ron Sider and ESA later, but for now, it can be said that if Skillen and Sider where once “voices crying in the wilderness,” that is hardly the case now. Few have a worked-out view of statecraft and policy of the sort CPJ offers, but the earnest desire for the common good is surely inspiring, if a bit surprising. Social justice is hot in popular evangelical publishing.
Here are five recent books, each from mainstream evangelical presses. All are quite good and are helpful in showing the political implications of orthodox faith. That these sorts of books are now being published may be a sign of God’s faithfulness to a previous generation who paved the way.
Gospel Justice: Joining Together to Provide Help and Hope for Those Oppressed by Legal Injustice Bruce D. Strom (Moody Press)
Strom is a passionate advocate for gospel-based justice advocacy. He is an attorney who left his private practice to form Administer Justice, a legal aid project for the poor and underserved. His book is an inspiring call to seek justice and mercy, to protect the oppressed, and to work for legal reform. Look for more resources to come from this historic evangelical publisher under their new imprint, the “Gospel Justice Initiative.”
Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action Mae Elise Cannon (InterVarsity Press)
Cannon compiled a very useful resource for justice activism in her 2009 Social Justice Handbook. This beautifully written new work tells of the interior lives of seven key social justice leaders, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Watchman Nee, and Oscar Romero. On the back it says “Transforming the Soul, Reforming Society.” This lovely, significant book indicates a recent interest in the relationship between prayer and politics, spirituality and social change.
Difference Makers: An Action Guide for Jesus Followers M. Scott Boren (Baker)
Can one ordinary life make an extraordinary impact? Do you want practical guidance on getting started in civic activism? There are several similar handbooks for making a difference on vital issues, but this is the most insightful, wise, and useful tool book I’ve seen. It is informed by solid Biblical study, as mentioned in the forward by popular New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, and is ideal for small groups who want to become action teams.
The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-Taking, Justice-Seeking, Disciple-Making Congregation Jim Martin (Tyndale)
This tackles a lingering problem: how can we erase the divide between those interested in making disciples and influencing church members for their Christian living, and those interested in justice work? Can we promote justice advocacy as an integral, natural part of Christian living? Can lively churches become centers of justice seekers who grow in their civic passion as part of their ordinary growth as believers in a worshipping body? Co-published by International Justice Mission (IJM), this is a truly remarkable book -- innovative, practical, and theologically reliable. Martin has given us not only a road map guiding us from apathy to action, but a stimulating treatise on the nature of the church.
Father, Forgive: Reflections on Peacemaking Fr. Andrew White (Kregel Publications)
The Vicar of Baghdad -- the pastor of St. George’s Church, the only Anglican Church in Iraq -- has been kidnapped, held at gunpoint, kept in torture chambers, and has had over eleven of his own staff killed or kidnapped. Yet he follows Christ’s way of being an agent of reconciliation, is a voice of moderation and civility, and has come to do remarkable interventions of mediation in hostage situations. He is a deeply Christian leader, respected among many sides of the complex Middle Eastern conflicts.
- 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.”