Public Justice Review (PJR) explores in depth specific questions of public justice, equipping citizens to pursue God's good purpose for our political community. 

Vol. 6, 2017 - Freedom to Serve the Vulnerable

Chelsea Langston Bombino (Contributing Editor)

6. Religious Freedom and Government Partnerships: Where Do We Go from Here?

Stanley Carlson-Thies and Chelsea Langston Bombino

In this final article of the series, Stanley Carlson-Thies and Chelsea Langston Bombino discuss some of the important public justice principles for serving our vulnerable neighbors that have been explored in the series. They demonstrate why this public justice framework matters as it avoids the dualism that is especially prevalent in today’s highly polarized public discourse.

As we support a robust role for faith-based institutions and affirm the good role of government in providing for the well-being of our communities, the authors argue for an understanding of the limited, yet positive, task of government. In this, government plays a vital role in upholding human flourishing doing what only government can do, but it also appropriately bounds itself so that citizens and institutions can be active on behalf of their neighbors.  Read the article >>

5. Why the Black Church is Vital for Healthy Communities

A Conversation with Pastor Cheryl Gaines

Pastor Cheryl Mitchell Gaines, J.D., M.Div, is the founder and Senior Pastor of ReGeneration House of Praise, also known as the Church in the Field, in Southeast Washington, D.C. The impetus for starting the Church in the Field was the tragic death of four young people in the community. Pastor Gaines has spent her career empowering Black families and young people to thrive physically, spiritually, emotionally and vocationally. She spoke with Chelsea Langston Bombino about the vital role that Black congregations play in serving their communities.  Read the article >>

4. Partnering for Health: Federally Qualified Health Centers

Chelsea Maxwell

An estimated 30,000 people will die this year of an opioid overdose. The opioid crisis has been declared a public health emergency, affecting people of all socioeconomic levels and races and ethnicities. So many people are dying that a new study has found that the rise in opioid-related deaths has contributed to an overall decrease in the average American life expectancy.

Faith-motivated groups across the country have long recognized the need for accessible, quality, and affordable health care in their communities, and they have organized to provide health services to vulnerable populations regardless of their patients’ ability to pay. Like many other nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations often partner with government to meet the needs of their particular communities. In this article, Chelsea Maxwell explores how government has bolstered the work of community-based health centers and equipped them to expand their work through their designation as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Maxwell shares the profound stories of the tremendous work of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith-based health centers across the country that have been living out their faith-shaped missions in service to their communities. Read the article >>

3. Hope and Healing in the Opioid Crisis

Caleb Acker

An estimated 30,000 people will die this year of an opioid overdose. The opioid crisis has been declared a public health emergency, affecting people of all socioeconomic levels and races and ethnicities. So many people are dying that a new study has found that the rise in opioid-related deaths has contributed to an overall decrease in the average American life expectancy.

In the face of such devastation, how should Christian citizens respond? A public justice approach recognizes the indispensable role of both government and civil society institutions to combat this crisis. But what does that look like? In particular, how do faith-based organizations offer distinctive care for vulnerable individuals and communities battling the scourge of this epidemic? Read the article >>

2. Community Restoration After Natural Disasters

Sarah Neiman

Religious organizations and houses of worship are essential to communities, along with other community-based organizations, are often the first responders when natural disasters hit. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, churches and other houses of worship served as staging and distribution centers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), demonstrating how civil society institutions can partner with government to help communities recover and rebuild. However, in spite of this robust partnership, houses of worship are not eligible to compete for FEMA grants for rebuilding after damage from natural disasters because of their religious identity. In this article, Sarah Nieman discusses these restrictions and argues for the need to lift them. Nieman outlines current legislation supporting this call for change, showing how rebuilding houses of worship is critical to whole community restoration. Read the article >>

1. Religious Freedom and the Social Safety Net

Chelsea Langston Bombino

What does religious freedom have to do with the social safety net—those partnerships between government and civil society institutions that serve our vulnerable neighbors? Most Americans who associate religious freedom with controversial decisions around contraception mandates or bathroom use have little understanding of the vast social good provided by faith-based organizations. Because of this, there is also little understanding of the need to uphold the freedom of these institutions to serve diverse communities with diverse needs according to their faith-shaped missions.  

In this article, Contributing Editor Chelsea Langston Bombino explores the connection between religious freedom and the social safety net and introduces upcoming topics that this new series will explore such as disaster relief, opioid addiction, and access to health care in underserved communities. Bombino outlines a number of important principles to help our understanding of how and why we must support these robust partnerships between government and faith-based organizations that make up the social safety net. Read the article >>


Vol. 5, 2017 - Looking Back, Looking Forward: Celebrating CPJ’s 40th Anniversary

Vincent Bacote (Contributing Editor)

7. A Conversation with James Skillen

James Skillen as interviewed by Katie Thompson

Over forty years ago, James Skillen and a number of others began to dream about an organization for Christian political action. Their discussions and labors eventually brought about the founding of the Center for Public Justice, with the goal of developing a Christian mindset for civic responsibility. This wide-ranging conversation with Skillen explores the cultural and political climate when CPJ was founded and the engagement of Christians with politics at that time. Skillen compares this to our political currents today, and demonstrates how vital the work and vision of CPJ continues to be in challenging how most Americans, particularly Christians, think about political life. Read the article >>

6. Imagining Economic Justice

Gideon Strauss

What makes the political arrangements that shape our economic life just? Gideon Strauss responds to this question with a nuanced exploration of the meaning of economic justice. Drawing on his own work and his encounters with the work of CPJ and other traditions of Christian social thought that influenced his thinking, Strauss discusses how we might employ creation’s many riches to produce and exchange the goods and services needed for flourishing. Strauss argues that the future wealth of this nation can be generated and distributed in many different ways, but what this moment requires is moral imagination, oriented towards a reconfiguration of the political economy of America so that it bears a closer resemblance to the worthy dream of economic justice. Read the article >>


5. Radical (to the Root) Justice in Education

Christy Wauzzinski

The Center for Public Justice has been addressing issues of injustice in the US education system for many years. In this article, Christy Wauzzinski, an educator in Pittsburgh, discusses how her association with CPJ for nearly four decades has profoundly shaped her thinking, and that of a whole group of citizens in the Pittsburgh area, about the roots of injustice in education. Wauzzinski describes how encounters with the work of CPJ and its founder James Skillen inspired some in this community of citizens to establish a number of faith-based schools and start several businesses, and prompted other civic engagement efforts like a well-researched voter’s guide. She explores four main areas of injustice in our education system and calls Christian citizens to a careful and sustained engagement to bring about policy changes necessary to ensure diverse schools to meet diverse needs. Read the article >>


4. Advancing Religious Freedom and Responsibility Through Changing Times

Stanley Carlson-Thies & Chelsea Langston Bombino

For the past forty years, CPJ has offered a distinctive, principled pluralist understanding of religious freedom as a vital contribution to the common good. This perspective holds that as Christians seeking to have freedom to fully exercise our faith in every aspect of our lives, individually and institutionally, we also have the responsibility to ensure such freedom for those with whom we have great differences. In this article, the authors discuss how the understanding of religious freedom in the United States has changed over the years. They show how CPJ has responded to these changes by being a key actor in engaging groups across difference around a number of issues and promoting both individual and institutional rights and responsibilities. Read the article >>


3. Globalization and the Kingdom of God: A Christian Perspective on International Relations

Robert J. Joustra

Although much has been done to articulate and develop Christian perspectives on domestic politics, very little exists of this kind of perspective on global affairs and international relations. In this article, Robert Joustra outlines three sign posts that are key to such a perspective, emerging from the Kuyperian tradition, and Kuyper himself, as well as the Center for Public Justice’s own work. CPJ urges Christians of every state and nation to “recognize that they share a common commitment to justice beyond their own nation.” Discussing state sovereignty, international law, and freedom of religion, Joustra explores how the fruit of this justice can be found and upheld in contemporary globalization. Read the article >>


2. A Biblical Vision for Political Life

William Edgar

Christian views of political life have been shaped in a variety of ways over time, with differing understandings of the role and responsibilities of government and of how Christians citizens ought to exercise their earthly citizenship. In this article, William Edgar considers these currents in the context of thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Locke, and others, and outlines the theological and philosophical context for CPJ’s distinctive approach to political life. Edgar shows how CPJ grounds its thinking in the biblical doctrine of creation, as it applies to a world that is expanding and shrinking at the same time. In so doing, CPJ advocates for the legitimacy of a plural society that upholds human flourishing, the call to justice for all, and the freedom to worship according to conscience. Read the article >>


1. CPJ as a Discipleship Movement

Vincent Bacote

Contributing Editor Vincent Bacote starts off our special fall series celebrating the Center for Public Justice’s 40th anniversary with a reflection on CPJ as an expression of holistic Christian discipleship. Bacote argues that the current political climate raises these two important questions: “What is a disciple of Christ to do in this climate of division, fear, cynicism, and confusion?” and “How is the Center for Public Justice a discipleship movement that provides guidance at this time and beyond?” Responding to these questions, Bacote explains what political discipleship means and discusses four distinctives of the Center for Public Justice that can guide Christian citizens in their stewardship of God’s world and their pursuit of justice for all. Read the article >>


Vol. 4, 2017 - Families Valued

Rachel Anderson (Contributing Editor)


5. Learning To Value The Family In Crisis

Hannah Anderson

Writing from the perspective of rural communities, Hannah Anderson describes the challenges facing lower and middle-income families whose marriage rates have decreased in recent decades even as out-of-wedlock births have risen. Anderson urges churches, long acknowledged by the pro-family movement as partners in family support and formation, to deepen their attention to families in crisis.

She ponders the ways that a widespread cultural idolatry of individualized, romantic marriage combined with the church’s blinkered attention to middle and upper-class families has hobbled church ministry to families who fall short of this norm. Anderson contends that we must imagine how families in crisis might flourish, offering a vision of what that could be and building a path for them to enter the safety of covenant community—both in the church and in their own families.  Read the article >>


4. Fatherhood in a Changing Economy

Robert Francis

This interview with Robert Francis draws on his research into the lives of working-class men in rural America, many of whom are fathers, and his exploration of the declining labor force participation among this group. Francis explains how the American economy has been offering fewer full-time, well-paying jobs to men with less than a college degree, a challenge particularly acute in rural places. However, he has found that men are willing to go to great lengths to support their families, including moving away or taking jobs that require extensive travel, like long-haul trucking.

In looking at the US family over time, Francis shows that the male breadwinner model is actually the historical anomaly. The reality for many in working-class families today is that all adults need to work to weave together income from multiple low-wage jobs, and childcare responsibilities are juggled between parents, family, friends, and even exes who still have or want custody of their kids.  Read the article >>


3. Motherhood: Benefit or Burden to Business?

Elizabeth Schiltz

Motherhood–like all kinds of caregiving–comes with some undeniable costs. Because of these costs, an argument for women in the workplace does not, in itself, furnish a compelling business case for mothers in the workplace. In this article, Elizabeth Schiltz consider four compelling reasons for why workplaces should offer generous accommodations to mothers, who she argues bring unique gifts, talents, and perspectives to the workplace because they are mothers. Schiltz contends that forging social consensus around the idea that parenting develops crucial work skills could help combat our modern culture’s false and harmful insistence on the incompatibility of work and family.  Read the article >>


2. Gender, Family, and Productive Labor: A (Very) Brief History

Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Motherhood–like all kinds of caregiving–comes with some undeniable costs. Because of these costs, an argument for women in the workplace does not, in itself, furnish a compelling business case for mothers in the workplace. In this article, Elizabeth Schiltz consider four compelling reasons for why workplaces should offer generous accommodations to mothers, who she argues bring unique gifts, talents, and perspectives to the workplace because they are mothers. Schiltz contends that forging social consensus around the idea that parenting develops crucial work skills could help combat our modern culture’s false and harmful insistence on the incompatibility of work and family. Read the article >>


1. What Families Need to Thrive

Rachel Anderson

While families offer a locus of care and nurture that no other institution can rival or replicate, families need and deserve support from other institutions as they pursue their vocation. CPJ Fellow and Contributing Editor Rachel Anderson introduces our latest PJR series, Families Valued, and explores how a deeply privatized vision of family life that denies families’ interactions and interconnectedness with other institutions like business and government limits our ability to help families thrive.

Paid family leave is just one of the ways that businesses and workplaces support families. In this series, we will further investigate how the interconnection between workplace, church, public policy, and family can promote family flourishing in our contemporary economy.  Read the article >>


Vol. 3, 2017 - Health and Human Flourishing

Michelle Kirtley (Contributing Editor)


5. The Way of the Gospel, Health Care, and Religious Freedom

Grattan T. Brown

Why is it important that medical professionals and faith-based health care institutions are not compelled to violate their consciences? Grattan Brown responds to this question by beginning with a rich exploration of the formation of conscience and its critical role in soul-shaping institutional engagement that upholds human flourishing. Brown contends that wide institutional pluralism and protections for religious freedom are particularly necessary in science and medicine, where medical technology offers more power and more options for modifying the body and for curing diseases in the human body and psyche.

This greater power draws into sharper relief both human limitations and fundamental human questions, especially regarding the meaning of suffering and the specific characteristics of human dignity. Institutional pluralism allows for religious and philosophical traditions to help people form their judgments about the real value of new possibilities and to discern what medical interventions and institutional arrangements best assuage suffering or restore health in the patient. Read the article >>


4. Becoming a Healer

J. Todd Wahrenberger

In the United States, the journey to become a physician is an arduous and expensive process. It shapes and sets most physicians on particular and specialized paths that are very difficult to later change. In this article, Dr. J. Todd Wahrenberger reflects on his path to becoming a primary care physician, now attending to a patient population with severe and persistent mental illness. Although primary care doctors are often the best positioned to provide whole person, integrated care, only about fifteen percent of US medical students choose to enter into a primary care residency. Dr. Wahrenberger discusses current and potential changes in the training process to help more students choose primary care, particularly for vulnerable populations, where integrated care has the potential to significantly reduce health care costs while reaching people with the highest needs. Read the article >>


3. How Should We Measure Human Flourishing?

Joshua Bombino and Chelsea Langston Bombino

Human flourishing is inextricably connected to the health of individuals and communities, but too often, we only debate health care policy in terms of medical health care and interventions provided after people get sick. But what if our definition of health care took into account social determinants of health such as housing, public transportation, strength of the family unit, and connectedness to civic and spiritual groups? This article explores several initiatives that illustrate a more holistic approach to promoting health and human flourishing. These initiatives draw on strong partnerships and collaborations between government and other civil society institutions to serve the needs of the whole person and whole communities.  Read the article >>


2. How Individualism Undermines Our Health Care

Clarke Cochran

American culture’s commitment to individualism obscures the communal foundations of health care and hinders creative ways to transform a broken and deeply unjust system. In this article, Clarke Cochran explores these communal foundations and argues that our entrenched individualism is particularly problematic in health care and is largely why we are embroiled in this highly contentious, partisan, and emotional debate today. Cochran urges Christian citizens to examine our own individualist assumptions and to advocate for health care policies that advance the well-being of the whole community. Read the article >>


1. To Repeal or Not to Repeal: Why That Is NOT the Question

Michelle Kirtley

The rancorous debate over health care reform has been reduced to a few provocative and often misleading claims. While health care policy is exceptionally complex and multidimensional, what are some guiding principles that Christians should hold our lawmakers accountable to as they enact changes to our health care policy? In this introduction to the series, Contributing Editor Michelle Kirtley responds to that question and explores how these principles can inform our understanding of the current policies under debate. She argues that applying the principles of human flourishing together with an emphasis on institutional pluralism can inform a compassionate and just health care policy that includes multiple sectors and institutions and can help us ensure a sustainable system for future generations. Read the article >>


Further articles in the Health and Human Flourishing Series will be published on Mondays in June.


Vol. 2, 2017 - A Just Welcome

Matthew Soerens (Contributing Editor)


7. Refugees, Security, and the Task of Government

Steven Meyer and Stephanie Summers

In this final article of the series, Steven Meyer and Stephanie Summers discuss the task of government in responding to the refugee crisis. Meyer and Summers outline the context for the development of US and international agreements regarding refugees and the intended scope of these agreements. In light of that, they argue that we must encourage our government to address two of its important responsibilities simultaneously: that of providing for the security of the nation’s citizens and for the protection for those whose own citizenship must begin afresh elsewhere.  Read the article >>

6. A Church’s Journey with Refugees: From Sponsors to Friends to Advocates

Claire McWilliams

Claire McWilliams tells the compelling story of how her church congregation has partnered with a resettlement agency in Chicago to welcome a family from Homs, Syria. As cosponsors with the agency, the church community has provided the family with emotional and social support as they adjust to their new life. McWilliams describes how transformational this relationship with the refugee family has been, and how it has been a catalyst for action and advocacy on behalf of the larger refugee community.  Read the article >>

5. The Religious Act of Welcoming the Stranger

Chelsea Langston Bombino

The elements of President Trump’s Executive Orders that pertain to refugees raise a number of questions about the right roles and responsibilities of the government, churches, organizations, and citizens in responding to the refugee crisis. In this article, Chelsea Langston Bombino discusses how the biblical call to “welcome the stranger” has particular implications for faith-based organizations serving refugees. She argues that helping to resettle refugees is a key response to this call, and the limits placed on refugees entering the country limits the abilities of faith-based organizations to exercise one of the core tenants of their faith. Read the article >>

4. Refugees and the Politics of Holy Week

Matthew Kaemingk

This week, as we remember Jesus Christ’s final days on earth leading up to his death and resurrection, Matthew Kaemingk explores the political implications that Holy Week has for how we respond to refugees. Drawing on examples from the Dutch experience with refugees, and challenging the polarizing ideologies of nationalism and multiculturalism that have shaped the debate in the United States, Kaemingk reflects on five key spaces where Jesus demonstrates his alternative politics of hospitality. Read the article >>

3. The Memory of One Drowned Boy: Canada’s Response to the Global Refugee Crisis

Paul S. Rowe

Canadian culture and values are closely intertwined with those of the United States, and many of the same concerns and debates about refugees taking place in the United States are taking place in Canada as well. However, Canada’s overall response to the global refugee crisis and its commitment to refugee resettlement differs in a number of ways from that of the United States. In this article, Paul Rowe discusses these differences and explains how Canadians’ faith, culture, and political views have shaped their response. Read the article >>

2. From Dislocation to Resettlement

Stina Kielsmeier-Cook

The refugee journey, from the time of dislocation to eventual resettlement, is arduous and fraught with complexity and uncertainty. In this article, Stina Kielsmeier-Cook describes the lengthy process through which refugees are processed and vetted as they struggle to secure safety and stability for themselves and their families. In particular, Kielsmeier-Cook focuses on the vetting process for refugee resettlement in the United States that has come under significant scrutiny lately. Read the article >>

1. A Crisis and an Opportunity

Matthew Soerens

The number of refugees around the world has soared in recent years as millions of people have fled violence, persecution, and political upheaval in their home countries. As the world grapples with this crisis, the question arises: what does it mean to uphold public justice for refugees? In his introduction to the series, Contributing Editor Matthew Soerens describes the crisis and outlines the theological principles for how Christians should respond. Soerens also introduces some of the other issues to be explored in this series that inform the prudential determinations Christians must make to extend a just welcome to refugees.  Read the article >>


Vol. 1, 2017 - Distinctive Christian Citizenship

Timothy Sherratt (Contributing Editor)


7. Flourishing in a Pluralist World

Bryan T. McGraw

How can we live together in the context of deep moral and religious differences, and can we flourish together in a society where we don’t agree on what it means to flourish? In this article, Bryan McGraw explores the various ways these questions have been answered with either exaggerated emphasis on commonality or a blanket celebration of diversity. McGraw suggests that we pursue the goal of “reflective discomfort” that sees pluralism, and its conflicts, clearly. In doing so, we can see where our commitments run up against those of others and where they can coexist and even complement. Read the article >>

6. Protecting Minority Voting Rights

Kimberly H. Conger

In the second of two articles about loving our neighbors through politics, Kimberly Conger highlights the injustice of voter suppression among the poor and racial and ethnic minorities. Describing this intentional structural injustice that limits access to the ballot, Conger outlines concrete actions that we can take to ensure that our democracy appropriately values and upholds justice for these minorities and allows those voters a voice and representation in the political system. Read the article >>

5. Loving Our Neighbors Through Politics

Katie Thompson

In this first of two articles on loving our neighbors through politics, Katie Thompson tells the compelling story of how a faith community in Arizona addressed a major injustice through their political engagement. The work of this group of Christian citizens to help achieve a legislative victory against the predatory lending industry in their state teaches us powerful lessons about how we can seek the flourishing of our communities through the political process. Read the article >>

4. Citizenship in Community

Rachel Anderson

Many of us feel isolated in our calling to citizenship. While we may occasionally participate in marches or demonstrations, we largely live out our political lives as individuals, and not as a community. This individualism often leads to disappointment and a sense that our voice and action make no difference. In this article, Rachel Anderson outlines an inspiring vision for citizenship cultivated in community, sustained by a number of practices that can help us work together to pursue God’s good purposes for our political communities. Read the article >>

3. Political Discipleship for the Common Good

William Edgar

What does it mean to follow Jesus as a political disciple? Christians have responded to this question in a variety of ways, and after the contentious election season, disengagement or withdrawal into Christian community have been compelling options. In this article, Bill Edgar urges us to do otherwise, arguing that our political discipleship means deep engagement in the varied institutions we have inherited, rooted in Creation, with a view to fostering obedience to the Lord in each. Read the article >>

2. God's Good Purpose for Authority

Timothy Sherratt

The transfer of power and authority to a new administration naturally heightens interest and anxiety over the direction that the country will go. In this article, Timothy Sherratt explores the gift of authority and God’s good purposes for its use. As a new administration takes office in a political culture that often regards authority as a synonym for oppression, how might a Christian understanding of authority as a gift for human flourishing stand out? Read the article >>

1. Distinctive Christian Citizenship

Stephanie Summers

In this first article of the inaugural series of CPJ’s Public Justice Review, Stephanie Summers poses the question, “Is there such a thing as distinctive Christian citizenship?” The painful and contentious 2016 election season and the uncertain political landscape ahead has left many Christians wondering how best to live out their calling as citizens who faithfully pursue God’s good purposes for their political community. Summers responds to this question with two foundational principles and looks ahead to the important questions that the authors of the series will explore in the coming weeks. Read the article >>