Tag Archives: justice

Book Review: Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

Jesus for PresidentIn 2014, my good friend Zach bought us both a copy of Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. He had heard good things about the book and wanted my opinion as we went through it since we had been studying political theology for about a year in church. Unfortunately, we didn’t get past our first meeting with our combined busy schedules, but I’m glad to have finally come back and finished reading it myself.

I want to first point out that no one should be approaching this text from either a “liberal” or “conservative” political stance. This, unfortunately, has been the stance from which many have reviewed the text. We should first see how Jesus calls us to live, and then work out pragmatic application in our own context, regardless as to whether it may be perceived as “liberal” or “conservative.” In Jesus for President, Claiborne and Haw approach a number of controversial subjects from the initial perspective of being a citizen in the kingdom of God first. Many cannot separate their national and political affiliation from their Christian affiliation—framing it this way may seem harsh, but it’s what Jesus called us out on; we’re all in, or we’re not—and this will be the foundation of much disagreement and debate. So, I would encourage the reader to stick with them and make as much an attempt at thinking from a kingdom perspective first as able. This does not mean he or she will always agree or disagree with the authors—I certainly didn’t agree on all theological or practical points—though I do think one may be better able to appreciate their arguments, and perhaps learn and grow into being a better disciple of Christ.

It’s widely understood by my friends and family that I am a pacifist and am far more in favor of living in community than is my individualistic, privatized, American culture. I believe this is what Jesus asks of us. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I agree with the authors on much of what is presented; however, I do not always come to the same conclusions as to how we go about demonstrating these things. Nevertheless, I do and will recommend this as a beautiful and interesting introduction to how we engage with one another and the world.

Book Review: Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things, by Ken Wytsma

Pursuing JusticePursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma, founder of The Justice Conference, is the introduction to pass along to others for understanding the need and instilling a desire and passion for justice as we live for God, assuming they haven’t already grasped it from the Bible. Although Wytsma does not take anyone through a specific form or topic of justice, he brings his reader face to face with it is, its necessity, and the door through which one walks to begin living it and looking for those specificities one may have wanted within the text itself. There are, however, plenty of injustices mentioned—some with accompanied anecdotes—but the reader is not necessarily provided a path by which to remedy the injustice; rather it is hoped that the reader will be given a heart for wanting to bring about justice and discover on one’s own ways in which that may come about.

If one who is already on fire for participating in the righteousness and justice of God and has the time to read another 300+ pages, I offer this book as a great resource for fueling that fire. However, for those questioning the phrase “social justice” and the inclusion of “justice” as part of the “gospel,” I offer Pursuing Justice as a “must read.” For those who confuse the phrases “social justice” and “social gospel” and don’t want to make it through the first 200 pages with a persistent bias against anything written on the subjects, I recommend first jumping to Chapter 13, “Justice in Society,” for a well-articulated argument and explanation of the controversy and how to play one’s part in ending the perpetuation of certain misunderstandings thereof.

I have two specific critiques, though minor, I hope others will consider when reading this book and others. First, Wytsma peppers the text with lists of perceived injustices, some of which I believe are mere preferences and desires for a happy life and have no direct connection to bringing about “justice”—I would put universal health care and education provided by a government in this box. Though injustices may certainly be found within the methods by which some of these things and those associated therewith are discussed and implemented (e.g., discrimination between race and gender), I do not think the lack of such things are indicative of injustice. I would have hoped for a bit more careful nuance to be made in the given examples of injustice, but found many of these remarks to be side comments that are not necessary to come away from the text with a changed perspective for the better. Second, I often caution others in how they use statistical information, encouraging a better understanding of how the information has been gathered and disseminated. All too often numbers are used to sensationalize and reinforce a point that may be good but not actually appropriate. I’m careful to not call this way of using statistical information in all circumstances “dishonest”—some simply do not know what they are doing—but I would have expected a bit more of an honest approach to some information used in such a large and well-thought-out work as Pursuing Justice.

Overall, I do not know how someone can walk away from a thorough reading of the book without a heart for pursuing social justice, but I say the same thing about the Bible! Blessings upon all who pursue the heart of God, a heart of love—a heart of justice!


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”