My favorite books about justice
by Rachel Held Evans
July 20, 2011
I’ve been focusing on justice this month, both in preparation for my trip to Bolivia and as part of the biblical womanhood project. Last week Dan and I attempted a “week of eating justly,” in which I vowed to know exactly where all the food we purchased came from in order to ensure that no people or animals were exploited in the process. In some ways it was harder than I thought ($3 for a can of chicken broth!) and in some ways it was easier than I thought (which fair trade chocolate should I taste test today?). In addition, I’ve been focusing my prayers and reading on subjects related to justice. So today I thought I’d share my favorite books on the topic:
1. The Hole in Our Gospel by president of World Vision Richard Stearns is a fantastic introduction to the centrality of justice to the gospel message. Packed with biblical references and personal testimonies, it’s the kind of book you can safely introduce as a book study option at your church if your group includes participants with a variety of political and theological viewpoints. Stearns issues a moving call to action that challenges Christians to look beyond the walls of their churches and work together to demonstrate God’s love for the world by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.
2. In Half the Sky, Pulitzer Prize-winning duo Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn explain how investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide will lift millions out of poverty. According to the authors, more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. Focusing on sex trafficking, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality, the authors masterfully incorporate colorful stories of real women who have both suffered from oppression and triumphed over it in order to make the case that “women aren’t the problem but the solution. ” This is by far the most well-written book about poverty and injustice that I’ve read. What I love about it is that it really gives the reader a sense of being “on the ground,” where there are no easy answers and no simple categories of victim and rescuer. (In light of recent conversations here on the blog, I found it interesting that the authors are very much in favor of Westerners taking short-term trips to impoverished areas of the world.)
3. If you are looking for a super-practical guide to living more justly, I highly recommend Everyday Justice by Julie Clawson. I used this book to plan most of my activities this month, and it is has proven to be an invaluable resource for making better decisions as a consumer. With seven easy-to-read chapters on coffee, chocolate, cars, food, clothes, waste, and debt, Julie shows how our everyday decisions can affect people around the world. Best of all, each chapter concludes with lists of additional resources that provide readers with the books, documentaries, and Web sites they need to learn more and to put their resolutions into action. You don’t have to take all of Julie’s suggestions of course, but incorporating just a few can make a big difference.
4. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider was the first book to really inspire me to rethink the way that I live in relation to my global neighbors. First published back in 1977, the book has been thoroughly revised and updated. (I read the 2005 version.) Like The Hole in Our Gospel, it provides a comprehensive biblical case for caring about justice, but with an emphasis on the contrast between Western materialism and worldwide poverty. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger was named one of the Top 100 Religious Books of the Century by Christianity Today, and it is well-deserving of that honor.
5. Last night after dinner, I finally picked up Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James and, believe it or not, I’d finished it by 1:00 a.m.! I loved this book! In it, James argues that the Church’s emphasis on marriage and motherhood is not far-reaching enough to encompass every woman’s whole life within a multicultural, rapidly changing world. In order to take on the sort of injustices we encounter in Half the Sky, Christian women must be freed to lead and to capitalize on God’s positive, life-affirming vision for them. I was absolutely thrilled to see James, an evangelical, interpret passages like Genesis 2 and Proverbs 31 in ways that I believe are much more faithful to the original meaning of the text than are typically presented at Christian women's conferences. James issues a stirring call for the Church to move beyond stifling arguments over gender roles and embrace a holistic understanding of God’s calling for both men and women. I wrote “amen” in the margins more times than I care to admit.