Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Justice Project - book review

For my first book review for Viral Bloggers, I read “The Justice Project” edited by Brian McLaren, Elisa Padilla and Ashley Bunting Seeber.

The book is a compilation of essays from 35 authors. The variety of voices and perspectives is by far the major strength of the book. Men and women from many different countries and ministry groups contributed towards answering “What is Justice?” from a mostly Christian perspective.

Since there are too many essays to review individually, I thought I’d focus on just two:  Richard Twiss’ “Reading the Bible Unjustly: How Has the American Church Read the Bible Unjustly” and “Just Perspectives: How Can We Become Just Global Citizens?” by Ashley Bunting Seeber.

Richard Twiss, a Native American, works in Washington but I particularly liked his essay for the insight it provided into some of the issues of my Native Alaskan friends and family.

Twiss’ tells of the history of the colonizing of America which led to European people “viewing Native people through the lens of Scripture, [they] people saw idolaters who were spiritually deceived, lost in rebellion, and hell-bound. While it is true that all peoples and cultures are stained by sin and the rejection of the Creator’s path of beauty, and desperately need reconciliation to God, it is also true that European enlightenment thinking colored their understanding of Scripture that manifest destiny and biblical mission became indistinguishable; one appeared the same as the other.”

His essay is a strong reminder to work with culture groups to find ways they can express their Christianity through their own cultural norms, instead of insisting it be replaced with “church culture”.

I think this book would have benefited from some more practical examples of how to live justly. A better balance of pragmatism and theory would have made the book more complete for me. It does a tremendous job of explaining what justice is and why we should care, but doesn’t often enough tell us how.

One exception was “Just Perspectives”. Seeber tells about some of the interactions she’s had with various cultures outside of the US. She goes on to provide a list of 10 practical things we each can do to make sure we, as US citizens, make for better global neighbors. Some of these ideas can be done in your own hometown and include: eating new ethnic foods, helping refugee families settle in, read news from other perspectives, pray the news, and help your children learn geography.

Overall, I think the book provides a broad view of people’s thinking on Justice, with well written, thoughtful essays. It’s a good reference book for a study on the subject of the biblical aspects of justice, but is not a how-to handbook.

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