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« Thoughtful, interesting, important, serious work from evangelical publishers | Main | Mobilizing Hope: Faith Inspired Activism for a Post-Civil Rights Generation »

Renewed social concern amongst evangelical publishers

The other day I did a post highlighting a few great new books released by publishers that used to be known for, well, being a bit staid, overly conservative, maybe even boring.  Or, in my view, scandalously weird for those who name the name of Christ.  Do you remember when Zondervan released the stupid book about the failed millionaire who did that high-end car, The Delorean?  Or when Ollie North lied to Congress about his role in murdering innocent children in Nicaragua and they did a book of his?  A dear relative of mine saw the bloody clothes of one of the Contra massacres and yet the CBA touted Mr. North as a hero.  All I could do in those years was pray for grace and cherish a handmade cross given to me by a friend who witnessed first hand another U.S.-backed massacre, the infamous murders at the funeral of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.  That evangelical publishers were complicit in this sort of social sin still saddens me.

Yet, times have changed, and the Spirit of God has drawn many evangelicals to repent of crass militarism and to live out love of neighbor with huge numbers of mission trips, service projects, and new cross-cultural friendship with folks of other races and classes. Good conversations about creation-care, micro-financing, fair-trade practices and the like are increasingly common-place.  Evangelical publishing houses and magazines are doing the best work about this---accessible, warm-hearted, Christ-centered, and life-changing. I noted the new Max Lucado book in my last post, about leaving a legacy in our concern for the needy. It is very nice. It took him 25 years of writing to say this with such gusto, but there it is.  The time's they are a-changin...


And so, here are a few great books on these themes published by evangelical presses who may not have released books like this even a decade or so ago.  Some did, a bit, but there is a new movement that is clear and passionate about justice, for God's glory, because the Bible says so. These books are inspiring and challenging, and helpful (unlike the many deep and arcane post-colonial theologians publishing scholarly stuff in the academic houses. Liberal theologians pride themselves in their progressive political views, but I'm not so sure they motivate many people to action with their lack of clear Biblical foundations or piety.) Maybe you are part of a group that appreciates these kinds of resources.  Maybe you should order some and pass 'em around.  Not only will they give you a new appreciation for this very wholistic, evangelical spirit, but will push you to take steps beyond your comfort zone, learning more, and doing something.  Hope you like this list.  There's more, too.  Call us if you'd like.

Humanitarian Jesus: Social Justice and the Cross Christian Buckley & Ryan Dobson
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(Moody) $14.99  This is a great, great book for those evangelicals who are wanting to link public action to Christ-honoring faith and who are eager to explore the relationship and boundaries of evangelism and social concern.  About half the book is comprised of chatty, helpful interviews with seasoned activists like Ron Sider, David Batstone, Tony Campolo and Gary Haugen and many more.  As you might guess, the opening essays are based upon solid, conservative theology (while the interviews are much more diverse and surprising and fun.)  I applaud their desire to insist that Jesus-centered ministry must include humanitarian social concern, but I think that their occasional use of the phrase "the social gospel" is a bit misguided, since most people know that that was a specific, theologically inadequate, tradition of the early 1900s.  These guys want to affirm the social dimensions of the gospel, but they are anything but "the social gospel."  Right on. Very valuable.



Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing
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Church Soong-Chan Rah (Moody) $14.99  Kudos to Moody Press for this very important book by one of the most important younger leaders/sholars within the evangelical church.  You may know Soong-Chan's previous, exceptional IVP book The Next Evangelicalism which put him on the map as an author to know.  As one reviewer put it, Rah writes out of "experiential knowledge and with anthropological precision."   This fine and mature work allows us to seek ways to honor the presence of God in different cultures.  Excellent and very highly recommended.



Jump Into a Life of Further and Higher
  Efrem Smith (Cook) $14.99  I don't know how David C. Cook got the rights to publish this hot young writer, but this is even more exciting than his
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previous book about raising up young urban leaders, or his very cool Hip Hop Church.  He is himself a young, African American leader and a brother to know about. This brand new one is a basic book of daily discipleship, I suppose, inviting us to faith and obedience, taking "leaps of faith" and such.  It works the "jumping" theme nicely, inviting us to jump into the topic he explores in each chapter.  And they are fascinating, inspiring, story-filled chapters.  Jump into them, indeed--- he draws on Martin Luther King, Jr (for instance) and invites us to a life of liberation. This is socially engaged spirituality, faith lived out in the pain of a needy world, eager to know God and jump into the fray to be used by God.  Efrem is an amazing, fun, creative writer, a superintendent in the Evangelical Covenant Church, who accepted Christ as a young man in a United Methodist Church. He's a graduate of St. John's University,  Luther Seminary, and lives in the Bay area of California, so the man gets around.  Check him out!

Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice Mike and Danae Yankoski (Zondervan)
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$16.95  I've recommended this before, exclaiming how very nice it is, the full color graphics on glossy paper, the hip design, the user-friendly information, the guide to next steps in standing for justice in so many areas.  From fighting trafficking to supporting refugees, from dealing with hunger to being faithful in creation-care, this is the best guide we know.  There are some that are more brief.  There are some that are more complex. This strikes a great balance, offering insight, inspiration and facts for action, options for involvement.  Zondervan is perhaps the leading publisher on social justice stuff---sorry Orbis-, but it is true--and we can praise God that they remain theologically sound, evangelical, and solidly Biblical.  This is just one example of the kinds of resources we need if we are going to be found faithful by the Christ who calls us to serve.  And that is the point, not "pc" treatises but an action manual for those willing to learn and do something.

Contributors in Zealous Love include the always upbeat international lawyer dude, Bob Goff, punchy preacher Francis Chan, eco-theologian Matthew Sleeth, small farmer, but uber-writer, Wendell Berry, Ed & Susan Brown (who visited our shop last month), the truly admirable Marva Dawn, even the merry anarchist himself, the Shanster C. (By the way, Mike Yankoski is an author who wrote his memoir of living as a homeless person, Under the Overpass, published by Multnomah Press, another conservative evangelical house that has done some very good stuff.)

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Why Jesus Crossed the Road Bruce Main (Tyndale) $13.99  Tyndale is a pretty typical popular-level, religious publisher, doing Focus on the Family self-help books, Left Behind novels, lots of nice devotionals, testimonial books, and some of the early books by serious Reformed thinker, R.C. Sproul.  And they do my beloved Life Application Study Bible in the NLT.  So, what a mixed bag they are---representing mainstream evangelical concerns quite nicely, some more to my liking than others, but nothing too odd and nothing terribly exciting (with a few notable exceptions.)  And, yet, they have recently done some truly amazing books that press us to action and care and bold new ways to imagine our faith.  Bruce Main is one of the most savvy urban activists in America---living on the hard streets of inner city Camden---and he is a fabulous writer.  Here, he asks a nitty-gritty question---what is with "the other side" to which Jesus often traveled?  The long sub-title puts it like this: Learning To Follow the Unconventional Travel Itinerary of a First-Century Carpenter and His Ragtag Group of Friends as They Hop Fences, Cross Borders, and Generally Go Where Most People Don't.  Want to grapple with the truths about oppression?  Want to see what Jesus might have us do? Want solid gospel study that will show you something new, without having to wade through the deconstructive controversy of Crossan et al?  This is one heckuva book, serious, interesting and compelling, drawing on his stunning life experiences, his splendid storytelling abilities, his insights gleaned from the likes of Volf and Woltersdorff and Elie Wiesel.  You won't be disappointed, and may want to join the journey.

Love Mercy: A Mother & Daughter's Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God Lisa Samson & Ty Samson (Zondervan) $14.99  We are glad when gifted writers do
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good projects (like go to Africa to minister to those devastated by the AIDS crisis) and are able to tell their story well.  This is even better than you could imagine because not only because Lisa is a wordsmith and novelist, but because (as the subtitle says) this is a mother-daughter story.  This trip, they figured, would be them ministering to others, missional, merciful, giving.  As you might guess, they were devastated, touched, and ministered to.  Offering two unique perspectives, they tell their story, recount many episodes, describe the people they met along the way.  As they put it on the back

Smiles in a place of aching sadness.  Marcy in a place of heart-wrenching poverty. Two people transformed by God in ways and places they never expected, discovering that even in a land riddled with heartache, Christ's love and redemption are ablaze.

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Twenty-Piece Shuffle: Why the Poor and Rich Need Each Other Greg Paul (Cook) $13.99  Here is David C. Cook again, from their evangelical headquarters in Colorado Springs, offering us one of the most gripping books I've read in years.  This is urban ministry, urban tales, a no-nonsense and yet very poetic report from the harsh streets of Toronto.  Rave reviews from  Publishers Weekly ("honest and well-written from page one") to Shane Claiborne to Brian Walsh, this is a serious and valuable study of how we all long for home, and have "addictions to numb a troubled spirit."  Paul really believes we can all learn from each other, the rich and the impoverished, and everyone in between.  His early book God in the Alley is excellent as well---firstly published by Waterbrook/Shaw.  How 'bout that?

Plunge 2 Poverty: An Intensive Poverty Simulation Experience  Jimmy & Janet Dorrell (New Hope) $14.99  I fist came across these folks when I realized Jimmy wrote the book Trolls & Truth which emerged from his mission doing a church plant under a bridge for homeless folks.  He is the director of Mission Waco and the publisher is affiliated with a women's missionary movement of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The Dorrell's have trained more than 6,000 students over the last 20 years, helping them learn about poverty, racism, ethnocentrism, and all the other heavy stuff that comes up when we move from a culture of affluence towards the poor.  Very, very useful. How 'bout them radical Southern Baptists?  Yay.

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DVD Justice for the Poor: Love God. Serve People. Change the World. Jim Wallis (Zondervan) $24.95  Okay, if this "don't beat all" as we used to say.  Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners, a leader for a lifetime of evangelically-oriented ecumenical social action and peace and justice advocacy, doing justice curriculum published by Zondervan!  Holy smoke, I can hardly believe it, and we are grateful.  It doesn't matter if you think Wallis gets it fully right on every iota of policy, or if his shift to ecumenical generalities disqualifies him as a bone fide evangelical, as some have suggested.  Regardless, this is solid, interesting, helpful teaching, and any congregation or small group that uses it will be driven to reconsider their values and practices, making room for faith-based activism in what might be called "God's Politics."  Neither left nor right, he says, we are invited to move the conversation to higher ground, rooting it in the classic views of the church, as taught in the Scriptures.  Check it out.  And be glad that this is being distributed by a major, conservative publishing house.  Many stores didn't order it, I'm told (you know what Glen Beck said about Wallis, after all) so the mom-and-pop bookstores may not have joined in the revival for justice happening slowly in Grand Rapids and other centers of evangelical publishing.  But we have 'em.  I hope you order it from us. A Participants Guide is also available ($9.95.)  Buy the shrink-wrapped pack of one DVD and one Participant's Guide book for just $31.95.

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3 Comments

Just want to put in a plug for "When Helping Hurts" by Corbett and Fikkert (published by Moody) - you reviewed it last summer. I recently read it with a church group - mostly folks pretty well experienced with the international development business - and we thought it was generally excellent. For those interested in helping, it explains some approaches that could be especially useful for churches. I've found myself thinking about the "relief/ rehab/ development" paradigm in my individual life and work.

Byron, hope you were just as hard on the murderous Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Sojourners back in the day practiced selective justice in that regard as they do today. The Sandinistas practiced wholesale slaughter of the Mosquito Indians and were just as thuggish as Castro.

Yes, your are correct, and I certainly was. Had a pastor friend who pastored among the Mesquitos, so was very aware. And stocked a book by a dissident in those years, published by Crossway. The Sandinistas, I believe, were a mixed bag, doing some good, building infra-structure and medical clinics and favoring small farmers. Poverty was reduced for a while, schools were started (until North's people burned 'em down!) yet they were bad on how they treated those on that coast, and they were thugs whenever dissidents tried to publish other views. They did some good, and they did some bad, often brutally---although I'm not sure they were as sadistic or vile as the contras were. Their Marxism was embarassing, and the more they were in power (naturally) the worse it got. So for what it is worth I didn't favor them.

However, I have to be honest---I find your question a bit odd. Why should I be as hard on them, since they were not my government, and I had no immediate responsiblity to them, as I did to the country of which I am a citizen? I regret and pray against, and oppose when I can any evil anywhere, I suppose, brutes in Uganda or North Korea or wherever. But my post was about theological justification of my own governments complicity in attacking civilians. I can only effectively protest and resist the evils my own nation does and in that case, I worked for alternative policies to the corrupt support for the corrupt Contras. It is on us to speak out against what our tax dollars are used for. So in that sense, we have to be selective. We select the evils over which we are complicit and have some reasonable hope of effecting. God calls me to be responsible as a US citizen, and I can only call our nation to responsible policies.

So, of course, we didn't at first support the Sandinistas (actually, at the very first, we did a bit) and they they got aligned with the Soviets, and it was awful. I have no sympathy for that kind of totalitarianism. Yet that wasn't the side we were supporting. Their crimes were despicable, but the contra murders, burning down health clinics and such, were done with our tax dollars, so it was a matter of our policy whether we would support such thugs or not.

Sojo had a good friend who served among the Mosquitos and featured him often in their pages in those years; I don't think they were quite as selective as you suggest, although they may have been naive about the Sandinistas.

So yep, I know the Ortegas were brutes, I never trusted em, spoke out against the naivete of the "Christian left" and yet, at the end, could only finally have an influence with our own government's budget. Started a prayer and fasting effort during one of the budget votes, utterly non-partisan, praying for peace with justice in Nic, with Republicans and Democrats peace-nics and freedom-fighters all together. It was pretty moving, and ended up with me in my conservative congressman's living room who was "strangely moved" by the call to pray and the testimony of eye witnesses to massacres by the Contra forces. He was an old school conservative, a good man, and I think was mad that Ollie lied to freely and that Reagan's people (not to mention Falwell) celebrated that. I talked with Falwell face to face about it myself, as a matter of fact, by that is another story...

THANKS for reading, and thanks for sharing.

Where you in government service in those years? I suppose you were, and most likely know more about this than I do. Right?