I would suspect that some, maybe many, of our readers subscribe to the Sojourner’s/Call to Renewal email. A day or so ago they convened a debate among three Democratic Presidential candidates to grill them about “faith, values and poverty.” Jim Wallis, as you should know, has long insisted that the Bible speaks about poverty more than any other social issue, and, although Sojourners magazine has written on a wide variety of issues—from being pro-life to taking care of land, from socially-transformative art to contemplative spirituality, from racism to worship renewal—they routinely come back to being committed to peacemaking and anti-poverty justice work. We have been subscribers since their very, very beginning (any of our BookNotes readers recall Post-American or am I dating myself?) and have sold the magazine consistently since the day we opened. (Well, we actually don’t sell too many, but we have ’em here.) Even when we don’t fully agree, or have our quibbles, we respect them. I will cherish times of not only protesting at the Russian embassy with Jim, but being in worship with them in DC . Jim gave a talk to a standing around crowd here at the shop for us years ago; now he’s regularly on national TV, all trimmed up and wearing a tie. You can see his passionate interview from after the debate when he was interviewed on CNN here. You can sign their petition drive, saying that you will take candidate’s poverty positions seriously when you vote, here.
I bring this up not only to tell you about Jim’s CNN gig, but to note a few other books that may be helpful if you, too, want to “vote poverty out” (a slogan which, for the record, I find more than a bit odd.) We have a large selection of books on economics, politics, poverty and public policy, from all sorts of perspectives, but I will be brief. Here are a few new, essential ones. If, as Call to Renewal and Wallis hope, we will allow God’s concerns for the poor to guide our thoughts about elections and politics, we will have to do some hard thinking about what sort of policies work best for the poor, how to craft policy proposals that are consistent with a Christian understanding of the role of the state, and that have some ability to get beyond the unintended consequences and failures of the bankrupt welfare state.
Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (updated and revised 2nd edition) Ronald J. Sider (Baker) $17.99 This new edition does for domestic poverty issues what Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger did for global justice. Simply a must-read, an essential, modern classic. With endorsements from across the political spectrum–from Jim Wallis to John Ashcroft, from John Dilulio to Chuck Colson—this is a work that deserves to be taken seriously, a book which we hope we can sell well. The new edition is really, really important. Come on, H&M fans, this is one to get behind.
Living God’s Politics: A Guide to Putting Faith into Action Jim Wallis (HarperSanFransico) $15.95 This is a great study guide that compliments the popular God’s Politics. It includes thoughtful readings, Scripture, activities for learning, resources for further involvement. Very useful. We commend this for small groups, Sunday school classes and such, but, for what it is worth, here is a friendly critique by Paul Marshall (author of the very significant God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics.)
Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views edited by P.C. Kemeny (IVP Academic) $19.00 Wow, was I excited to see this, finally. Kemeny, with a PhD from Princeton Theo, a ThM from Duke and an M.Div from Westminister and a professorship at Grove City College, is uniquely qualified to bring together this broad range of author-activists who go back and forth offering feedback and rebuttle to their respective pros and cons. Here is Clarke E. Cochran offering a very thoughtful Catholic perpsective, Derek H. Davis with the classical Separationist view, Ron Sider with his (nearly Reformed and quite evangelical) Anabaptist view, Corwin Smidt with a neo-Calvinist, Principled Pluralist persepctive, and J. Philip Wogaman with a more liberal church “social justice” perspective. I am thrilled to recommend this, and appreciate these five distinct views, each which offers instruction for the faithful in our efforts to be wise and civic-minded, Christ-like citizens who live out the political implications of the gospel. This is serious stuff, so you should start now. You are going to want to have this under your belt as folks start talking politics more and more in the upcoming year.
Compassion, Justice and the Christian Lfe: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor Robert D. Lupton (Regal) $9.99 Anybody who has worked in urban ministry knows Lupton’s important name, and respects his good work in inner-city Atlanta. His Family Consultation Service Urban Ministries is a very important model for economic development. The forward is by none other than John Perkins, and this little quote is on the back, by bro Shane Claiborne “Bob Lupton is my favorite “responsible capitalist” but also a dear friend and brother. He’s one of the most cutting-edge thinkers on ecomonic development on the planet, yet he’s stubborn enough to keep his feet on the ground where struggle still has names…” Lupton’s practical stuff about urban renewal (like “10 Questions Donors Ought to Ask Ministries But Seldom Do” and “10 Questions Ministries Ought to Ask Donors But Seldom Do”) shows remarkable wisdom born of hard experience. Excellent, brief, clear.
The Fear of Beggars: Stewardship and Poverty in Christian Ethics Kelly S. Johnson (Eerdmans) $20.00 This is brand new in a series of academic books from Eerdmans edited by the Ekklesia Project. This is a must for those who like Shane Clairborne, but want to go deeper, and, more particularly, study the insights from personalists such as Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day. Kelly offers what looks like one of the most thought-provoking books in this field, breaking new intellectual ground. Christine Pohl writes “One does not necessarily expect a book on begging and reimagining property relations to sing with theological and historical insights, but (this) does just that. Her account is fascinating and beautifully written.” New Monasticism leader Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove offers a rave review on the back, as does Ched Myers calls it “an elegant treatise…her commendation of Francis’ ‘economic unilateral disarmament’ is welcome wisdom in our increasingly hard-hearted agnostic marketplace.”
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