Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless

As I continue to celebrate the book I commended to you in the last post, the long-awaited and exceptionally important, yes, brilliant study by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh, Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement, I am struck by how their themes of homelessness—as metaphor for postmodern dis-ease and a symptom of an economy that fails to appreciate the Biblical vision of home-making and creation-care—show up everywhere.  From the recent, delightful books about buying local, going organic and the joys of daily eating to the broader concerns about climate change and the price of gas, to the heart-breaking realities of refugees from political or natural disasters, the themes of exile and place and the longing for shalom are prominent.  I am convinced that Beyond Homelessness (as I will say in a large review later this month at the website column) is a book that will help us in very many ways; it is groundbreaking.  Like their very important and influential earlier works–The Transforming Vision, Colossians Remixed, For the Beauty of the Earth—this will make a major contribution to our thinking and, hopefully our living in these restless days.

justice courage 2.jpgHomelessness, oppression, displacement, injustice?  God’s hope, real hope? Deep joy amidst great sorrow?  Few have illustrated this more than the remarkable career of Gary A. Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission.  I recall a conversation on the phone with Gary years ago;  he had returned from overseeing for the Department of State the horrors of the genocide in Rwanda and felt compelled to start a Christian ministry, in those days described as something like a faith-based Amnesty International, a spiritually-powered agency that could tap into the wisdom and on-the-ground resources of God’s global people and resist the sorts of structural evils that the UN just couldn’t touch.  IJM has developed in to the premier NGO fighting international slavery, particularly child sex slavery and Haugen has become one of the most influential Christian leaders worldwide.  Evangelical students, especially, flock to hear him and are blogging, starting local chapters, and donating to groups fighting international abuse. (He was just awesome at Jubilee 2007, one of the best presentations in the history of that famous Pittsburgh gathering.) His first paperback book, Good News About Injustice  and subsequent video curriculum is a balanced and thoughtful study of international injustice issues and a mature invitation for Christians to care about public policy and see what God is doing through those who work for reconciliation, justice and public goodness.  Like a modern-day Wilberforce, he’s campaigned against modern day slavery (worse now than it was in the 18th and 19th centuries) and his powerful story Terrify No More documents in page-turning, heart-pounding detail the undercover rescue efforts to free child slaves from a brothel in Southeast Asia.  Maybe you saw the special on 20/20 or recall our recommendations of the book when it came out.  It is one that you can’t put down!

Now, Mr. Haugen brings us his most general book, not nearly as policy oriented and serious as his first, not as specific and detailed as his second, rather, an inspirational overview of the call to stand for justice, to be faithful and courageous, to move beyond comfort and safety and rise to the call to make a difference, in small and daily ways.  Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian (IVP; $18) could be his best yet, and we are thrilled that it has released a bit early.  Please don’t skip over the important Eerdmans Bouma-Prediger/ Walsh book as it is a truly profound and theologically mature bit of cultural analysis.  Just Courage, though, could be a great companion book, a brief but stirring call to trusting faith, to daily discipleship, to a global vision, the hope of what Christ’s followers are doing, and how we can take further steps to be agents of healing, hope and social transformation, especially for the hurting or oppressed. The chapters are very short, the readings inspiring, the discussion questions provocative, practical, usable.

Thanks to IJM, to Gary Haugen, and for publishers like IVP for doing such a fine primer on how to live out this concern that is so close to God’s own heart.  This is a great little book!

Just today I was ruminating on the spectacularly thrilling bit of dramatized monologue from the point of view of an 750 BC Jerusalem priest that meets up with the “farmer from Tekoa” the prophet Amos, as envisioned in one of the many Biblical interludes in Beyond Homelessness.  Amos was one of the first Old Testament prophetic books that I studied in depth in the mid-70s and it still ripples down the decades; I’m thrilled to learn something new, to consider the implications for my feeble life.  Quite simply, Just Courage by Gary Haugen will help us hear Amos and live Amos, will help “let justice roll down.”   Will it take you a bit of courage to even order such a book?   To recommend it to a friend or loved on, to suggest it as a study at your church or fellowship?