Christian Legal Society, Advocates International, and the extraordinary privilege of selling books

After a four hour delay, stranded roadside and then at a garage with our two vehicles jammed full of book boxes and set-up supplies, we arrived in DC for the all night set up in the lower levels of the Hyatt on Capitol Hill.  Seeing the iconic dome again was very moving (I think the last time I was that close I was reading Colossians 1 at a refugee rally and protest against the mistreatment of asylum seekers.)  This time, we were working with those who really are doing the front line work of faith-based advocacy on religious freedom,  aiding those under persecution, peacemaking, justice work.  Every year we sell books at the annual shindig of the prestigious and fascinating Christian Legal Society (a US based association and fellowship of lawyers, judges, legal scholars, law students and such) but every four years, the CLS event turns into the stunning Advocates International, a global network of lawyers and activists who stand for God’s justice, work against modern-day slavery and trafficking, speak out against corruption in the courts, fight for religious freedom and file legal briefs in nations far and wide, offering a perspective from God’s Kingdom to the powers that be across this globe.  It is fabulous being with those who stand for the unborn, who work for the poor, who are on the cutting edge of justice advocacy for the oppressed and who work at, and train others in peacemaking and the call to follow Christ’s ways in civil society and public life.

Shaking hands with a former child soldier from Uganda who has witnessed unspeakable atrocities and who is now a voice for reconciliation (and is a working lawyer) or sitting with a young woman who is a clerk to the Supreme Court of an Eastern European nation, hanging out if even briefly with Paul Marshall (perhaps one of the world’s leading scholars of religious persecution, now at the Hudson Institute) and listening to evangelicals from glorious but bloody places like Georgia or Burma or Sudan, was beyond thrilling, it was humbling in ways that are hard to describe.  Hearing the legal scholars from what may be the world’s most important Christian law school (Hundong, Korea) and debating things as arcane as the philosophy of natural law was exciting and, in this context, incredibly important.

Of course we had the regular stuff—credit card machines hassles, getting better lighting from the facility for the book display, big stacks of stuff that didn’t sell, books that we sold out of, people spilling drinks on the book table—but all the late hours and hard work and retail tedium pales as we thank God for an experience of bookselling ministry unlike anything we’ve ever had. 

Mike Schutt is a hilarious and thoughtful presence through it all and if you know any lawyersredeeming law.jpg or judges or politicos his Redeeming Law (IVP; $24.00) simply is a must-read.  Christian legal scholars and students alike can be glad that there is such a deep and readable and helpful resource as they integrate faith and work, discerning their vocation of redeeming law.  Every work-world career should have a foundational book like this to undergird their daily fidelity, living out faith in the marketplace.

We were glad to hang out a bit with fellow central Pennsylvanian, Stephen Bloom whose Believer’s Guide to Legal Issues (AMG; $12.99 )is a basic, introductory guide for non-lawyers, a perfect introduction to concerns about courts and laws and jury duty and legalese from a clear Christian framework.  A graduate of Dickinson Law,  Stephen is a good guy and it was fun hosting his little autographing session.  Maybe you’re church library should have one of these useful little books.

Gary Haugen is the man who is maybe as responsible as anyone of putting global justice issues “on the map” of younger evangelicals these days (sorry Tony and Ron and Jim.)  Gary is a man who is the hero of evangelicals on nearly every college group, is the head of International Justice Mission.  (IJM, you know, fights sexual trafficking and Mr Haugen’s riveting story of rescuing terrify no more.jpgTerrify No More (Nelson; $21.99) ended up on a nation-wide TV special.)  His new one (as I’ve said here before) is called Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian (IVP; $18.00), and is a wonderfulJust Courage.jpg collection of sermons and essays—I literally praise God for books like this!  Anyone and everyone should read this invigorating call to be agents of God’s justice in a broken world.  Knowing that there were IJM leaders in the room was almost chilling;  again, it is a blessing knowing the dangerous work they’ve undertaken, their courage and faith to rescue slaves, and Gary’s upbeat way of inviting us to a more vibrant and exciting faith, is amazing grace.  Just Courage is a book of great hope and joy, exhilarating and inspiring.  We really recommend it to you.

It is a fallen and grossly deformed world.  Hearing men and women from Rhwanda or China or South Africa or Uganda talk about genocide or persecution is sobering.  We were glad to promote the unspeakable.jpgpaperback of Os Guinness’ very, very worthwhile book Unspeakable: Facing Up To the Challenge of Evil (Harper; $14.95.)  N.T Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God (IVP; $18.00) )was propped up right beside it, as we promoted two very helpful and foundational books which allow us to have insight in a world such as ours.  To not read about this stuff is a problem for most of us, it seems, suggesting some “head in the sand” view, or a fearfulness.  Yet, having their profound analysis and hope become a part of our own heart and vocabulary is a gift beyond words.  Yes, their words on these printed pages can deepen us in ways that are so important, and the result seems to be something almost beyond words.  Read their profound books, and you will know what I mean;  you will be changed, deeper, better. 

Thanks to CLS and Advocates International for allowing us to sell our stuff, to make our books available, and for the opportunity to serve in this bookish ministry.  I hope you, our blog readers, take up some of these books and ideas as well.  As I recall the lovely and quite colorful clothing and beautiful singing and delightful (if challenging) accents, I know that God is pleased with the diversity of His big ‘ol crazy world.  That there are those who love God, knowing He is revealed in Jesus, and therefore are called to love others in missional work like this, just makes us glad.  From global justice to
world missions, from legal reform to cultural diversity, books have helped us navigate this multi-ethnic setting, and I hope we can serve you, too, as you stretch yourself by considering these kind of resources for your own journey.  Thanks.

It cost Advocates $40,000 just for the translating equipment—-cool headphones picking up the translation from the guys in the glass booths in the back—for this truly global conference.  Anyone want to kick in a bit to help them in their effort to bring together international leaders in the legal community?  Give ’em a call today.

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