“Americans are remembering again how to organize en masse for social justice,” Brad Lyons, publisher and president at Chalice Press, says, adding, “We want to help equip this new wave of social-justice activists.” And his press is not the only one.
Robert N. Hosack, executive editor at Baker Academic and Brazos Press, says he acquired new justice-themed titles “with the awareness that the younger generation is interested and intrigued by issues of social justice.” In Return to Justice: Six Movements that Reignited Our Contemporary Evangelical Conscience (Brazos, out now), Soong-Chan Rah and Gary Vanderpool focus on the history of evangelical activism, providing an overview of post–World War II social-justice and compassion ministries. The book offers a historical framework for the activism of contemporary Christians.
In The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance (Brazos, out now), Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson lay out a comprehensive biblical theology of justice, with joy as the secret weapon to sustain Christians in the work of fostering justice. Hoang is director of the Institute for Biblical Justice; Johnson is associate professor at Western Theological Seminary.
Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures by Stephen Offutt, et al. (Baker Academic, out now) also highlights the biblical mandate for justice. The five coauthors, among them seminary professors and the mayor of Davis, Calif., focus on the theological rationale for advocacy and include specific tools and strategies for action—what Hosack calls “the how-tos.”In March 2017, Westminster John Knox Press will release its own “how-to”: No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Shannon Craigo-Snell, professor of theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Christopher J. Doucot, cofounder of the Hartford Catholic Worker community, look at the lessons of history and the role of forging alliances in social-justice movements. They analyze what works, what doesn’t, and why.
Chalice Press is publishing Unified We Are a Force: How Faith and Labor Can Overcome America’s Inequalities (out now) by Joerg Rieger, professor of theology at Vanderbilt, and his wife, activist Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger. The book sets out to help the 99% understand what is happening in their world today, discover how faith is deeply connected with work, and learn how to make a difference. “After digging deep into the challenges facing union activism, it shifts into the how-to of weaving labor and faith together,” Lyons says.
In Native Americans, the Mainline Church, and the Quest for Interracial Justice (Chalice, Nov.), pastor David Phillips Hansen argues that “the Native American drive for self-governance is the most important civil rights struggle of our time—a struggle too often covered up.” Hansen makes a case for the church to have a role in helping solve the problems of racism, poverty, environmental degradation, and violence.
Liberating Sexuality: Justice Between the Sheets (Chalice, out now) by Miguel A. De La Torre challenges Christians to think about sexuality and God in new ways. Grounded in biblical scholarship, De La Torre—professor of social ethics and Latinx studies at Iliff School of Theology—argues in this compilation of essays that Christianity has been wrong about sex. The time has come to move beyond our contemporary isms (classism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.), he writes, and embrace our physical bodies.
In Christianity, Social Justice, and the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II (Univ. of North Carolina, Nov.), Anne Blankenship, assistant professor of American religious history at North Dakota State University, reflects on social systems in the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s, using them to shed light on the roots of liberation theology. Blankenship writes that the incarceration period introduced new social and legal approaches to challenging the constitutionality of government policies on race and civil rights.
While these books seek primarily to engage Christians, the roots of the struggle for justice lie in Old Testament writings. In Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics (Jewish Publication Society, Mar. 2017), Jeremiah Unterman shows that, in its moral understandings, the Old Testament reflected a radical advance over writings of other ancient Near Eastern civilizations. In an endorsement, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin notes that Unterman “never loses sight of the fact that the Bible’s goal is to create a holy, moral people.”
A.B. Westrick is a freelance writer and the author of Brotherhood (Puffin), a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick.