Pay attention and step up! That’s the imperative call ringing through upcoming titles aiming to bring a religious perspective to contemporary social issues. Addressing political polarization; contending views on sexuality, gender, and abortion; concerns about immigration; and divisions over climate change are core to their mission, religion publishers say.

“The church is called to respond to our neighbors’ needs with compassion and insight, and we can’t do that unless we seek to understand how complex social issues affect their daily lives,” says Katelyn Beaty, editorial director for Brazos Press. Cindy Bunch, v-p for editorial and associate trade publisher for IVP, notes that the 75-year-old publishing house has long offered works on race, economic inequality, and questions of justice, equity, and dignity. She tells PW, “We aim to be a prophetic voice in the culture, creating dialogue around important issues, and pointing people to Christ.”

And at Chalice, where the corporate logo is “You want to change the world. So do we,” president and publisher Brad Lyons says, “Our faith is meant to be a public faith demonstrated by how we show our compassion for others.”

These houses and many others are not shying away from controversy or calls for change. New books are offering road maps for a more just society with guideposts drawn from the Bible as well as the experiential wisdom of church communities.

Turning the tables

Modeling the life of Jesus, who overturned tables in the marketplace, is a good start to being a positive force in society, says theologian Sean McDowell in A Rebel’s Manifesto: Choosing Truth, Real Justice, and Love amid the Noise of Today’s World (Tyndale, July). He speaks to young adults who want to work for good in the world while navigating cultural, political, and social pressures with a biblical viewpoint in mind.

Jesus defied authorities, says theologian Damon Garcia in The God Who Riots: Taking Back the Radical Jesus (Broadleaf, Aug.). He calls on progressive Christians to recognize how religion has been misused and to “reclaim the liberative, revolutionary, and healing roots of the Christian story,” says acquisitions editor Lisa Kloskin.

Kingdom and Country: Following Jesus in the Land that You Love (Aug.), edited by Angie Ward, offers an array of essays by Christian thinkers on the clash between the priorities of God and country. NavPress publisher David Zimmerman says the book “helps us consider the questions, count the cost, and thread the needle of loving our country without idolizing it.” This is critical in these turbulent times when, Zimmerman says, “The two things we’re not supposed to talk about—politics and religion—are the two things we desperately need to think carefully about.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, seeing so many people engulfed in conflict, hopes to restore peace, justice, and comfort in the world with The Power of Reconciliation (Bloomsbury Continuum, Oct.). Describing reconciliation as “seeking to disagree well,” Welby combines his authority as leader of the global Anglican Communion with managerial wisdom gleaned in his first career as a corporate executive to offer insight on conflict resolution.

Environmental activist Bill Mc­Kib­ben tracks the death of Kumbaya—the campfire song that countless religious youth groups warbled about all the world coming together—in The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened (Holt, May). It dissects decades of patriotism, white Protestant cultural hegemony, and economic prosperity to reveal strains of racism, sexism, materialism, and economic inequality. To reach a fairer future for all, McKibben writes, “Christians—and Jews, and Muslims, and shamans, and people of every other faith tradition—can play a role. Not a decisive role, but a role, and an important one.”

God’s role in politics

“One way or another, religion is always involved in politics—whether as a problem or as a solution,” says Jon Boyd, associate publisher and academic editorial director for IVP, which has three upcoming titles focused on this interaction. The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism (July) by Christian scholar and foreign policy expert Paul D. Miller is a “clear-eyed takedown of Christian nationalism,” says Boyd, who calls it “an attempt to get sensible Christians to think smart and act wisely.” How to Be a Patriotic Christian: Love of Country as Love of Neighbor (July) by the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, theologian Richard J. Mouw, makes a case for patriotism that is “an expression of our heavenly citizenship,” rather than the extremes of idolatrous nationalism or cynical disengagement. Cold Civil War: Overcoming Polarization, Discovering Unity, and Healing the Nation (Mar.) by political philosopher Jim Belcher looks for common ground between the core values of freedom on the political left and order on the political right.

Such actions require moral vision, according to legal scholar and Unitarian Universalist minister Mark J.T. Caggiano in his book, Faith on Trial: Religion and the Law in the United States (Skinner, Mar.). He aims the book toward “religious liberals and progressives” who seek to put “social progress and inclusion at the center of the national conversation about religion and the law,” according to the publisher.

Applying beliefs to culture

In addition to political polarization, religion publishers are also looking at the culture wars over sex, gender, and abortion with books that vary in viewpoints from moral caution to celebrating self-acceptance.

Crossway has two forthcoming titles by authors seeking to redirect readers to a traditionally biblical worldview. Historian and biblical studies professor Carl R. Trueman’s Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (Mar.) traces the backstory of today’s identity politics. Trueman teaches believers to “shift their modern understanding of personhood to a biblical perspective,” according to the publisher. And author Rosaria Butterfield, a pastor’s wife, relies on the Bible to refute what she sees as misguided ideas of sexuality in Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age (Oct.)

Ideas for calming the fraught battles over gender roles in family and church are offered in Jesus and Gender: Living as Sisters and Brothers in Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher (Kirkdale, Apr.). Focus on the Family’s More than a Choice: Abortion Survivors Break Their Silence (Oct.) by Melissa Ohden, director of the Abortion Survivors Network, is a collection of stories of love and forgiveness shared by 10 people who survived their respective mother’s attempts to abort them in utero.

Moral challenges from many directions

Diverse voices speak up for their own place in theology and church life. With their book, Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation (Broadleaf. Mar.) theologian Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, who describes themself as a trans, nonbinary,
multiracial person, draws wisdom from their own faith and experiences and suggests tools for social change, according to the publisher.

Theologian Shannon T.L. Kearns’s In the Margins: A Transgender Man’s Journey with Scripture (Eerdmans, Aug.) presents “unique and vital theological insights transgender Christians can provide the church,” according to the publisher. Also upcoming from Eerdmans is Sex, Tech, and Faith: Ethics for a Digital Age (Aug.) by Kate Ott, a theologian and professor of Christian ethics. The publisher describes it as a “values-based, shame-free, pleasure-positive discussion” based in “core values of the Christian tradition.”

Both traditional and progressives of all faiths are deeply concerned with addressing sex abuse and trafficking. Ending Human Trafficking: A Handbook of Strategies for the Church Today (IVP, Apr.) by activists Shayne Moore, Sandra Morgan, and Kimberly McOwen Yim aims to steer well-meaning Christians toward well-informed and effective practices, according to the publisher.

Several upcoming books on these subjects are memoirs. When Angels Fight: My Story of Escaping Sex Trafficking and Leading a Revolt Against the Darkness (Kregel, out now) is by Leslie F. King, who fled abuse as a teen only to be trapped in prostitution, and emerged to lead a ministry to help other women escape sex slavery. In This Goes Out to the Underground: A Mother, Her Daughter, and How We All Rise Together (Hachette, July), Iranian American social scientist Pardis Mahdavi describes how she drew strength from her Muslim faith to gain custody of her daughter and then became an activist fighting human trafficking in Arab lands. In April, Henry Holt will release Chosen: A Memoir of a Stolen Boyhood by Stephen Mills, who was molested as a youth by the director of his Jewish summer camp. The publisher describes the book as Mills’s drive to find justice for himself and others.

Confronting social issues can offer lessons in theology, according to Kevin Nye, a minister and advocate for people experiencing homelessness. He draws spiritual connections in Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness (Herald, Aug.). “Housing insecurity is one of our nation’s foremost humanitarian crises, yet it is also one of the least talked about crises in churches,” says publisher Amy Gingerich.

After years working with religious leaders toward quelling gangs and gun violence, the retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark Mark Beckwith tackles gun control in Seeing the Unseen: Beyond Prejudices, Paradigms, and Party Lines (Morehouse, Mar.). The book encourages people to look directly at social differences “and see the goodness that is inherent in all things,” according to the publisher.

Many religious organizations are deeply involved in supporting and showing solidarity with immigrants. However, Guatemalan immigrant and activist Karen Gonzalez contends in Beyond Welcome: Centering Immigrants in Our Christian Response to Immigration (Brazos, Oct.) that when immigrants themselves set the priorities for the help and involvement they need, they stop being dependent outsiders, and Christian ministries will grow in discipleship as a result.

Concern about the environment is a long-standing issue for many evangelicals, but they don’t all agree about what to do, judging by Stewards of the Earth: Christianity and Creation Care (Lexham, Mar.), edited by Elliot Ritzema. It features a collection of essays by evangelicals on creation care, drawn from 50 years of Christianity Today articles. Ritzema says that in editing the book he found “one persistent discussion has surrounded the idea that, since God is going to remake the earth, we don’t have to worry about caring for it.”

Finally, University of Notre Dame Press’s Agrarian Spirit: Cultivating Faith, Community, and the Land (Aug.) by theologian Norman Wirzba “explores how agrarian sensibilities and responsibilities transform the practices of prayer, perception, mystical union, humility, gratitude, and hope,” says Stephen Wrinn, director of the press.

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a veteran religion and ethics writer living in Washington, D.C.