A Practical Guide to Social Justice
Edited by Mike and Danae Yankoski
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009
Review by Carl McColman
Human trafficking. Refugees. Hunger. Unclean water. Education. Poverty. HIV/AIDS. The environment. The areas in life where injustice or social inequality threaten both individual lives and the common good are, alas, all too numerous. The Christian life mandates that we care for those in need (Matthew 25:31-45; Luke 10:25-37). But it is far too easy to simply feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the need in our world today. Where should I begin to respond to the call to love my neighbor, to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to comfort the afflicted?
Enter Zealous Love. This “practical guide to social justice,” written for ordinary first-world Christians, focusses on eight specific areas of need in today’s world. Each section begins with a brief overview of the nature of the scope of the problem, and then provides a number of “Field notes” — first person narratives in which activists describe their experiences encountering the problem, and then working to fight it, in different ways and different places around the world. “Now What?” at the end of each section provides concrete suggestions on how to reflect and pray about the issue at hand, with practical suggestions on how to respond, spread the word, and connect with organizations engaged in work related to the issue.
What I think makes this book useful is how it combines honest assessment of how serious each issue is with a manageable list of suggested action steps that concerned persons can take to join the fight for justice. “A thousand mile journey begins with a single step,” as the old saying goes, and Zealous Love is all about resolving to take that first step. Just casually flipping through the book will open your eyes to social and political problems you may either not have known about (or preferred not to know about). The Field notes make the issues come alive, with real stories about real people involved. And then the recommended action steps offer a range of possible responses, from simply learning more to making a commitment to full-time service.
In our time it is easy to feel overwhelmed just with the challenges that face even those of us who are, by global standards, quite affluent. Considering the depth of suffering and the enormity of problems such as environmental threats or economic inequality, and it is easy to feel tempted to retreat into a shell of apathy or indifference. But such is not the Christian way. We who have been touched by the wild love of the Holy Spirit are called to share that love with others, and fighting injustice is an important way to do just that. Zealous Love provideas a full range of gentle — and challenging — ideas on how average folks like you and me can join in the fight.