Sometimes books just show up unsolicited. When a copy of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things by Ken Wytsma (with D. Jacobsen) arrived, my plan was to read about 50 pages and then thank the publisher (Thomas Nelson) with a passing reference in a “currently reading” blog post.
Instead, this was literally a “can’t stop” book until, more than 300 pages later, I ran out of book. First time author Wytsma is president of Kilns College, an innovative school in Bend, Oregon which began with four night classes in 2008 and now offers 36 classes with a focus on missions and social justice. The website defines the purpose, “We didn’t want to simply provide a vocational Christian education. ” He is also the founder of The Justice Conference, a two day annual event in Los Angeles which began in 2010 and will have its fourth event in Feburary, 2014. He’s also a pastor at Antioch Church in Bend, and writes at (K) blog.
Pursuing Justice is on the surface an easy to read primer on all the issues which social justice raises. Wytsma teaches philosophy, and approaches the topic from the vantage point of one wanting to know the heart of God in issues such as slavery, disease, poverty, inequity, etc., but with a view to the “cluster concept” of the justice God desires that is rooted in the concepts of righteousness, ethics, integrity, truth, love, etc. On closer examination, this title goes much deeper.
The book is a call to action on the part of the church, but that action has to be rightly considered. Don’t expect him to be a fan of your church’s next one-week mission trip unless the purpose of that trip is to build one-decade relationships. And I would add, don’t expect to grasp social justice through the reading of a book; Wytsma’s personal history in some world hotspots gives him both the credibility and the requisite passion on this subject; he has literally looked social justice in the eye.
And don’t think what happens a world away doesn’t matter, or that what we do in North America or Western Europe doesn’t impact the uttermost parts of the earth. In a visit to his daughter’s school — literally taking a friend from the Democratic Republic of The Congo for show-and-tell — a student asks if the visitor’s community has PlayStations. The African doesn’t get the question, and Wytsma actually tells the man to say no, but it’s really a lie of sorts because they do have the raw materials that make the PlayStations possible. It’s an awkward moment all round that underscores the complexity of life in a shrinking world.
As one who grew up at a time when Evangelicals neglected their social responsibilities, both locally and globally, Pursuing Justice is one of those books which, having read it, I need to start back at page one to fully absorb its implicatons. Each chapter is followed by an “interlude” and while the reason for that may have been artistic, it allowed some of us to catch our breath between topics in what is an incredibly complex topic.
Finally, while the book is certainly appropriate for a mass audience, its exhaustive examination of justice gives it a textbook quality. If you haven’t delved into this subject, or your reading is limited to one or two popular speakers, Pursuing Justice belongs on your bookshelf.
…Thanks to Wordle (and blogger Nicole) here’s another look at what the book is all about:
Watch a one-minute book trailer and read another excellent review at this blog.