In order for real change in oppressive situations, social justice issues, and power structures, a critical dialogue is necessary about how and why change will come about. This is especially true for Christians who want to follow God’s heart for justice. Jesus didn’t just heal lepers, he touched them. In the same way, Christians who are wanting real change to situations of injustice must think about the how and why in order to help cultivate transformation rather than paternalism. This is difficult for Christians, like myself, who have grown up with privilege of any kind in the United States (white, Christian, male, straight, etc.). Thankfully, there are some wonderful resources that I think can really help people with a heart for justice conceptualize healthy change. The following five books, for me, have been paradigm shifting. Some of them I’ve written reviews for on this blog, others I have not. However, I recommend them to every. single. person. At the very least, they will get a dialogue started.
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Friere
From the publisher: “First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm. ”
An awesome quote: “The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a ‘circle of certainty’ within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.”
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
From the publisher: In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
An awesome quote: “The entire narrative of this country argues against the truth of who you are.”
- Oriented to Faith by Tim Otto
From the publisher: “Rather than embracing the conflict around gay relationships as an opportunity for the church to talk honestly about human sexuality, Christians continue to hurt one another with the same tired arguments that divide us along predictable political battle lines. If the world is to “know that we are Christians by our love” the church needs to discover better ways to live out the deep unity we share in Christ as we engage with politics and our world. In Oriented to Faith, Tim Otto tells the story of his struggle with being gay and what that taught him about the gospel. With an authentic and compelling personal voice, Tim invites us to explore how God is at work in the world, even amidst the most difficult circumstances, redeeming and transforming the church through this difficult debate.”
An awesome quote: “The fact that conservative Christians often feel closer to politically conservative non-Christians than to their liberal sisters and brothers in Christ, and vice-versa, makes me think we’re all more immersed in worldly ways of reasoning than we are in the Christian story. Just as Scripture makes it clear that Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free are one in Christ, conservatives and liberals need to know one another as “one” in Christ.”
- From Brokenness to Community by Jean Vanier
From the publisher: “The lectures in this volume witness the importance of the meeting between the university of the learned and the university of the poor. From them a deep understanding of true discipleship emerges.”
An awesome quote: “If we are to grow in love, the prisons of our egoism must be unlocked. This implies suffering, constant effort and repeated choices.”
- The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre (novel)
From the publisher: “Made into a movie starring Patrick Swayze, this is the inspiring story of an American doctor who experienced a spiritual rebirth in an impoverished section of Calcutta”
An awesome quote: “All that is not given is lost”