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Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Tuesday Book Club - Justice in the Burbs 1
During the month of October we will be discussing various aspects of Will and Lisa Samson's book Justice in the Burbs. This book is a good introduction to what it means to care about justice as a Christian - especially if "justice" is something which you have avoided or known nothing about before. The book is also accessible to people with differing learning styles as each chapter presents ideas in fictional form, expository prose, and devotional meditation. Getting those various facets of justice really helps one in understanding the big picture. This is an introductory type of book, that focuses mainly on general themes and less on specific action steps, but it helps create the setting for how we can view justice. Even you haven't read the book please still feel free to jump in on these conversations (but it's a quick read if you want to pick it up!).

The story part of Justice in the Burbs follows a "typical" evangelical suburban family that over times learns to care for the needy and attempts to live justly. It is a process of learning and caring and understanding that is often met with scorn and rejection. The idea is to help discover how one can live a just life even in the suburbs (which the authors admit they failed at doing). To start our discussions, I think a general introduction to the idea of justice might help us most. So please share your experiences and stories.

1. When you hear the term "justice" what do you think of? What is your reaction to the term "social justice"?

2. In your church tradition were (are) things like helping the poor and the oppressed priorities? Do you spend more time involved in church activities that are for the good of the church (programs, leadership meeting, choir...) or in those that are intended to serve the needy?

3. In your day to day life, do you encounter situations where you must make ethical or "just" decisions? Do you encounter people who are in need of help (in whatever form)?

4. Do you think that Christians should even be involved in bringing "justice" to the world? Why or why not?

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  • At 10/02/2007 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Miz Melly

    Finally I can contribute to the book club because I have read this one!! But it's late and I can't spend time on this so will come back to it tomorrow.

    I really enjoyed this book. Initially the idea of merging fiction with non-fiction in the one book made me nervous. I thought it would be a bit twee. But I was pleasantly surprised. Lisa's writing is very real, her characters are well rounded. Will's style complements her story and his gentle but insistent arguments for a more ethical and just Christian community are compelling. I'll return to the questions tomorrow.

  • At 10/03/2007 07:46:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I feel a sense of excitement and also stress when I hear terms like justice and social justice. I think of big ideas and the goodness of God for all people, and also of one (too many) things to do, a sense of being overwhelmed by my own life and the problems of the world and feeling paralyzed...I feel a sense of hope that people want to change the world and also a wondering...is it realistic to bring the kingdom of God large scale,(I think of efforts at justice like communism) or better to work at bringing alive God's love in my little corner? The problem is so big, it feels like another "should" on a bad day and a beautiful call from God on a day of more abundance (of sleep and peace.) Overall, the topic seems important, massive and guilt-inducing.

    Is working for social justice more about a commitment to caring about the issue (and people involved) and having a right conscience, or effectively creating a just society/culture/world?

  • At 10/03/2007 09:49:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I completely understand where Jemila is coming from. I get so excited when I start thinking about social justice issues. The fact is that it's a whole lot easier to think or talk about it than to actually do something.

    Our church is starting to be more aware of social justice issues and trying to emphasize moving outside our four walls. Until the last coupes years, though, the churches I've been a part of have emphasized meeting the needs of the church community much more than the greater community.

    I definitely think Christians should be interested and involved in justice issues. I think that's what we're called to do as Christians.

  • At 10/05/2007 08:49:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I think this issue could be more effectively encountered if we could collectively and individually take an inventory of our spiritual gifts. Who is called to inspire? Create? Raise awareness? Who is awesome at stuffing envelopes (and actually sending them?) Who has money to offer? Who can write new laws? Wh is gifted with time (perhaps to sit outside of public office?) Who is able to travel to foreign countries and take poignant pictures? Who has the connections to get this pictures noticed? Who is a negotiator, able to help warring parties discovery shared humanity, common interest and a common Parent of Love? Who can write form letters and organize the rest of us into signing them? Who can come up with alternative ways of being in the world but not of it in western culture so that our energy and time is not utterly depleted by our way of life?

    I'm wildly guessing that if we didn't feel we all had to do everything to work on social justice that we might feel more confident and energized to do that which we're created and called to do.

  • At 10/08/2007 05:02:00 PM, Blogger Meg

    I loved this book. I've been, partly through encouragement from this blog, reading and studying and trying to figure out how we as followers of Christ bring the Kingdom here on earth and help to fullfill God's dream of ending poverty, hunger, injustice, etc. So this book fit right in, especially since I live in white suburbia and am well on my way to seeing that american dream fullfilled (nice house, white fence, kids, etc.)

    One thing I am finding in reading these books is that it is hard to tackle the guilt. I'm going through a phase where I feel guilty about everything I have, everything I buy, everything I eat, every bit of the environment I waste, etc.

    How do you escape that? I like in the book how Christine and her husband realized that they don't have to pickup and move to the poor places of town, that the suburbs are poor in ways etc. But I still can't help feeling like it is never enough.

    Does anyone else feel this way?

  • At 10/08/2007 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Yep. I feel that guilt is probably one of the most paralyzing issues. How do we emphasize social justice AND grace? How to we live an abundant life of enough and help make that available for everyone?

    I remember in college thinking if we didn't spend every waking second on soul-saving we were wasting our time at best. Now it's tempting to think if I'm simply enjoying life or involved in day to day adventures and challenges that I am similarly guilty of wasting precious time/money that could be spent to help in some way.

    When is it the time to take the kingdom with force and when is it time to pour the alabaster jar, or recline over a good meal, celebrate a wedding etc?

    Life is a dynamic balance. We may never find an equation to work this out, but I think it will help to get to a point where our birthing/healing/bringing forth the kingdom (esp social justice) comes through love, rather than guilt or "should."

    Any thoughts on how preaching and other activities can help us grow closer to Love that longs to heal and renew and bring justice with grace?

  • At 10/10/2007 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Meg

    Jemila, great point. I thought about it alot today. What does it feel like to Love people out of injustice? I don't know if I know that feeling.

    Isn't that horrible. I mean, I know love through my husband and other people, but will I ever know love to a person I don't know, to a person who is ill because of the poor choices they have made, to someone who disagrees with me?

    Is it like waiting for loving the person you end up marrying? Do the guilt feelings or 'should' feelings lead to Love.

    I am motivated at this point because I believe this is part of the dream of God for this world, for people like me to change, to do a u-turn and live out finding justice even in the burbs. Is that Love? Is it the sprouts that lead to Love?

    What does this love feel like? (I'm a feeler, but can you tell I've been chewing on this all day?)


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