I have always been an idealist, for as long as my mind stretches, I’ve desired to improve on that which seemed flawed. In many ways, injustice was the foundation my parent’s childhoods were formed in. As a result, suffering has never been absent in our family’s theology and with that a propensity toward cynicism.
When you combine idealism, cynicism and faith you get a mind that incessantly wrestles with the why’s and how’s of just about everything. Yeah, it’s really fun being me.
When I became aware of the means by which much of the chocolate in the world is produced, every holiday and treat now became a minefield of issues. Do I only buy fair trade chocolate to help ensure that no slaves were recruited in its processing? At a blogging conference I attended where Hershey was a sponsor, do I accept the huge Easter basket of free chocolate swag since technically I’m not buying it?
These issues may seem minute and maybe even insignificant until you find out that the 10-year-old boy’s name is Abdul. Trafficked across the border from Burkino Faso, he works upwards of 80-100 hours a week and whose diet and clothes are oppressively minimal. His ribs jut from his brown skin like a bird’s cage, encircling him in poverty. He has worked on the cocoa plantations for 3 years and already his frame is stooped from burdens carried. He has never tasted chocolate.
What do you do with that kind of information?
There is truth to the saying that ignorance is bliss. That when ignorant, you can justify your decisions, live your life unapologetically and even though there may be truth nagging somewhere in the recesses of your soul, you can easily overcome that with distraction.
It’s easy to absolve the abstract.
But it’s not as easy to do when you are aware. Informed and educated, you then have to make a choice to ignore it and thus embrace your callous heart or engage it to the best of your ability. Suppress it, subject it to reason or step up to the challenge. All of these require a choice.
Once aware, it costs something of you. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer states, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” So what does that revelation of Christ’s call in our lives look like?
When I saw that I could get a review copy of Ken Wytsma’s new book Pursuing Justice: The call to live and die for bigger things, I was intrigued.
What Ken produces in this book is a gospel centered approach to God’s call to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. It encompasses God’s intrinsic design and command that we do justice. An impassioned plea to redeem the word and concept of Justice and restore it to it’s rightful place deep within God’s heart and subsequently,ours.
Once we embrace the template God provided for why we pursue justice and shalom, Ken moves into an overview and analysis of many of the obstacles present including apathy, blind spots, politics, and social structures.
He easily blends history, philosophy, theology, and ethics to address some of the solutions to engaging this not just as activists or soap-box-ranters but as grace soaked administers bent on seeing God’s intent fulfilled as we obey his call.
He covers a lot of ground in 307 pages and his tone, while intellectual makes subjects such as the theological necessity of justice easily within reach for any reader. He intersperses segments of his life experiences and encounters with others to demonstrate many of his points and includes interludes between each chapter where many diverse voices contribute art, lyric, poetry, and dialogue on a myriad of topics. The end result being a mosaic of creativity and collaboration.
He gives almost no application in the book’s entirety. There are no lists to check or steps to follow or obey so that you can be assured you are living a just life. It was most certainly intentional.
If I’ve learned anything from attending Antioch Church for the last few months and hearing Ken speak, it’s that he doesn’t always fill in all the blanks. He thinks outside of the box and his stance of “armed neutrality” is one I often find myself embracing, thanks owing to the lovely Kierkegaard.
At the end of the book, I was left… you guessed it, wrestling.
My mind was provoked, leaving me with a lot of questions.
I found at times I was arguing with the book, yes, hypothetically in my head like a crazy person, but I realize that is the very thing that makes this book magnificent. It inspires thought and questions which then drive engagement and dialogue. After discussing some of the questions I had with him or seeing them answered in Redux, I realized we were on the same page. And even if we weren’t, those disagreements can lead to collaboration and influence just as much as a unilateral agreement on all counts.
It will resonate differently in a twenty-something college kid burning inside to change the world, a thirty-something housewife with three kids in the suburbs, a young single mother raising her child in the bad part of town, a retired grandfather, or an entrepreneur or CEO of a major company. But unlike some books, it has value for them all. It induces engagement.
Without those provocations, I might not have asked the questions.
I might not have checked out a mountain of books to better educate myself on issues close to my heart.
I wouldn’t have signed up to go to the Justice Conference to sit and learn from some of the foremost leaders and advocates of major justice issues globally.
I might not have engaged this subject with anything more than idealistic cynicism. So get the book and ask the questions. He may not give you all the answers, but he’ll certainly challenge you to think.
Ken Wytsma’s book Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things is available now for preorder with a February 12th release date.