Monday, January 25, 2010

Cross posted here from my stint as the Book Discussion host at RevGalBlogPals

Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices
by Julie Clawson

First off, a word of thanks to Songbird, who, when I noticed this book in her vast collection, said, "Here, it's yours. Would you be willing to lead a review of it at the RevGals blog in January?"

It seemed like a great idea in October, and today, while it's still early enough in the new year to consider some new ways of thinking and doing, I am very glad that I read this book. So, thank you, Songbird!

Everyday Justice is Julie Clawson's first book, but she also writes at her blog and at You may also recognize her name from the Emerging Women or Emerging Parents blogs. She has been a church planter, pastored parishes in Illinois, and now lives with her husband and children in Austin, TX.

Julie opens her text with the words "Warning! Read Before Proceeding. Don't panic." In this pre-introduction section, she gives the reader the opportunity to take a deep breath as we look a at the vastness of the challenge of living more justly. She notes on page 15, "To change the world, we must start somewhere." Julie's goal is to help her readers discover that a total life makeover isn't the only way to step into a more just way of living. "All of us can discern where God is leading us to alter our lives - to change one thing at a time, taking the time to really understand and get behind our actions." (p. 15)

In the introduction, Clawson grounds her text theologically in Jesus' memorable first public sermon as recorded in Luke 4:18-21, which is incidentally the Gospel text of which some among us may have preached yesterday. Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated a way of justice and a call to his followers to live justly.

She proceeds to define justice as "the practical outworking of loving God and others." (p. 21) She follows this with one of my favorite Dr. Cornel West quotes: "Justice is what love looks like in public." She also draws an important, thoughtful distinction between justice as punishment and justice as restoration. On page 23, she writes:
"Justice then becomes much more than simply a punishment for wrongdoing.
Instead of only punishing wrongdoers in the hope that they will live rightly,
biblical justice involves healing the brokenness that marred our relationships
with each other in the first place."

Noting that "every decision has a price tag" and "that price is often paid by the people whose lives are affected by our actions" (p. 25), Clawson then offers "a resource and a guide to acting justly" (p. 29) in regard to the purchase of coffee, chocolate, food, and clothing. She explores how one might live justly in their consumption of oil, disposal of waste, and management of money.
Through all of it, she offers information, insight, and specific suggestions for action without becoming preachy or sounding judgmental.

As I think about my own life, I need and want to move more seriously in the direction of restoration. This text has offered me so much help in thinking through the daily choices I make and the price that others and I pay for those choices.

Questions for discussion:
1. How is Everyday Justice alike or different than other books you have read on the topic of living justly?

2. If you have read the book, is there one area of concern over which you feel particularly led to '"tweak" your actions and choices?

3. How do you imagine Everyday Justice would be received in a parish setting, especially your context? Do you plan to use it in some way?

4. Finally, what did you like best or least about Clawson's text?

I look forward to your insights, and will be around throughout the day to read your comments and share conversation with you.

Looking ahead, Songbird will be discussing Salvation on the Small Screen by Nadia Bolz-Weber on February 22nd.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

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