The following are resources to help us become acquainted with the afflicted and hopefully plant seeds in our mind as to how we as Christians can help. And as always, the books recommended are great for thinking, but they are not scripture. We always recommend reading with a mind that is open to reason, but also ready to reject what is against scripture. Yet, wrestling with hard things (some of these books can surely take us out of our comfort zone) can be a tremendous source of growth. Next week we will post more resources covering the topics of adoption and refugees.
- Every Good Thing: An Introduction to the Material World and the Common Good for Christians – David W. Jones
Before we begin to think about poverty, we need to understand what the Bible says about the goodness (or evilness) of work and wealth. Is an inordinate amount of individual wealth an inherently bad thing? Is poverty the judgment of God? Is voluntary poverty a most holy quest? Does the curse on work mean that it is no longer worthwhile? Dr. Jones covers all this and more in this tiny, quick read.
- When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself – Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
Some of you may have seen the documentary Poverty Inc which has been on Netflix. If you haven’t, that could be a good starting place to get your mind around what alleviating poverty wisely looks like and some of the institutional issues involved. When Helping Hurts discusses very similar topics, but puts them all within a solid theological framework. The authors show that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to poverty, and we have to ask ourselves whether someone in need requires relief, rehabilitation, or development. Answering this question can make all the difference between helping and hurting. This is a must read for any Christian interested in getting involved in the effort to alleviate poverty.
Some of us are already sold out on helping the poor, and we have a good foundational grasp on what is required to help the poor well. Yet, we still need more help getting our creative imagination flowing as to what particularly we want to do. The Tragedy of American Compassion explores how people in America, and the American government itself, have tried to help the poor. It highlights the successes and failures of the past few centuries and is a great resource that plants seeds of thought on how best to get involved today. We must remember that what worked in the past might not work in our current sociological climate, but this book is an excellent starting point.
To Live in Peace is a great resource because it is founded on a true story. Gornick planted a church in Sandtown, one of the most dangerous and impoverished neighborhoods in Baltimore, MD. The presence of this church, and the trial and error of using different methods of help, eventually assisted the neighborhood in climbing out of its dismal state and did so without pushing the people who live there out.
Once again, it’s important that we ground our thinking on a biblical foundation before we seek to derive practical responses. John Piper does this so well in Bloodlines. His argument that the cross of Christ both demands that we pursue racial reconciliation, but also that it itself is the answer to racism is masterful. There has been some recent criticism of this work on how it neglects some of the finer points of racism, but there are other books for that which I am recommending. But, it is to our detriment if we forget the centrality of the gospel in seeking racial harmony.
- Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America – Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith
Divided by Faith is a good companion and supplement to Bloodlines. It covers well the neglect of Christians in seeing systemic and institutionalized racism. This book would be a great resource for anyone looking to use some of their time and resources towards the fight for racial equality in the institutions of the world.
- The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race – Willie James Jennings and The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois
Maybe the biggest problem of modern racism is that we neglect to think about where it came from, how mankind could really do such a thing, and ultimately, to see how we are culpable. But when one really considers the roots of it, it’s both obvious and tragic. In order to gain power over someone, we need to think of them as lesser. Our consciences will not allow us to colonize a people or enslave a person that we consider to be an equal. This is why any minority that is clamoring for equality frustrates those in the majority, because it exposes their greed for power. These two books are great resources for Christian Americans, as the first resource surveys how Christians in days past constructed and defended their racism theologically, and the second, shows how Americans have done it most obviously to the black community.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)