Editor’s note: A new book, Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures, is launching in June. Bread Blog speaks to one of the book’s authors, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, senior associate for national Catholic engagement at Bread, about how the book came about and its purpose.
Q. What inspired you and the other authors to write Advocating for Justice?
A. The collaboration among the co-authors didn’t start out with the idea of writing a book. Our group got together to create a website called evangelicaladvocacy.org. The website offers diverse theological and intellectual materials to foster dialogue, discussion, and engagement in Christian global poverty advocacy, especially related to U.S. government assistance.
We received so much encouraging feedback regarding the website that we decided to write a book that could aid evangelicals in churches, educational institutions, relief/development practitioners, and evangelical parachurch ministries toward advocacy.
Q. In your opinion, why is it important for evangelical Christians to join in advocacy?
A. Evangelicals are actively involved in carrying out God’s mission in the world, and evangelicals in large part have left out an important and effective tool—advocacy—in the midst of their efforts.
Traditional boundaries for public engagement have caused some evangelicals to steer clear from political advocacy. In many evangelical churches, advocacy has been forsaken or forgotten. Yet, we see that evangelicals have more recently been getting behind issues such as immigration reform, human trafficking, criminal justice reform, and hunger.
Evangelicals can be faithful followers of Jesus and have a greater impact in the world around them too.
Q. What is new or different about Advocating for Justice?
A. Many evangelicals have missed the proper relationship of faith to advocacy and how those two are interconnected. We argue that the proper place for advocacy is within the process of discipleship. That the essence of God’s character empowers humanity and makes clear that faithful discipleship includes engagement with the authorities by the body of Christ, especially when power is being used sinfully.
The book lays out the concept of “transformational advocacy” and encourages church leaders to equip congregations to respond faithfully to God’s calling to engage in this special area of ministry: advocacy.
Q. As the number of social justice issues grows, we can’t give our time and effort to every cause. How can one decide on a cause to advocate for?
A. Prayer is a good place to start. If an injustice you witnessed or experienced moves your heart and captivates your mind – notice that. Pay attention to those God-given stirrings. Reflecting on what God may be calling you to do can be helpful to discern which issues or actions you may be called to get involved with.
Educate yourself. What organizations, academic institutions, books, or thought leaders are thinking about this issue? What are they saying? Remember to look for a variety of perspectives so you can challenge yourself, your assumptions, and really learn different viewpoints to get a clearer picture of the issue.
Q. What current issues need more attention and activists behind them?
A. Childhood poverty in the United States needs more attention. Children make up roughly 24 percent of our total population in the U.S. but comprise one-third of our nation’s poor people. More than one in five children live in poverty. African-American and Hispanic children are disproportionately represented in these sobering statistics.
The U.S. lags behind other developed nations in life expectancy and child survival because we tolerate higher levels of poverty and hunger. Education, access to healthy food, and other socioeconomic factors drive wellness disparities in this country. If nutrition, education, and access to food affect our ability to actually end hunger, then who has the power to make a difference?
A book launch celebration for Advocating for Justice is scheduled for June 3 during this year’s Justice Conference in Chicago. Learn more about the book on Facebook. The book is available on pre-order at amazon.com.