Thoughts on Everyday Justice

November 27, 2009

activism / books / emergent / emerging church

Recently, I read Julie Clawson‘s new book, Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices. Julie’s blog has been one of my favorites for two or three years. The book has come at a really unique time for me, as I had just read The Justice Project, and so the interplay that the two books have had in my mind is fascinating.

The Justice Project is written by many different authors, and it covers very broad issues – theological, cultural, etc.. These are desperately important issues for us to consider, and again I think the book has potential to take conversations on justice within the emerging church to an entirely different level. But Everyday Justice covers our role in very specific issues – slavery, sweatshop and child labor, and so on. It also has vital importance to our conversations around justice.

The conversation around everyday issues of justice is a hard one to begin with many folks, both because it is hard for people to learn that they are complicit in systemic injustice, and because it is an overwhelming realization when it does come. Julie’s book does a great job in avoiding both of these difficulties, by making it clear that legalism and guilt are not the answers, and also by giving us specific ways to live justly.

It is additionally hard for many folks in the church to have these conversations, because there is an understanding of justice that is reduced from the expansive, holistic nature that is meant in biblical language, and Julie deals with this as well.

In a specific sense, the book deals with issues of coffee and chocolate (which are often produced by slave labor and worsened by various economic policies), clothing (which is often produced in sweatshops and also worsened by various economic policies), cars and food (which have obvious environmental issues and also human rights issues), waste (which has its own consequences but of course speaks to our desperate desire to consume things), and debt (which details our specific economic and political relationships to the debt-ridden nations in the developing world and what needs to be done, though of course our own debt is relevant as well). The chapter on each issue is well-researched both on the broad issues themselves and how we are individually involved with them, and gives specific ways we can live justly with regard to that issue.

Some folks will find the issues to be very familiar through trying to understand justice, but even in these cases it is fantastic to have the research on the issues, and the resources on living justly, together. I think most folks, though, will learn something about all of the issues, whether it is related to just how far systemic injustice reaches and how much we are complicit in it, or ways to continue moving life toward justice.

I spend a lot of time in thinking, learning, having conversations, and trying to seek justice around these issues, and I find the book to be invaluable in all of these things. I’m very familiar with most of the issues, but still learned a great deal.