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Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith) Paperback – August 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Award-winning Christian novelist Lisa Samson (Songbird; Quaker Summer) and her husband, sociology doctoral student Will Samson, intertwine fiction and nonfiction in this challenging and inspiring book about justice. Lisa Samson's novella features the Marshalls, a suburban family with all the accoutrements: Matt climbs the corporate ladder, Christine cares for their three children, and both are busy with numerous church leadership positions. One day, Matt and Christine visit an inner-city mission, and their ideas about how they should be living gradually but dramatically change. The nonfiction portion of the book examines the issues these characters (and most of the book's readership) face. The Samsons talk about why God cares what we eat, where we live, how much electricity we use and to whom we minister. Astonishingly, the authors manage to do this without hitting a sanctimonious note. On the contrary, they repeatedly highlight the heartbreak and complexity of what they refer to as thinking and living in keeping with God's heartbeat of justice and frequently acknowledge their own struggles and failures. The Samsons include short meditations at the end of each chapter written by a variety of Christian authors, as well as a series of helpful discussion questions at the end. (Aug.)
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From the Inside Flap

Most of us sense some missing element in our lives. Sometimes we are acutely aware of this. We groan with the world and wonder why everything aches so profoundly, why we feel so far from who we know we could be, from the Garden, from God. We suspect the missing element may involve how we live in the world and the impact of our behavior. We suspect the question of whether there is justice in the world relates to choices we have made, are making and will make in the future. But perhaps we have forgotten, or perhaps we never knew, what a life lived justly might look like. The question rarely comes up in regular conversation. So we stumble through life with unanswered, sometimes unvoiced, questions, some x-factor missing from our lives, but we fail to remember, or maybe we just don't know, what that factor is. Or, we realize exactly what's missing but have no idea how to incorporate issues of justice into our lives, particularly in a way that would safeguard us against completely disrupting our everyday existence. We do not like disruptions.

Product Details

  • Series: emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith
  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801068096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801068096
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Keri W. Kent on August 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a suburbanite who is deeply concerned about social justice, I often felt like a walking oxymoron. Or sometimes, just a moron. In the last year, I've taken a class on urban ministry and racial reconciliation, I've started volunteering at a homeless shelter in a rough neighborhood in the city. I've been wrestling with what it means to "act justly and love mercy." But I felt conflicted when I returned home to my quiet, safe suburban neighborhood. This book offered both healing encouragement and a kick in the behind, and I needed both. It offered hope and insight on how to, as the subtitle says, "be the hands of Jesus wherever you live." In the suburbs, knowing your neighbors' names is counter-cultural. I realized that I not only know my neighbors, I know their families, the details of their lives. I pray for them, specifically. This book challenged me to continue that, in fact, to be more intentional about showing God's love to my neighbors, but also to realize that people in the inner city and all over the world are my neighbors as well. I highly recommend it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By barefoot rabbit on October 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a great, multi-facted look at the dilemma suburbanites face when awakening to the fact that God may have a different dream than their culture's picture of the American dream. I was impressed by the different angles that the Samsons are willing to tackle in the book, and I particularly appreciated their broad, 'holistic' perspective that reminds readers to serve their own communities and not just see the "inner-city" people as the only people who need to be served. I also appreciated the emphasis on joining in with ministries already going on and being willing to learn from the people who have been in the trenches rather than starting something new. Too often I hear white people raving (with good intentions, of course) about how they're saving the world, wanting credit for everything they do. But the Samsons really stress the normality of this "new normal" life, and they certainly deserve credit for that in my book! Their humility and authenticity really impressed me.

The fictional account of a suburban family on their journey is really well-written and evocative...very effective. However, there were a few places that were so cheesy and white-man's burden-sounding (particularly the last page) that I just groaned. But the great good in this book far outweighs any of that, and I can see it changing lives...I hope many people will listen to their voices and be moved to think through the hard questions along with those like the Samsons who have already traveled this path.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Robertson on October 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This books uses every trick but dancing girls and neon lights: There is a fictional narrative alongside the nonfiction teaching, there are "celebrities" offering short responses to each chapter, and there are even two authors writing. Given all these tricks, I was tempted before reading the book to think that the authors didn't have enough to say, or didn't really know how to say it. Thankfully, I was very wrong.

Lisa and Will Samson have a clear and cogent point to make, and they make it masterfully. The fictional narrative was written by Lisa Samson, an accomplished author of several novels. Her skill shows in the deft sketches of real, conflicted, and interesting characters. The teaching ("discourse") , which seems to have been mostly written by Will, is equally clear. Although the writing here does not flow as smoothly as it does in the narrative section, the messages are well delivered and compelling . Will's modesty and sincerity make the reader want to listen closely.

I found the meditations superfluous. They are too short to make much of an impact, especially if you don't know the authors. It seems they were added on for people who already know Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet's work, and therefore might attach credibility to this book, by association. But Will and Lisa need no such props: their message and delivery are strong enough to stand on their own.

The book starts at the beginning: the first chapter is "Why Read a Book about Justice?" After providing a strong answer to "Why?" (scripture and history), they take the reader gently and clearly through the "how".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Welch on October 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a careful examination of the part we choose to have in our local community. Many people go to work, get home, have dinner, go shoping and maybe attend church. They may give to charity, but most are isolated from their neighbors and others in the community that are in need. It's easy to write a check at church and think they've done their part in 'helping out'. Is that the way to practice what they believe? Is that enough, or are they missing out on something? This book examines a couple that take the next step. They start doing things to help out people in need, carefully and gradually, and they discuss how it affected them and the people around them. They also discuss suburban life and how it got to be the way it is now.

This book will likely make you examine your life, how you are living it, and consider some minor things you could change that could make a world of difference to people that need help.
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