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God, Life, and Happiness in the Pursuit of Justice,
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This review is from: Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things (Hardcover)
"Even though we can't fix the world, we can certainly change it."
In Pursuing Justice, Wytsma has assembled a fascinating hybrid of memoir, theology, sociology, history, and art. Always honest, authentic, and transparent, he bares his soul on his lifelong struggle to understand and imitate God's heart for justice and what he has learned along the way.
With content you might not expect in a book about justice - there are chapters on happiness, worship, and the love of God - Pursuing Justice covers areas that are universal to human experience. As a result, it is universally relevant even to people who have never read a book on justice or spiritual growth or the meaning of life. Wytsma goes beyond justice and expands on how to find happiness and fulfillment as well as pursue and draw closer to God.
Pursuing Justice is different than many of the other books on justice or theology I've read. It's not negative. It isn't a catalogue of atrocities going on the world. While Wytsma occasionally brings up some of the `trendier' justice issues, he keeps the focus on the reader's role in bringing justice to the world. He shies away from making every person responsible for solving every problem. Instead he encourages the reader to take their unique place in God's ever unfolding tapestry of justice. That might mean something drastic like moving to Africa to work with AIDS orphans, but - for most of us - probably looks more like staying home to be a good parent or being kind to the jerk who cuts us off on the freeway.
Far from a dry discussion of justice or theology, this book is filled with anecdotes and personal stories, including Wytsma's spiritual journey and how he nearly partied himself to death in his twenties before he began to search for meaning and fulfillment. Illustrations illuminate every chapter, and one of my favorite things about the book is the poetry, stories, photographs, and drawings in the "Interludes" between chapters.
When it comes to talking about bare facts, systems of injustice, and contemporary issues, Wytsma stays away from trite, oft-explored territory. He opts instead for more unfamiliar (and often more sinister) issues like the atrocities that occurred in the Congo in 2001 as a result of the popularity of the Playstation 2 or the chilling Southern Strategy of the Republican party in the late 1960s.
Despite the complexity and depth of his subject, Wytsma distills difficult ideas down into practical analogies, keeping the reader engaged at every step of the way. In chapter 2, he asks the question "What am I blind to?" He then describes blindness to injustice with two simple examples: (1) a devout German Christian woman in 1944 who cares for the poor but is oblivious to the holocaust. (2) A young Christian American man who is eager to join the fight against Hitler, but has no problem riding the whites-only bus to his local recruiting station in South Carolina. Whether talking about theology, Beethoven, Greek words in the bible, or instances of injustice a half a world away, Wytsma's language and style is always accessible, clear, and powerful.
Instead of being a profound addition to the theological discussion on justice, Pursuing Justice flips the entire conversation: justice IS a part of theology. In Wytsma's view, by pursuing justice we ARE pursuing relationship with our creator. Stopping short of theological liberalism and the Social Gospel, Wytsma powerfully points out that while justice isn't the entirety of Jesus' message, it IS a necessary, undeniable part of it.
Pursuing Justice has been a powerfully transformative book for my wife and me. Since reading it we have drastically changed the way we eat, the way we spend our money, and the way we consider many of the social issues facing the church today. I highly recommend it, regardless of your age, background, or line of work, as the variety of subject matter, approach, and artistry will keep anyone engaged and leave you hungry to grow closer to God, educate yourself on justice, and change the world.