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Embrace: God's Radical Shalom for a Divided World Paperback – September 9, 2016
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"Leroy Barber has been on the frontlines of the struggle for racial justice for many years now. In his new book Embrace, he makes the case for why deeper and more loving relationships, especially with people who are unlike us, hold the key to creating God's kingdom here on earth and repairing the breaches in our lives and societies. Leroy's book employs powerful personal examples, accessible prose, insightful social analysis, and a mastery of Scripture that together make this a must-read for anyone who is concerned with our future together as a human family in a broken world so loved by God. He shows that talk isn't enough―that we need to repair the breaches we have caused and allowed in both our relationships and our systems. Leroy Barber is making a powerful case today for why leaders of color need our strongest affirmation and support, especially in faith-based and other critical nonprofit organizations, if we are to move forward." (Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners, editor in chief, Sojourners, New York Times bestselling author of America's Original Sin)
"A powerful book for these times. The weave of the biblical story, current times, and the personal journey of Leroy Barber bring the reader to more fully understand, embrace, and find the courage to live out radical shalom. I believe this book should be read by every person who is a Christ follower. Could it be the groundbreaker for the racial healing that is so desperately needed and that our Lord desires to accomplish? An unequivocal yes!" (Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent, The Wesleyan Church)
"Troubled times require God's people to rise up and embody God's shalom. Leroy Barber fully understands the world we live in. His life and ministry reveal a deep concern for our divided and broken world. He not only writes about shalom relationships but also demonstrates them in his own life and ministry. This book will lead you through important but sometimes difficult concepts and issues that can strengthen the church and direct you toward an embodied life of godly relationships that we will do well to emulate." (Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary, author of Prophetic Lament)
"With powerful stories and fresh insight, Leroy challenges us to fall in love with hard places and see the image of God in hard people. We are reminded that the hard places are exactly where we need to be. Embrace illustrates the many ways God uses difficult situations in life to help us love more deeply and bring us closer to one another and God." (Shawn Casselberry, executive director, Mission Year)
"Leroy Barber offers a simple yet deeply profound invitation to return to a foundation of relationship. Embrace is very timely with helpful insights for today's increasingly divided world. Barber challenges us to look and find the unexamined prejudices that lead us to further alienation from those God brings into our lives. A great book for those longing for depth and true transformation in their relationships." (Nikki Toyama-Szeto, director, IJM Institute for Biblical Justice and author of God of Justice)
"Embrace is an important book for this kairos moment in history. Many of us in the church long for true racial reconciliation. We want to be peacemakers in this broken and angry world. However, we often lack concrete, down-to-earth, timely, and biblically based tools for building real relationships across the lines. Rev. Barber has given us a wealth of wisdom for how to make these dreams real. He helps us understand and, yes, embrace one another." (Alexia Salvatierra, pastor, founder, The Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork, coauthor of Faith-Rooted Organizing)
"In Embrace Leroy Barber shows us that loving our neighbor includes knowing and relating to one another. With years of wisdom and experience, Leroy beautifully and patiently shows us how we can become the beloved community we were created to be. If you're looking for a practical and hopeful book to help you navigate some of the deep divides that plague our culture, look no further. This book is insightful, encouraging, and a delight to read!" (Ken Wytsma, president, Kilns College, author of Pursuing Justice and Create vs. Copy)
"Through Embrace, Leroy gives us a lens through which to view both the challenges and opportunities for people of faith building community through nurturing relationships. His storytelling approach shows us the importance of empathy, compassion, and having a desire to learn by listening to the journeys of those who are not like us. Embrace is a practical road map for radically living into God's shalom in a divided world. With over thirty years of experience in building community both domestically and internationally, there is no better person than Leroy Barber to show us the power of living into God's embrace of diversity." (Romal Tune, senior advisor to the president, The Mission Society for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, CEO, Clerestory: Ministry and Leadership in a New Light)
"In the Bible, righteousness is all about relationships. To be righteous means to be rightly related with all those elements that make up human life. And God knows we can all do with some help in this regard. My dear friend Leroy is a man who knows how to enhance his world through loving relationships. In this book he helps us be more righteous in very practical, joy-filled, and life-giving ways." (Debra Hirsch, author of Redeeming Sex and Untamed)
"We live in an era of polarization, where everyone is encouraged to choose a label, to associate only with others who carry the same label, and to view all others as the enemy. It is to this deeply divided world that Leroy Barber's Embrace speaks. Deftly weaving reflections on Scripture with his long history of crossing racial, ethnic, and economic barriers, Leroy reminds us that Christian tradition calls us to be one family with those we see as radically different from ourselves. He provides concrete strategies for living in community in the midst of division and turmoil. Whether you are crossing boundaries for the first time or a seasoned practitioner of reconciliation, Embrace is a challenge and an inspiration to live into the Christian call to reconciliation." (Chanequa Walker-Barnes, author of Too Heavy a Yoke)
"Embrace brings us back to what's most fundamental about our humanity: relationships. With a perfect blend of pastoral compassion and prophetic conviction, Leroy guides us down the often messy path of reconciliation while remaining firmly centered in the heart of Christ and renouncing a posture and politics of fear. Embrace flips the reality of our divided humanity upside down, celebrating the beauty of our differences and reorienting the lens through which we view our neighbors and neighborhoods. Whether deconstructing the processes that turn our preferences into biases through discussions of pumpkin pie or debunking the myths we tell about Black Lives Matter, this book's message is timely and necessary as we lean into the work of racial reconciliation, global justice, and loving our neighbor." (Rachel Goble, president, The SOLD Project)
"In Embrace: God's Radical Shalom for a Divided World, Leroy Barber draws from decades of ministry among diverse people to argue for the centrality of relationships across differences to achieving not just reconciliation, but true justice. Encouraging, openhearted words for divisive times." (Sojourners, January 2017)
"Barber also provides ways to work toward the goal of action. The steps are small―visiting an African-American museum, or watching a movie with a predominately black cast―but they are also essential. Few white people will (or can) jump fully into new community, and overcome a lifetime of being subtly imbued with racial bias. Through Embrace, Barber gives those brand new to the idea of racial justice the baby steps it might take to get these readers closer to a giant leap." (Jamie Calloway-Hanauer, Sojourners, 10.18.16)
About the Author
Leroy Barber has dedicated more than twenty-five years to eradicating poverty, confronting homelessness, restoring local neighborhoods, healing racism and living what Dr. King called "the beloved community." He is the author of New Neighbor and Everyday Missions, and the coauthor of Red, Brown, Yellow, Black and White with Velma Maia Thomas. He was also a contributing author to Tending to Eden by Scott Sabin and the groundbreaking book UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. The co-founder and director of the Voices Project and college pastor at Kilns College, Barber starts projects that shape society. In 1989, burdened by the plight of Philadelphia's homeless, he and his wife Donna founded Restoration Ministries to serve homeless families and children living on the streets, and in 1994 he became the director of internship programs at Cornerstone Christian Academy. He was licensed and ordained at Mt Zion Baptist Church where he served as youth director with Donna, and also served as associate minister of evangelism. In 1997, he joined FCS Urban Ministries, working with Atlanta Youth Project to serve as the founding executive director of Atlanta Youth Academies, a private elementary school providing quality Christian education for low-income families in the inner city. He also helped found DOOR Atlanta, Community Life Church, South Atlanta Marketplace and Community Grounds Coffee shop in Atlanta, as well as Green My Hood and the Voices Project. He is on the boards of The Simple Way, Missio Alliance, The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). Barber and his wife Donna have been married thirty years and together they have five children.
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10. Leroy knows what he is talking about. Embrace shares Leroy's own experience as a pastor, urban minister, and community developer. The things this book exhorts us to— a lifestyle reconciliation, a heart for justice, and a commitment to love the other—are things Leroy tries to live out every day. He knows what he speaks of and he speaks with integrity.
9. Leroy is gracious. I don't love others the way I ought to as a follower of Jesus. There are people, left to my own devices, I would avoid. I don't measure up to my best ideals. Listening to Leroy, I don't feel judged, but invited to live a better life—a riskier, sacrificial life, with a lot of pain and hardship, but better. This call is full of grace and compelling!
8. This is an important book because some of us live in Babylon. Leroy opens up about his own experience of following God's call from Philadelphia to the South (Atlanta) and later Oregon. These new cities were Babylon to him: a place of un-belonging and where he experienced abject racism. I know the New Monastics talk about 'relocating to the abandoned places of Empire." Leroy talks about inhabiting an antagonistic empire and seeking God's shalom for the city we're in. For those of us in Babylon, life is difficult but we are still called to embrace the place we're in.
7. Because left to our own devices, we all have people we'd avoid. There are lots of things which keep people apart: race, religion, socio-economic status, etc. Leroy's encouragement to us is to learn to love the other: to not just retreat to our 'in group,' but to seek out relationships with people different than us. This isn't just so we can help them and feel good about how amazingly loving and bighearted people we are. As we seek out the people who are different from us (or difficult for us), and build relationships with them, we are enriched and our perspectives of the world are enlarged. Our own prejudices and privileges are challenged by learning to love well in relationship.
6. Diversity is a mark of God's radical shalom and we all need to be more diverse than we are. Generally, we all like the idea of multiculturalism until it gets sticky. White churches welcome minorities but expect them to conform to their dominant church culture. We have similar expectations when we include different cultural groups, classes, and generations. We love the ones we can assimilate and ignore the rest. Leroy invites us to to a deeper communion where we honor the mutual image bearing of those who are different from us:
Our greatest danger as a church and believers is that we don't actually see all people as made in the image of God. This is an immoral practice and it has ruined how people view Christians in the world. That Sunday mornings are segregated is no big secret; we've heard it over and over. For the most part our actions don't seem to be changing. Worship and its lack of diversity is a joke. What kind of God are we representing? I don't think we really care that we are segregated. We can quote Scripture of love and grace and yet be as divided as we are—this is the influence of Babylon on the people of God, not the people of God influencing Babylon (90).
5. God's call for Justice begins where we are but then calls us outward. Leroy will tell you that his cleaning up the basketball court in South Atlanta was so his own kids could play. But the whole neighborhood benefited. Caring for his own kids 'became the natural way of justice for all kids.' (101). Leroy illustrates well how small acts of justice begin close to home, but because we are called to follow the God of justice, we are continually called to name injustice wherever we find it and stand with the oppressed. Sometimes 'Justice' seems like too big of a category. I like Leroy's exhortation. Justice begins where you are and then wherever God takes you.
4. Because forgiveness and selfless love is the call. Injustice happens. People get hurt and killed. Leroy encourages us to follow the way of Jesus in loving our enemies. He talks about Dylann Roof being forgiven by the family of the fallen members of Charleston's Emanuel AME church and our call to embody this sort of selfless love (109-110). Leroy doesn't pretend this an easy commandment especially for those who have experienced profound trauma. I respect that Leroy never makes light of the pain and trauma which some people have faced (including himself), but still exhorts us to forgive as we've been forgiven.
3. Because you shouldn't be happy with the status quo. Prejudice remains a major problem. Racism is real. The marginalized suffer. The refugee is rejected and regarded with suspicion. Foreigners, immigrants and resident aliens are maltreated and abused by the system. Our world is divided and divisive. We need more of God's shalom!
2. Because Leroy is a great storyteller. He tells the story of his own journey into racial reconciliation: relationships forged, hurtful conversations and difficult times. He tells of learning to love the other. And he shares the story of friends and fellow justice advocates as well. Leroy weaves this in with the narrative of Scripture. Telling God's story he explores the story of Patriarchs and prophets and Jesus. If there is anything that makes this book compelling, it's the stories.
1. Because yes, Black Lives Matter. Leroy spends his last chapter addressing myths and misconceptions many people have about the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a fitting end to this book because all along Leroy is calling us to stand against injustice, care for the vulnerable and love the other. There is systemic injustice which the Black Lives Matter movement has called our attention to (i.e. unjust police shootings, mass incarceration and lack of legal representation of Black men, etc). Still many (white) evangelicals view the movement with suspicion. Leroy invites us to lay aside privilege and Embrace the Other as we seek to love and listen well.
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for my totally biased review. five stars: '''''
Thought the book, Leroy argues that racial, socio-economic, cultural, etc division in our world can only be overcome by the encounter and embrace of "the other".
The author masterfully weaves together accounts from his personal story, the biblical narrative, and years of experience working in the forefront of racial reconciliation, community development and justice activism.
Although the biblical interpretation appeared simplistic at times, it is by no means shallow. Identifying the biblical idea of "Babylon" as a systemic structure that looks to oppress and separate us from one another is a particularly poignant insight that accurately represent the convoluted era in which we life and that follows closely the biblical understanding of the Empire (whether Egypt, Babylon, or Rome) as always antagonizing against the Kingdom of (justice, equality and peace) God.
Leroys' mayor achievement with his book is not to be content with just describing the issue, even as accurate as his diagnose seems to be. He takes further steps into reverting the works of Babylon by recalling personal experiences as well as biblical insights to present practical ways in which we can live and work towards reconciliation.
From taking practical steps as to intentionally engage with the "different other" to a profound understanding of human nature and the bleak reality that there "can never be justice without reconciliation" Barber's new book will definitely stand as a challenge to everyone concerned with the current state of the world.