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Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community (Resources…

por Charles Marsh, John M. Perkins

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It was not that long ago that African Americans and other minorities were excluded from many spheres of American public life. We have seen remarkable progress in recent decades toward Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of beloved community. But this is not only because of the activism and sacrifice of a certain generation of civil rights leaders. It happened because God was on the move.Historian and theologian Charles Marsh partners with veteran activist John Perkins to chronicle God's vision for more equitable and just world. They show how the civil rights movement was one important episode in God's larger movement throughout human history of pursuing justice and beloved community. Perkins reflects on his long ministry and identifies key themes and lessons he has learned, and Marsh highlights the legacy of Perkins's work in American society. Together they show how abandoned places are being restored, divisions are being reconciled, and what individuals and communities are now doing to welcome peace and justice. The God Movement continues yet today. Come, discover your part in the beloved community. There is unfinished work still to do.… (mais)
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Summary: A renewed call for the church to pursue Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision of a "beloved community" even in a day of increased white nationalism and polarization.

When this book was first published in 2009, the first African-American president had been elected. Nine years later, the vision of "beloved community" that appeared to be on the horizon, now feels like a distant memory. Charles Marsh, in his new preface acknowledges the current circumstances in the events in his home town of Charlottesville where Heather Heyer, simply standing in solidarity against the demonstrations of white nationalists, died when struck by a vehicle driven into the crowd by a white nationalist from Ohio.

Yet Marsh, and his co-author, John M. Perkins, a leader in Christian community development work, have not given up on the vision of Dr. King. Both believe that despite appearances, there is a movement of God afoot toward "beloved community. In alternating chapters, the two authors share why they are still hopeful, and what they believe needs to happen.

Marsh leads off with the contention that the Civil Rights movement lost its vision and cohesion as a movement when it lost its connection to a church-based and gospel based vision of "beloved community." At the same time, he sees movements, like that which Perkins has led at Voice of Calvary, continuing this gospel-based vision in its focus on relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation. Perkins, however, contends that the church, to realize such a vision, needs to give up its captivities to culture which has so divided it. He makes the fascinating observation that the neglect of outreach to a white underclass has made them open to the counterfeit community of the Klan. The challenge is to forsake the dividing lines of our captivities to reach out across those lines in the power of Christ.

Marsh then writes of the need for true conversion in our lives, a conversion that is always personal, even as it has social implications. He movingly recounts his first encounter with Perkins as a student staying with his segregationist grandmother. Perkins answer came not in an argument of what was wrong with segregation, but to send a gift of blueberries from his garden as his gift to her. Marsh in reflection writes:

"The existence of a compelling Christian witness in our time does not depend on our access to the White House, the size of our churches or the cultural relevance of our pastors. It depends, instead, on our ability to sing better songs in our lives. True conversion is always personal, but it is never sole about the individual who experiences God's love and knows the good news of salvation. True conversion is about learning to sing songs in which our life harmonizes with others'--even the lives of those least like us--and swells into a joyful and irresistible chorus" (p. 78).

Perkins responds with stories of the young men and women he has the joy of working with, and the hope this gives him for awakening. He doesn't speak of programs but of loving people, those of his own community, and those who come to learn, and then go and pursue a vision of community development across the country. Marsh in turn writes about the inner life of silent embrace of the gospel of the kingdom that sustains the practice of peace over the long haul. Perkins writes the final chapter calling for a re-building of our cities, interrupting the brokenness of our cities as churches re-assert their own love of the places and people to which they are called, forming the character of their young.

The question I had as I read this in the light of the present time is how Marsh and Perkins can be so hopeful. I think the difference between them and writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates (whose Between the World and Me I reviewed yesterday) comes down to the former's belief in the gospel of the kingdom. Perkins knows the violence against blacks as well, or perhaps even better than Coates, growing up in Mississippi. He was beaten and thrown in jail unjustly by police. Perkins has experienced the power of the love of God in his own life, and devoted a life to loving his place and pursuing reconciliation. What he and Marsh describe seems to be illustrative of the parable of the mustard seed, where small, seemingly insignificant efforts, like Perkin's work in Mendenhall, not only bring local healing and reconciliation, but spawn movements of people committed to King's vision of the beloved community. Perhaps the real question is not how Marsh and Perkins can be so hopeful, but will we forsake our cultural captivities and join them in their hope and embrace God's movement toward "beloved community?"

_____________________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  BobonBooks | Feb 26, 2019 |
Charles Marsh is a professor of religion/theology. John Perkins is
the founder of Voice of Calvary Ministries and the Christian
Community Development Association (CCDA). Chapter by chapter these
two authors, one an academic the other a practitioner, lay down what
it means to follow Jesus in the context of loving the poor. Marsh
sets the historical background of Martin Luther King's vision of
"Beloved Community" during the civil rights movement in the 1960s,
which was sidetracked and lost it's spiritual base after his
assassination. He then demonstrates how in many ways John Perkins,
now in his 80s, has taken up that mantle.

John Perkins is known for his "3 Rs" approach to working with the
poor and under-resourced communities.

1. Relocation (incarnational evangelism, living among the poor) Phil. 2: 6-7

2. Redistribution (sharing resources, changing public policy, undoing
economic brokenness in

order to break the cycle of both poverty and wealth to create
something more equitable.) Acts 4:32-37

3. Reconciliation (tearing down walls that create divisions, such as
racism. Truly living out our oneness in Christ.) Eph. 2:14-16

Perkins talks about how our American culture has co-opted our
churches. He call us to be un-co-opted. (to not be conformed to the
world.) He says Jesus did not come to preserve the status quo, nor
did he come to preach a prosperity gospel. Rather, Jesus came to
redirect the eyes of God's people to being a blessing to all nations.
He calls us to reconciliation. This is not an optional part of our
following Jesus. It's an essential part of discipleship. Rather than
living the status quo, he calls us to "create spaces where new life
can happen."

Both Marsh and Perkins comment on how American evangelicalism has
been so focused on individual salvation and transformation, that it
has forgotten it's other call to transform society. ("Thy Kingdom
come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.") In fact, he
says that God himself does the evangelism as his people live out the
kingdom of God.

Perkins shares his vision of what a healthy community looks like out
of the book of Zechariah. Two frequent characteristics of poverty are
broken famlies and broken communities. Healthy families depend on
healthy communities and vice versa. Working with poor communities to
break this cycle requires both commitment to a place and commitment to people.

This book presents a strong prophetic call to to American Christians
and the American Church to remember it's calling and to live it out.

If you've not yet read a book by John Perkins (we have several in the
NCF library) I would recommend this one as a good one to start with.
It's the first one I've read by Perkins. Though I really liked the
entire book, the chapters written by Perkins really shine with both
their practical, down-to-earth wisdom and his prophetic vision of
what God's people are meant to be. He manages to communicate this
vision without inducing guilt but rather inspiring God's people to
have a bigger vision of what it means to live out our faith. Remember
Jenna's wonderful teaching on "seeing?" John Perkins helps us to "see."

(Carolyn Vance)
  NCFChampaign | Dec 4, 2017 |
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It was not that long ago that African Americans and other minorities were excluded from many spheres of American public life. We have seen remarkable progress in recent decades toward Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of beloved community. But this is not only because of the activism and sacrifice of a certain generation of civil rights leaders. It happened because God was on the move.Historian and theologian Charles Marsh partners with veteran activist John Perkins to chronicle God's vision for more equitable and just world. They show how the civil rights movement was one important episode in God's larger movement throughout human history of pursuing justice and beloved community. Perkins reflects on his long ministry and identifies key themes and lessons he has learned, and Marsh highlights the legacy of Perkins's work in American society. Together they show how abandoned places are being restored, divisions are being reconciled, and what individuals and communities are now doing to welcome peace and justice. The God Movement continues yet today. Come, discover your part in the beloved community. There is unfinished work still to do.

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