Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

The Justice Project: Voices from the Margins

October 3, 2009

In the go-go-go world of the greater DC area, traffic is an ever-present pressure.  It’s slow, burdensome, and stressful– a constant preoccupation for anyone with a car.  What makes it even worse is the occasional failure of roads and traffic equipment.  Such as the times when a traffic light has a failure and reverts to the four-way flashing red light that’s meant to tell every single car to stop and treat the intersection like a four-way stop.  What happens in the Darwinian jungle of DC, however, is telling:  the vehicles on the larger thoroughfare will simply treat the flashing red like a green light, banding together to force their way through the intersection en masse and leaving the cars on the smaller cross street out of luck. 

Which is a strange experience, to be sure.  When one is stuck on the side street, it is easy to get infuriated (in, like, 22 seconds).  But when you’re in the larger majority, you’re surprised at how easy it is to simply shrug and go along with the flow.  It’s not malicious, at least as far as I can tell.  We do it because we can, and because everyone else is doing it. 

In a similar way, it’s easy for many of us to look at our shelves full of books with the uneasy sense that they are written mostly by people who are very, very similar to ourselves.  People who share a skin color, a nationality, and most likely an ethnic and educational background.  Most books are by white people, for white people.  It’s just the way things work, and it’s too easy to go along with that flow.  We do it because we can, and because everyone else is doing it. 

Which is why I’m so deeply grateful for the new book The Justice Project.  It’s a collaboration between almost 40 authors from all over the world.  Women and men, majority and minority, Eastern and Western, young and older, Global North and Global South.  Each of whom writes on a different variation on the same theme:  God’s preoccupation with bringing justice to all people, and especially those who are forgotten, ignored, or oppressed.  It’s a chance for those stuck by the side of the road to get into the flow of traffic and share their invaluable perspective. 

But this is no mere tokenism, or fashionable appeal to guilt.  These essays are solid, and provocative.  Imaginative, and practical.  Thoughtful and humorous.  They’re worth reading, and not only to hear from and learn from those who are probably quite different from their readers. Furthermore, they’re not the angry rants that one might expect from those who have been marginalized for so long– they are wise and patient and full of hope. 

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