What are you reading? Who are you reading?

Please note some of these links are affiliate links, and I might get a little kickback for you using my link. These links will not cost you anything extra.

A few years ago, I was asked when the last time I read a book that wasn't written by a white guy. This question convicted me as I was only reading white men. It isn't that white men are bad (Obviously, I am one), but I wasn't gaining another perspective from people that talk and look and maybe even believe differently. I wanted to grow and learn from others, and I think books are a great way to do that. Conversations are even better, but maybe that seems scary, so I share this list and post to help you grow. Please feel free to message me about these books or any questions about my perspective on this stuff. Also note, I do recognize that white guys write some of these books, that's okay, they still helped shape me differently.

The following is partly from a Facebook post last week but updated with links and descriptions of books:

In 2015 I started grad school at Kilns College, and in 2016 I graduated with my MA in Social Justice. Since then, I've had quite a few transitions in my life, starting with a job change a few months later. Since then, I haven't been as connected to the 'justice' world. The last month has brought a lot of emotions and thoughts back to the surface. The heart of God is for all people, and through scripture, we see him come to the side of the oppressed over and over again. I am thankful to serve a God that cares so deeply about human suffering. I am so grateful to serve a God opposed to sin, like racism.

Today I repent again for my racism when it has been blatant or in my ignorance and implicit bias against people of color. I am learning, I am growing, and my heart keeps breaking. These are some of the books I read in grad school that I found helpful in understanding justice work and understanding God at another level. These books radically changed my perspective, and some aren't pictured as they have been loaned out. To my friends of color, I see you and love you. To my friends that have questions, let's have conversations, not just social media blaming.

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

This book wrecked me when I read it 4+ years ago. It was the first time I read something and understood how people come to different conclusions and places than I do. This is at the top of my list for recommendations for a reason.

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone

This book made me feel more uncomfortable than any other book ever has. The gruesome reality of the lynching in our country is disturbing at the least. The parallel the author makes between these lynching and the torture that Jesus took is powerful. I highly recommend this, but be aware it's gruesome and I may not agree with all the author's conclusions.

Not Every Spirit by Christopher Morse

In this textbook, Morse brings such thought-provoking insight. It was through this book that I began to realize the liberation of people both physically and spiritually is a part of all three persons in the trinity. This is a beast of a book to get through, but if you really want to go deep, I recommend checking it out.

No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu

This book talks about the stories of South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is a powerful book and helpful for understanding maybe where we need to go to put our wretched history behind us in America.

Beyond Charity by John Perkins

John Perkins is an absolute legend and his work among communities is amazing. His challenge to go from simple charity to engaging your community and getting in the trenches is so compelling. I highly recommend this book.

The Grand Paradox by Ken Wytsma

Ken is an incredible leader, author, and pastor. He founded Kilns College, where I got my MA and was my advisor on my thesis. I recommend all of his books, and I especially enjoyed this one about the messiness of life and the necessity of faith.

Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White by Leroy Barber

Leroy was one of my mentors during grad school, he is a hero in the faith and very engaged in his community and the issue of racial reconciliation. He is a pastor, leader, theologian, and a community organizer.

Six Theories of Justice by Karen Lebacqz

This book is a bit more textbookish but is super helpful for understanding social justice. Social justice can get a bad name, and this helps to understand some of the different theories behind it vs all the different ways and approaches being lumped in together.

Live Justly by the Micah Challenge

This is an incredible, small group resource. Kasie and I went through this with some friends at our church a few years ago. It was transformative for us.

Where the Cross Meets the Street by Noel Castellanos

This book is a mixture of stories and simple Bible study from Noel Castellanos, former president of CCDA. I love the narrative of this book and it is simple to read and understand the imperative that the cross must lead us to the streets because the Word became Flesh.

A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez

This book is critical to understand liberation theology and the history of liberation theology in South America. I'd also highly recommend reading about Oscar Romero and even watching the movies made about him.

The Christian Imagination by William James Jennings

This book is transformative. To understand African American thought and history and some of the philosophy behind the BLM movement, this would be helpful.

“The concept of reconciliation is not irretrievable, but I am convinced that before we theologians can interpret the depths of the divine action of reconciliation we must first articulate the profound deformities of Christian intimacy and identity in modernity. Until we do, all theological discussions of reconciliation will be exactly what they tend to be: (a) ideological tools for facilitating negotiations of power; or (b) socially exhausted idealist claims masquerading as serious theological accounts. In truth, it is not at all clear that most Christians are ready to imagine reconciliation.”

Christ, Justice, and Peace by Eberhard Jungel

This book helps to have a theology of the state, which is a fascinating discussion. I felt uncomfortable reading this one, but helped me to understand so much more and brought questions up that I hadn't really thought about before. I am very thankful for this book.

The History of Human Rights by Michelle Ishay

Another textbook here understanding the movement of human rights and justice throughout history. This is super helpful for understanding a historical perspective, but it is definitely not light reading.

The Seduction of Eva Volk by CD Baker

This is actually a fiction book that stuck out more to me than almost any other book. I read it during the 2016 election and it really spoke to me on some of the nationalistic issues of our culture.

Loving the City by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller is a genius. His thoughtful theology and practical application of the approach to reconciliation in a city are transformative. I love his openness and his ability to walk the road of scripture vs falling trap to a political ideology.

The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

When I read this book I began to cry sitting in a coffee shop. It's a quick read but reminds me of the prophetic words of Jesus in so many levels and how that prophetic voice still speaks today.

The Next Evangelicalism by Soong Chan Rah

Reading this book made me feel so white. I absolutely loved this book and think it is so helpful in understanding the future of American Evangelicalism.

Atonement, Justice, and Peace by Darrin Belousek

This is another textbook that helps understand a theology of justice and how it fits as a part of the metanarrative of scripture. This is not light reading, but if you want to do a deeper dive, pick this one up.

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