Calling all readers! We love book lists here in Book Club, and we want yours! In December, we would love to feature a couple of posts from the community with a list of your top five favorite books from 2020. They can be non-fiction, fiction, books we read in book club or others, it’s up to you! What books did you most enjoy or were you especially challenged by this year? For each of your top five, give us a short summary of why it made your list. Comment on this post if you want more info on participating!
“When Gigi and Grandpa were born, there were laws in the USA that said that people with brown skin couldn’t go to the same places as people with peach skin.” Martin Luther King Jr. Day several years ago, I first introduced my kids to Jim Crow Laws and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, in very simple terms to start with. They were appalled. Outraged. Their sense of justice was offended, and their immediate response was to exclaim, “Those laws are stupid!”
I had not yet said anything about it being wrong to treat people differently based on their ethnicity. I hadn’t explained that people are all people and have the same God-given rights. Still, they identified the injustice instantly. People are born with that sense of justice because we are made in the image of a just God.
“That’s not fair!” is probably heard on every playground in the world. Children always complain about fairness. It’s innate. The common adult response is, “Life’s not fair.” It’s true. We don’t always get what we deserve (in good and bad ways), and we can’t expect to have an identical experience with other people. We think, ‘It’s not fair, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. So why bother?’ Soon we may become so jaded that our sense of justice dulls, and we hardly notice the injustice around us, to the point we may deny it exists at all, until it affects us in a personal way. Or until we decide to pay attention.
The chapter we read this week in Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin is about pursuing ethnic justice, specifically in the United States, Shin’s target audience. However, the principles she highlights have applications for expats and cross-cultural workers, too.
Let this quote keep us going: “We can’t seek justice if we aren’t people of perseverance and reconciliation.” Seeking justice is a long road. It is part of God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. It is not something that will be fully accomplished soon. But we can make progress, worthwhile progress. We must persevere. Also, though pursuit of justice will likely cause conflict, the conflict should be resolved and lead us to reconciliation.
The first two steps should be intuitive by now: open our eyes and listen with care and respect. A couple of weeks ago, we read about being story gatherers. It is only natural that, as we gather stories, without judgment or defensiveness, we will begin to see injustice that has affected various groups of people. Where many of us get stuck, though, is what to do next.
It will necessarily be different in our passport country than in our host country. For one thing, that passport of ours gives us a right to speak against injustice in our country, a right which must be earned in another country. It is earned through learning the culture, building trust and relationships with people, and investing our lives there.
Shin advises forming a small group to pray and pursue justice together. This would carry over very well into expat life. We should also connect with local groups that already exist. We may find that we don’t have to start from scratch – advocates and activists are already pursuing justice, and we can join them. In our host countries we can partner with local churches who are attuned to the needs of their communities and show up when a community is in pain. Though we are outsiders, we can engage with justice alongside nationals in our host countries.
If we live in our passport countries, we can do all of those things, as well. But if not, there is still one suggested way that we can engage, and it’s something we really can’t do in a host country: stay involved in the civic arena. This could be risky business. If our sending churches are the type for whom “seeing the word justice can raise suspicion that a secular liberal agenda has worked its way inappropriately into conversation about a life of faith in Jesus,” we may lose financial support by being vocal in this area. Can we trust enough in God’s provision to take that risk? The way we proceed here is a very personal decision. What I can say for sure, though, is that it is important we make our decision from a posture of faith.
Finally, Shin says, “Pursuing justice isn’t just a phase of life. It’s a way of life.” While the action steps outlined in the chapter can help us know how to seek justice, it is not about checking things off a to-do list. Ultimately, it is about the way we live, paying attention to those who are marginalized and suffering for whatever reason, be it ethnicity, gender, age, disability, or another reason.
I would love to hear your ideas, tips, or experiences in seeking justice in a host country. Share with us in the comments! How have you connected with nationals in this work? What did you think of this chapter?
Next week we will discuss chapter 10, the final chapter of this book.
In December we will be reading two Christmas short stories, and talking about our favorite books of 2020! Here’s the schedule:
December 1: No Book Club, but join us to kick off our Year-End Giving Campaign!
December 15: Reginald’s Christmas Revel
December 22: Top 5 Books of 2020
December 29: Top 5 Books of 2020