I can’t remember when I first met Will Samson, though it may have been at one of the first Emergent Conventions. Since then, he and I have crossed paths numerous times (Princeton Seminary, Yale Divinity School, Emergent Cohorts and other conferences). He and his wife have recently co-written a book entitled Justice in the Burbs. I’ve always appreciated many things about Will – not to mention the fact that he had pomomusings listed as an uber-blogger on his blog for quite awhile – but both he and his wife, author Lisa Samson, care deeply for social justice and have a desire to make a difference in the world.
But they lived in the suburbs. And thus – the core of the book. “What can I do, I live in the suburbs!?” Many people feel paralyzed by their situation, whether that’s the amount that they currently have to do – or where they live. These were some of the same questions that Lisa and Will asked – they were working professionals in the suburbs, going through all the motions of suburban life. Lisa writes:
But as typical professionals in the suburbs, Will and I found our lives consumed by the kids’ school, sports, church, and, of course, our careers. We had no time to help out others and felt pretty satisfied with infrequent touches of goodness on our part, thinking on that annual night we cooked for the homeless in our area, ‘Well, at least I helped tonight. How many other Christians do nothing and don’t feel bad about it?’ ((Will & Lisa Samson, “Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live” (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2007), 16.))
This book is their story – but, most likely, it is also the story of millions of other suburbanite Christians in the United States. One thing that I thought was especially unique were the many voices they chose to include in this book. Not only is it the Samsons’ story of their move from suburbia to the city of Lexington, KY, they also weave together the fictional story of Matt and Christine Marshall – typical suburbanites. In addition to these two interweaving stories, they have also included meditations by Brian McLaren, Kester Brewin, Tony Jones, Leonard Sweet, Doug Pagitt, Christine Sine, Luci Shaw, Anthony Smith and others. Together – all of these voices help us thinking about issues of justice in scripture, our traditions and experiences. Their book gives a vision for an alternative reality, a reality in which we begin to seek after justice in the world today. They end the book with this:
“To hold onto this hope, however, we need a new view of the kind of future that is possible if we act out the call of God on our lives. This is what one theologian referred to as an ‘eschatology of hope,’ or a view of the future that involves the world of tomorrow living more justly because of your actions today.
And this is where we would like to end. Imagine what the world of your great-grandchildren could look like if you begin to live justly today. There is an old Arab proverb that states, ‘Old men plant trees.’ This is precisely the kind of hope we would wish for you – a hope rooted in the belief that another world is possible.” ((Ibid., 191.))
If you’re interested in issues of justice in the church today, I’d encourage you to read this book.