‘If you can’t find a book, write it yourself!’

Tuesday, 12th March 2013 at 17:24 UTC 2 comments

I’m currently reading ‘Seeking Justice’ by Keith Hebden. He handed me a free copy to review on here, and I’ll do that when I’ve finished it. But its started me thinking about a book I want to write. Its not that I think he’s gotten anything wrong in his approach, its just I feel there’s a pretty big gap waiting to be fulfilled.

Keith’s approach to biblical justice and practical ‘kingdom building’ could be characterised as an appeal to ‘shalom activism’, viewing change through the lens of peace. Its a common approach amongst several radical Christian writings, foremost amongst which is probably the work of Walter Wink, to whom Keith attributes much of the underpinnings of his early chapters (and maybe later ones, but I haven’t got there yet).

I often say activism can be viewed as having 4 quarters: human rights, social (or economic) justice, peace and the environment. On the surface, these are 4 ‘meta-issues’ – people often campaign on human rights, but move from issue to issue, or they campaign on ‘peace issues’. Sometimes, however, an issues doesn’t fit one box – a peace campaigner is as likely to be active on the issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict as a human rights activist. Christian Aid, heavily invested in social and economic justice, works in the area, and there is an environmental movement that also brings a specific critique of Israel’s activities.

The four quarters are issues in their own right, but they’re also lenses through which other issues are approached and understood. Sometimes they feel like ideologies, but mostly they’re not. Amongst recent radical Christian books, peace has probably been the dominant choice of lens. This is not, itself, a problem – its great to see these books being written. But its not the only approach through which to write a book on radical Christianity, and it has its drawbacks.

The book I’m looking for, and which currently doesn’t appear to exist, is an accessible radical Christian analysis of neo-liberalism, through the primary perspective of social and economic justice. There are plenty of secular books on the topic – from Naomi Klein’s No Logo to Nick Shaxson’s Treasure Islands – but it feels like a heavily under-developed area. There might well be other books out there, but they’re not getting highlighted in the circles for which I would be aiming to write.

Needless to say, we live in a time of crisis and uncertainty, and many within the Western Church seem more eager to return to the normality of growth than to critique the spiritual underpinnings of the crisis and its cause. I suppose what I want to write is a harsh critique of neo-liberalism from a Christian point of view, without calling it that. I want a book that lays out an argument against trust in The Markets and the financial establishment, which strives to lay out options for critiques and for change. Hopefully, not having an academic background in economics would be an asset not a hindrance. As an activist with a keen interest in what wider movements are up to, I suspect I can draw out the important themes, but I’m aware others could do better.

Perhaps the lack of such books right now not unrelated to the Church’s lack of ability to talk about its own money. Perhaps we have bought into the myth that economics is incredibly hard, rather than that economics is being obfuscated by those with a vested interest in shrouding it’s inner workings from sight. I want to pose the logics of today’s economic orthodoxy as opposites to what Christians should be thinking, rather than immovable, divinely-inspired laws of nature.

Shortly after I began wondering about this, I read on twitter a quote from someone saying “If you can’t find the book you’re looking for, write it yourself”. Unless someone can find the book for me, I might have to do just that. I’ve no idea how to go about pitching this idea, or how on earth I can get funding. Its an annoying position to find oneself in.

And Keith, if you’re reading this, don’t worry – my review of your book probably won’t mention any of this. I’m on chapter 3 and thoroughly enjoying it. Your writing is powerful, and your critique of the world is spot on. Yours is a perspective that needs to be heard, discussed and internalised by the today’s Church. I hope lots of people will read it.


“Seeking Justice, the Radical Compassion of Christ” by Keith Hebden is published by Circle Books, 2013. See www.circle-books.com for details.


Entry filed under: Books, Economics, Theology.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Keith Hebden  |  Wednesday, 13th March 2013 at 10:24 UTC

    Thanks Graham – I’m relieved to hear that it’s ticking some important boxes. And I encourage you to write that book! What got me started was the comment from a former tutor that there are plenty of radical Christian books from the USA but few from here. The more that conversation develops the better.

    That said, have you read much of William T. Cavanaugh’s theological analysis? You may find some of what you’re looking for in his writing and many of his papers are free to download from Jesus Radicals.


  • 2. Liam Purcell  |  Wednesday, 13th March 2013 at 12:03 UTC

    Have you seen this?


    I have a copy if you want to borrow it. I can’t remember if it has much theological content but it may be relevant.



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