Book Review: Journeys to Justice - Finding Hope in History

 From the Catalyst, Summer 2018

Journeys to Justice: Reflections on Canadian Christian Activism 

By Joe Gunn

Novalis, 2018

Finding Hope in History

By Kathy Vandergrift

Dangerous memory is how Rev. Christine Boyle characterizes the heritage of Christian social action in the ten stories in Journeys to Justice.  Hopeful, inspiring memories is the intent of Joe Gunn, according to his introductory letter to his children and the next generation.  Can they be both dangerous and inspiring?

As a start, this collection of first-hand accounts by leaders of justice initiatives that have helped to shape Canada is a good read.  The personal backstories give big ideas, like Jubilee 2000, a human face, and their reflections share insights for those on similar journeys today.

The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline story, for example, resonates with the controversial Kinder Morgan buy-out in the news today.  Refugee appeals that came from Chile and Vietnam now come from Syria and Myanmar. The pharmacare debate today continues the fight for inclusive health care.  Equitable treatment for women, indigenous people, and people living in poverty still need our attention. 

While the issues are different, the stories also illustrate common, essential elements. They include strong, principled foundations rooted in fresh reading of Scripture; a combination of solidarity with affected persons and comprehensive research that links specific policy decisions to core values; and dynamic co-operation between citizen groups, official church leaders, and members across Canada, each playing their own roles to shift the public discourse as well as decisions on parliament hill.

Readers might want to ask a few more tough questions and add more critical analysis to inform future strategies, which the young contributors flag near the end.  Any one of the stories can launch discussion over coffee, around a dinner table, or in a classroom.

At the heart of the matter, advocacy rooted in faith forces public consideration of deeper values than the short-term economic interests that tend to dominate at critical moments in Canadian history.  It challenges the status quo and that makes it dangerous. Canada is a better place because of these ten and other similar stories.  That makes it hopeful.   

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