Book Review: “The Social Justice Handbook” By Mae Elise Cannon (InterVarsity, 2009) -- By: Chip M. Anderson

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 26:1 (Winter 2012)
Article: Book Review: “The Social Justice Handbook” By Mae Elise Cannon (InterVarsity, 2009)
Author: Chip M. Anderson


Book Review: “The Social Justice Handbook”
By Mae Elise Cannon (InterVarsity, 2009)

Chip M. Anderson

Chip M. Anderson, a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is ordained by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He authored a lay commentary on Philippians and serves as director of finance and planning services at NEON, Inc., a community action agency in Norwalk, Connecticut.

As the director of finance and planning services for a community action agency, I spend my working hours “engaging the community to end poverty.” Yet, it is my belief that the Bible calls upon the Christian community to be associated with the economically vulnerable and, as part of church life and discipleship, to seek to address the issues of poverty. It is my passion to connect Christians to those affected by poverty and to help the Christian community to think about the ways they can engage the issues of social justice. In Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World, Mae Elise Cannon provides an invaluable resource for the Christian community, for both those who are committed to the issues of poverty and social justice and, as well, for those who need convincing. Cannon is senior director of advocacy and outreach, Middle East, for World Vision USA; an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church; and former executive pastor of Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, California. Through the Handbook, she presents a biblical basis for the Christian responsibility toward the issues of social justice and traces Christian engagement in social justice throughout church history, presenting examples from early colonial America, the Great Awakening, and through nineteenth- and twentieth-century social-justice movements. Cannon offers numerous individual examples that model how the Christian and the church can be engaged in the issues of social justice.

The Social Justice Handbook is divided into two parts. The first sets the “Foundations of Justice,” that is, as God’s “love is experienced and understood, Christ’s followers will have a better sense how to put it into action in their immediate circles of influence and beyond” (18). This section of the book provides a biblical framework for justice, arguing that God’s justice and righteousness “are inextricably linked throughout the Scriptures” (19) and that God’s justice is strongly associated with his standards that determine our relationships to each other and to the world. Simply, the “gospel cannot be dichotomized into spiritual provision or material deliverance” (29). She writes that justice “is the right exercise of power—God is the ultimate power and authority in the universe, so justice occurs when power and authority [are] exercised in conformity with his standards” (39). Cannon focuses the center for expressing t...

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