Making All Lives Matter: a book review

Wayne Gordon, and John Perkins cofounded the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). For decades they have been prophetic voices to the evangelical community, helping us tackle the problems of racism and economic injustice. In their new book, Gordon and Perkins answer the question Do All Lives Matter? SPOILER ALERT: their answer is yes; however they also showcase why the slogan All Lives Matter is a tone deaf response to the Black Lives Matter movement. “Simply Stated: All lives can’t matter until black lives matter. . .True, all lives matter, but we have to wake up to the reality that our country remains divided over issues related to race. We have to own up to the fact that African Americans and other ethnic minorities in our country are mistreated far more often than most of us care to admit” (22).

all-livesGordon & Perkins discuss the Black Lives matter movement and their protest of the recent rash of African Americans killed at the hands of police (Chapter one) They advocate ‘listening to the stories of others and our own(chapter two).’ Perkins shares  his own journey and struggle against racism and injustice in the deep South. They review America’s troublesome history of racism (chapter three) and the ways the struggles and experience of minorities is invisible to mainstream, white America (chapter four). In chapter five Gordon relates how he and his church community (Lawndale Community Church) in inner-city Chicago entered into the pain of the African Community after the police officer was acquitted in the Eric Gardner case. Chapter six discusses a Christian response to the Black Lives Matter movement and chapter seven gives a snap shot of how Lawndale has responded the problem of violence in their community. In chapter eight Gordon and Perkins provide practical suggestions for learning about injustice and working for social change. Chapter nine discusses the importance of hope in the face of structural evil and the problems that beset at-risk communities like Lawndale. Senator Dick Durbin wrote the forward and Richard Mouw writes the afterword.

Gordon and Perkins are trusted voices for me and I appreciate the way they take an honest look at the issues facing minorities in our country, particularly the Black community.They are unafraid to speak to the way public policy and the justice system (i.e. police departments, stop-and-frisk policies and the court system) have been detrimental and harmful to African Americans. That isn’t to say they don’t have a category for personal responsibility (racism isn’t to blame for every problem) and they are quick to point out that many police officers are good and responsive to urban communities. This book isn’t out to demonize anyone but to help those of us who are white and privileged make space in our hearts for empathy towards minorities in our country for the things they are made to suffer.

It is often the progressives and the political left that is most responsive to issues of race. White evangelicals value diversity but we don’t always do the hard work required for real reconciliation with the Black community. Gordon and Perkins have been doing this work for decades, investing in lives and communities, creating community partnerships and providing opportunities for economic development and systemic change. They are not armchair liberals. They are believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ who believe that it calls them to uphold the dignity of all people and to stand against injustice. This book makes vivid our troublesome historic and current national racial tension and challenges Christians to stand up for our African American neighbors. All lives matter, because Black lives matter. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for my honest review.

Making Neighborhoods Whole: a book review

I was privileged to meet John Perkins in the fall of 2004.  My wife were part of a year long urban mission  in Atlanta(creatively called Mission Year). Perkins was in town for a meeting regarding the upcoming CCDA conference when his flight out was canceled due to poor weather conditions.  Bob Lupton arranged for us Mission Year folks to spend an evening with Perkins. Before that evening, I knew of Perkins and was vaguely aware of CCDA (Christian Community Development Association). But that night he left an indelible mark on me. This was a man who had been the victim of abject racism during the Civil Rights era, but he exuded grace and humility and love.  A month later I attended the CCDA conference and was similarly impressed by Wayne “Coach” Gordon. And I began to devour many of the CCDA materials.

Gordon and Perkins new book, Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development delineates CCDA’s approach to ministry and mission.  The first three chapters  summarize Gordon and Perkins call to ministry and early experiences in ministry, the development and early years of CCDA and its recent history. Chapters four through eleven describe the eight key components of Christian Community Development which CCDA is committed to. These include:

  1. Relocation (Relocaters, Returners and Remainers intentionally investing in a neighborhood).
  2. Reconciliation (bringing people together across racial and socio-economic divides).
  3. Redistribution ( through micro finance and economic development).
  4. Leadership development ( raising up indigenous leaders from the community).
  5. Commitment to listening to the community (not assuming you have all the answers and resources).
  6. Being church based (becoming a supportive spiritual community in the neighborhood).
  7. Holistic ministry (ministering to the whole person-spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc.).
  8. Empowerment (Not fostering dependence but allowing people to flourish from our humility and generosity).

These eight key components have served as the guiding principles of CCDA.  Gordon and Perkins punctuate these chapters with testimonies of other activists in the CCDA world. What should be apparent from this list, Perkins and Gordon do not prescribe a universal, detailed plan for reviving at-risk communities. Instead they share the wisdom of doing ministry ‘in place’ in a way that is empowering, communal and non-paternalistic. The goal of CCDA is to raise up  revive whole communities spiritually, socially and materially. They do not achieve this kind of transformation without empowering and working with a neighborhood’s residents.

There are no shortage of churches striving to reach out ‘missionally’ to their communities. Perkins and Gordon have been reaching out ‘incarnationally’ to communities since the 1970s. I find their perspective invaluable for seeing our cities and communities transformed.  If CCDA is new to you, this book will orient you on how to engage in holistic mission. That being said, if you have read Perkins Beyond Charity, or Restoring At-Risk Communities (Perkins, ed.) or Gordon’s Real Hope in Chicago,  I am not sure that this book will impart many new ideas.  This book has great stuff to say and says it well. These older books aremore in-depth, and still relevant.  But anything by Gordon and Perkins is worth reading.  They are ministry practitioners with a wealth of wisdom and experience. Get this book, and then get the others and read them all. And then do something.

I give this book 4 stars.

Thank you to InterVarsity Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review