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LIVING FAITH-How Faith Inspires Social Justice

Review by:
Richard Wheatcroft

The book presents the stories of three representative leaders who, from different faith traditions and in different historical contexts, were inspired to seek social justice and reconciliation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Christian who resisted the Nazi movement in the 1930s and 1940s. Malcolm X was a Muslim African American man who struggled against racism in the 1950s and 1960s. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Buddhist who lives in Burma and led a freedom movement in the 1980s and 1990s. The author also incorporates into these stories the lives of many other twentieth century “faith inspired activists” from various religious traditions and nations.

The author describes these leaders as “mystic activists.” He points out that all the sacred writings of the major faith communities share similar views of God’s mandate for justice and reconciliation. He calls the leaders who are embedded in their respective faith communities “mystic activists” because they are “deeply rooted in their faith and in the mystery of the divine.” And he stresses that it is their activism that “compels them to reach passionately inward toward the divine for substance, wisdom, perseverance, and belonging. Their outward activism needs inward mysticism.”

In exploring the lives and words of mystic-activists who worked for social change in the twentieth century, he shares his discovery of common themes that played in their lives. He writes that “(1) their religious faith motivates them (2) their world view emerges from the margins of society: (3) their identity is rooted in a belief that we share a common humanity; and they embrace an ethics of revolution that demands structural change.

The author is clear that a “lived faith is the hallmark of the leadership of mystic-activists.” They seek experiences of God through prayer, meditation and fasting; and they proclaim prophetic challenges to pursue the mandate of God for social justice and reconciliation.

It is the author’s fervent hope that mystic-activists in the twenty- first century will continue the struggle and make even greater progress than the mentors of the twentieth century described in his book.

An Epilogue to the book is titled, Reconciliation and Religion in the Twenty-first Century. De Young writes, “I invite those who seek to link the world of social activism and contemplative faith to build more bridges of reconciliation across the chasm of religious division. Moves toward reconciliation embodied and led by everyday faith –inspired activists and religious leaders may be our only hope for greater peace in the world. Reconciliation is ‘our role in God’s script’ for the twenty-first century.” Reading this inspiring and empowering book will help the reader play a role.

Review & Commentary