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Book Reflection: A Climate of Justice - Mick Pope & Everyday Justice - Julie Clawson

Book Reflection: A Climate of Justice - Mick Pope & Everyday Justice - Julie Clawson

"Two brilliant books that can help us to understand and act justly in our everyday lives"

TBR pile - Climate of Justice & Everyday Justice.jpg

Because I love to share my favourite things, and especially resources - these are two brilliant books that can help us to understand and act justly in our everyday lives.

  • Julie Clawson’s book “Everyday Justice – the global impact of our daily choices” 

  • Mick Pope’s book “A Climate of Justice – Loving your neighbour in a warming world”

Mick Pope - A Climate of Justice – Loving your neighbour in a warming world

The purpose of Pope’s book is for everyday Christians to understand how climate change relates to justice issues, and within that context, how to practically ‘love your neighbour’. 

This book is targeted primarily at Australian Christians, with much contextualisation of issues, examples and suggested actions, including a much-needed chapter on the impact of climate change on Indigenous Australian communities. This contextualisation definitely assists local Australian readers, like me. However, it could mean that this book resonates less with you if you are from elsewhere. However, in saying that, many books targeted primarily at the US still resonate within an Australian market, so I hope that it’s contextualisation to our local setting won’t put anyone off.

Pope holds academic expertise in meteorology and environmental theology and has a prior book also aimed at the mainstream evangelical Christian market. Surprisingly, Pope only engages at a minimal level with academic scholarly works, which could be understood to be to the detriment of his argument. However, since the book is aimed at mainstream evangelical readers, the book effectively makes its argument and achieves its purpose regardless.

A Climate of Justice first explores the biblical understandings of justice and introduces the Good Samaritan parable and the ‘love your neighbour’ reference which provides coherency across the book. The call to ‘love your neighbour’ is echoed in Roman Catholic social teaching, especially in light of Pope Francis’ incredible 2015 encyclical Laudato Si. To see this understanding also expressed so clearly within a mainstream evangelical setting is refreshing, to say the least.

Four chapters form the structure of the book, each demonstrating how climate change contributes to a particular justice issue and outlining suggested responses. By limiting to just four social justice issues, the book assists us, as readers, to understand and act.

For example, research has shown that attitude-behaviour discrepancy is common in ethical decision-making. That is to say, what we think and feel, we don’t always do. Or as Paul said in his letter to the Roman church millennia ago “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Or put another way “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise”.

Can you relate to this?

Research shows that as consumers we tend to enact unethical purchase decisions when feeling uncertain, and we employ numerous justifications for unethical decisions. Our justifications can sometimes be valid, absolutely, but to be fair, they can also just be excuses. Additionally – yes, really, it gets worse – when we are confronted with a high sense of need alongside an uncertainty that the ethical behaviour will restore justice, we are less likely to act ethically.

So by the book limiting its argument to four social justice issues, as readers, we can gain sufficient insight to minimise uncertainty and to mitigate this attitude-behaviour discrepancy. In the conclusion of the book, the Good Samaritan parable is further explored, and we are challenged to practically respond.

Pope writes with a clear, concise, informal narrative voice, which assists us as readers to quickly engage with and understand the discussion. However, some tonal inconsistency occurs, disrupting reader momentum, despite the use of sub-headings to combat this. For example, within two pages, tone ranges from logical and evidence-based argument to personal asides to potentially unfamiliar colloquial language (p92-93).

Through the personal tone, Pope’s experiences are integrated into the book, enabling him to come alongside our concerns as readers and effectively guide us to his conclusions. Upbeat, occasionally humorous and emotive language in this tone assists us, as readers, to understand and act justly, as research has shown that positivity around and emotive connection for desired behaviours can increase the likelihood of individuals choosing those behaviours. Despite this, Pope’s academic expertise is effectively demonstrated through his use of logical and evidence-based tone. Given the benefits of each tone of voice to assist the book in achieving its purpose, use of both is reasonable, despite some disruption to reader momentum. 

A Climate of Justice strongly benefits from logical, evidence-based discussions of each justice issue and its relationship with climate change. However, the evidence provided is imbalanced, as media sources heavily outweigh all other types of sources, with the book only minimally engaging academic scholarship and sources from NGOs or supraterritorial institutions. More academic scholarship, demonstrative of Pope’s expertise, would have strengthened the book.

Research shows that evangelicals tend to emphasise individual moral constraint in economic decisions, rather than an emphasis on institutional constraints on economic markets. However, despite this, Pope strongly encourages advocacy and non-violent action calling for policy and institutional change. Given the significant role that uncertainty plays in individuals actually enacting just behaviours, and that evangelical readers are likely to be more unfamiliar with these type of actions, some further practical explanation for these suggested actions would minimise uncertainty for readers. In turn, this would mitigate attitude-behaviour discrepancy, assisting the book to achieve its’ purpose.

Julie Clawson – Everyday Justice – the global impact of our daily choices

The purpose of Clawson’s book is for ordinary Christians to understand how everyday decisions cause injustices, to see how our faith should inform responses to this, and to be practically equipped to make choices for justice in our daily lives.

The book is targeted primarily at middle-class church-based evangelical Christians in the USA, also with consistent contextualisation of mini-narratives, examples, case studies and suggested actions. This contextualisation assists local American readers of this demographic, however, arguably given cultural globalisation and Americanisation in particular, this contextualisation will be more easily digestible for readers from other nations and settings.

Clawson holds expertise in Christian public communication and engagement, is a blogger, and although this was her first book, she has since published a second. 

Everyday Justice begins with a pre-emptive foreword addressing common concerns Christians hold around justice issues. Similarly, in the introduction, as the concept of justice is unpacked biblically and theologically, misconceptions are discussed. The first six chapters examine different common areas of life to reveal justice issues. The seventh chapter, however, examines an area that readers sometimes might not interact with on an everyday basis, which could break the otherwise coherent structure and flow of the book. The conclusion is concise and effectively returns us to the purpose of the book. There is a consistent reference to ‘love your neighbour’ through one’s everyday purchase decisions, which is also echoed in Roman Catholic social teaching. As someone positioned within an evangelical context, I can only repeat how important it is to see this same connection expressed within the evangelical setting.

Clawson’s expertise in communicating with her target readers is evident through a consistent, clear and accessible ‘blogger-style’ tone and strong flow throughout, aiding reader engagement and understanding. Upbeat, and occasionally humorous, emotive language is used, which strengthens the likelihood that we, as readers, will desire and choose just behaviours. Clawson’s style of writing demonstrates her expertise and strongly assists the book’s effectiveness in achieving its purpose.

Clawson’s method strongly benefits from its communication style. Additionally, the evidence is more balanced than Pope, with less reliance on media sources, although additional academic scholarship would have also built the book’s validity. To combat the uncertainty barrier to acting justly and the numerous justifications individuals can employ for unjust decisions, Clawson clearly examines each justice issue, clearly explains how suggested actions restore justice, often using case studies as a demonstration.

As mentioned earlier, evangelicals tend to emphasise individual moral constraint in economic decisions. Clawson typifies this, stressing ethical purchases wherever possible. This assists us, as readers, to act justly in our everyday life. Variety of suggested actions also enable engagement of different individuals. For example, each chapter gives a list of books, films, and websites of different genres for us to select from according to our personal preference.

Each chapter commences with a contextualised mini-narrative of a protagonist feeling uncertainty in regards to an everyday choice, and the text shows consideration that the same person may choose a just or unjust decision, depending on circumstantial factors. This assists us, as readers, to resonate and engage with the book, helping the book to achieve its purpose. 

Next Steps

Both Mick Pope’s “A Climate of Justice – Loving your neighbour in a warming world” and Julie Clawson’s “Everyday Justice – the global impact of our daily choices” are useful as resources to move us as ordinary Christians into understanding and acting justly, especially in our everyday lives.

The purpose of Pope’s book is for everyday Christians to understand how climate change relates to justice issues, and within that context, how to practically ‘love your neighbour’.

The purpose of Clawson’s book is for ordinary Christians to understand how everyday choices cause injustices, to see how our faith should inform responses to this, and to be practically equipped to make daily decisions for justice.

Both books achieve their own purpose.

But I can also recommend both books as valuable resources to help us to give our attention to our everyday decisions, to align our behaviours with our attitudes for greater authenticity, and to fulfil our desire to love others better.

You can add both to your TBR pile.

Let me know how you find them? I'd love to hear what challenged you! And any practical tips?

 

References:

Photo by Jamie Taylor on Unsplash

Chatzidakis, Andreas, Hibbert, Sally, and Smith, Andrew. “‘Ethically Concerned, yet Unethically Behaved’: Towards an Updated Understanding of Consumer’s (Un)ethical Decision Making.” Advances in Consumer Research 33, no. 1 (2006): 693–698.

Clawson, Julie. Everyday Justice - The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices. Downers Grove, USA: Intervarsity Press, 2009.

Devinney, Timothy. “The Careless Consumer.” RSA Journal 161, no. 5561 (2015): 40–43.

Ormerod, Neil., and Clifton, Shane. Globalization and the Mission of the Church. London: T&T Clark, 2009.

Pope, Mick. A Climate of Justice - Loving Your Neighbour in a Warming World. Eugene, USA: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2017.

Pope Francis. “‘Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” Vatican Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 2015.

Robb, Carol S. “Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 66, no. 4 (2012): 484–485.

Shaw, Deidre, Shiu, Edward, Hassan Louise, Bekin, Caroline, and Hogg, Gillian. “Intending to Be Ethical: An Examination of Consumer Choice in Sweatshop Avoidance.” Advances in Consumer Research 34 (2007): 31–38.

Steensland, Brian, and Schrank, Zachary. “Is the Market Moral? Protestant Assessments of Market Society.” Review of Religious Research 53, no. 3 (2011): 257–277.

White, Katherine, MacDonnell, Rhiannon, and Ellard, John H. “Belief in a Just World: Consumer Intentions and Behaviors Toward Ethical Products.” Journal of Marketing 76, no. 1 (2012): 103–118.

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