A Brief Review of I Am Not a Social Activist
by Ronald J. Sider.
by Chris Smith.
For those like myself who have long appreciated the work of Evangelicals for Social Action and their magazine Prism, Ron Sider’s new book from Herald Press – a collection of short essays that originally appeared in Prism – will be a welcome find. The essays are organized thematically with such sections as Jesus, Marriage/Family, Evangelicalism, Peace, Economics and Politics. As always, Sider is at his best when writing about economics. In particular, his essay on (occasionally) feasting on the bounty of God’s creation is excellent. The section of essays on peace and non-violence is also very good.
When I first saw the book’s title, I was optimistic about the potential of someone of Sider’s stature addressing the dangers of social activism in an election year, when the temptation toward activism runs rampant. Although the title essay did squarely address this issue, the amount of depth that could be reached in this brief essay (3+ pages) was a bit disappointing. Likewise, Sider’s (Constantinian) hope in the political process, expressed throughout the section on politics was a bit hard to stomach. Indeed, there are even some points in this part at which he begins to sound strikingly like a “social activist”: E.g., “[Evangelicals and Catholics, blacks whites and Latino Christians together] can dramatically reduce the number of abortions, resist euthanasia, pursue racial justice and seek reconciliation” (191).
Overall, this is a fine book to pick up if you are like me and tend to do your reading in short chunks; these essays can be read in 15 minutes or less and offer much for us to reflect upon.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com