A Review of
Walking with the Poor:
Reviewed by Josh Wallace
Bryan Myers’ Walking with the Poor finds a fault in me and, perhaps, in broader Evangelical Christianity. It is the fault where love for God and love for neighbor ought to connect but seem to miss one another ever so slightly. Walking with the Poor constructs its framework for global transformational development over this fault, laying its foundation deeply on both sides of love. The question remains, however, whether Walking with the Poor succeeds in building a stable and sustainable framework for development over this fault.
Walking with the Poor falls into three functional sections: historical overview, constructive theory, and practical proposal. After an introductory chapter (to which we’ll return below) Myers’ first section surveys the site for his theoretical and practical interventions. In successive chapters, he walks through the history of development thinking, theologies of poverty and development, recent shifts in understanding of poverty, and a who’s who of current movers and shakers in development discourse. Walking with the Poor gradually initiates its readers into the ongoing conversation about development, and I, for one, am thankful for this round of introductions. The names and views readers meet in these first five chapters continue to intersect the path of the rest of the book.
Myers’ biggest contribution to the development conversation comes in the middle section, chapters six and seven. This is also his biggest intervention in Evangelical discourse about development and social action. Here Myers stakes a claim squarely on each side of the rift between love for God and love for neighbor. Unfortunately, this is also the weakest section of the text.
I read hope in the ultimate trajectory Myers sets for development: the kingdom of God. But this hope is constrained by concrete goals he derives from this aim. He writes, “The [best human] future is framed by the twin goals of transformation: changed people, who have discovered their true identity and vocation; and changed relationships that are just and peaceful.” Even while pointing outward to a social context, Myers’ diction of identity and relationships centers the gospel’s sphere of influence on the inward space of the individual.
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