What writing about faith that matters has taught this book editor
Engage: Faith That Matters is Signs Publishing Book Editor Nathan Brown’s 13th book (well, seventh if we count only the edited collections of essays and stories). It is also another book about social justice. Why does Brown return to this theme and what has writing this book taught him about it?
You’re a middle-age white male with a tertiary education and a full-time job. You live in Australia, and you were raised in a Christian home by a father and a mother. You’re healthy and wealthy. From where does your passion for writing about justice come?
In my education, my work and my faith, I’ve had opportunities to engage with the world around me in many different ways, including hearing and sharing other people’s stories, travelling and working with remarkable people who work for justice and the wellbeing of others. As demonstrated among the stories and reflections in Engage, for example, this has included talking with villagers and ADRA workers in rural Timor Leste one week and talking with politicians in Canberra the next. These opportunities and experiences make a difference—and informed by my understanding of faith—have also led me to recognise my privilege and responsibility to share my experiences and reflections, as well as to speak with and for those whose voices are often not heard.
The marginalised and the vulnerable. What has writing the 38 chapters in this book taught you about how best to identify with these people groups?
People’s stories of tragedy and triumph and so much in between are powerful and important. Key to engaging is listening, empathising and even imagining with them how their lives might be different. During the time that these essays represent, I’ve been working on a a master’s degree in social justice and among the most significant aspects of this has been recognising the ways in which theology has been used to impose and reinforce privilege and oppression—or as an agent of liberation. These opposing aspects of religion and theology are so obvious in the life, death and ministry of Jesus, and remain key to understanding and even undoing so many of the instances of injustice and exclusion in our world today.
This is another book from you about justice. Why do you keep using justice as the theme of your writing? What is it about justice that we, your readers, need reiterated?
Justice is one of the overwhelming themes of the Bible so it must be one of our recurring themes and tasks as people of God. In fact, it goes so far as to be vital to our understanding of God’s character and of God’s intention for our lives and our world. As such, it’s also core to our mission in the world. And while justice and oppression remain, the work of justice and liberation remains necessary.
This is your 13th book. Describe the writer you were at the publication of book one and the writer you are now. What’s changed?
I use fewer words now. I’m even more convinced that good ideas and better theology are important, that people and their stories matter and that God loves all of us and every one of us—and that this must change everything about how we treat each other, about how we live, about our politics and economics and social structures. My faith has many of the same elements as 20 years ago, but my understanding of its implications is so much bigger. I still hope, but it’s a larger kind of hope.
Engage: Faith that Matters
Engage: Faith that Matters is available from Seventh-day Adventist bookstores in Australia and New Zealand or from hopeshop.com.PURCHASE