Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins (Miguel A. De La Torre)

If your Christian theology leads you to a Gospel that is not “Good News” to all – including, and especially, people who live on the margins of society – then it’s not the Gospel.

Title (Year Published) – Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins (2004)

Author – Miguel A. De La Torre

Page count – 264

Rating – Buy/Borrow/Bypass + Goodreads 4/5

Hoo boy. This book got me all riled up. For the last few years – although the last 10 months have amplified things – I’ve been constantly going back and forth between 1) devouring the books/words/testimonies of liberation theologians and valuing the good the Christian Gospel can do when it is enacted in people’s lives in healing, sustaining, life-giving ways, and 2) being consumed by anger at people who claim Christianity yet act in ways and perpetuate systems that oppress the very people the Gospel is supposed to be Good News for – the poor, the sick, the hungry, the homeless. Christians seem to think they can say a prayer and forget that we’re supposed to act, to actually be the hands, feet, and mouth of Jesus.

I try to remember that I once held a similar, if not identical, mindset. I used to fully buy into conservative notions of “individual responsibility” and “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” And I’m still far from perfect. I am still learning about mistakes I’ve made, how views I espouse can deeply hurt marginalized communities, and concrete ways I can do better in the future. And yet…I struggle to extend grace. Because it’s frustrating and exhausting trying to explain to people how their fundamental beliefs are hurting real live human beings.

This book is for people who want to change. I would not recommend this book to someone who doesn’t, as a baseline, believe that racism and sexism and classism exist as concepts. Like, if you can’t at least see that people who don’t fit into the normative categories of white, male, straight, able-bodied, etc. are treated differently in our society, this book is definitely not for you (and tbh, I’m surprised you’re still reading…but I welcome you here anyway! Please consider reading this book if it has at all piqued your interest.)

Ok. Enough of that. Let’s get on with what this book is about. De La Torre writes about how a Christian perspective of ethics can be applied to everything from domestic and international poverty to foreign policy and declarations of war to issues of property rights, the death penalty, health care, and affirmative action. You know, casual dinner party topics. Roughly ¾ of the book is made up of case studies. I really appreciate this portion of the book because it simply presents situations and asks ethical questions without suggesting a “right” answer. It would be a great tool for a classroom or book study setting. And if you’re interested in related readings, look no further than the bibliography. It’s chock-full of writers and theologians outside the white, male canon. 🙂

(No quotes/passages for this review. It was hurting my brain trying to sort through all my sticky note tabs and marginalia to pick something to include here. You’ll just have to read the book yourself!)

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