IN A world emerging from a life-changing pandemic, facing huge structural inequalities and a pressing environmental crisis, Ellen Loudon’s well-curated work is welcome and timely. She has brought together some wise words from those involved in making a difference where they are, predominantly around Liverpool, a city with a proud history of activism.
Loudon’s commitment to practical theology is clear, demonstrating that Christian life is essentially Trinitarian: “inclusive, activist and participatory”. I enjoyed the practical framework of the book, with many helpful suggestions of websites and primary sources. The biblical examples at the start of each chapter are relevant and helpful.
The best contributions give excellent examples of what activism looks like on the ground, from the active participation of sanctuary-seekers to taking risks in difficult parish settings. Faced with the enormous challenges ahead of us, I loved the little bits of encouraging advice: “How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time!”
Loudon populates her top tips (“Be Useful”, “Take Risks”, “Tell Stories”) with some great contributions including an excellent chapter by Ann Morisy on storytelling and discipleship, and an inspiring piece by Annie Merrie, about the remarkable work of environmental charity Faiths4Change. There is an encouraging array of “inclusive intersectionality” on display, although Loudon rightly notes that some voices are missing. Future editions might counter that with examples of those who are active in climate youth strikes and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the light of the debates surrounding tactics of movements such as Extinction Rebellion, I would also have valued a contribution from a non-violent direct-action perspective, examining how to negotiate the tricky world of challenging those involved in perpetuating climate change or human-rights offences. A longer book would also include a vital contribution from Church Action on Poverty, long-time leaders in the field of Christian activism.
A minor criticism would be the emphasis on individual responses to social issues rather than collective ones. There is little mention of trade unions or co-operatives, and the predominant theme is to be active “citizens” in the tradition of Alinsky’s often divisive anti-state model. Collectivist responses to global issues must be part of any toolkit that really wants to see massive change.
All in all, this a highly recommended read that will undoubtedly give those involved in Christian activism many extra tools in the struggle for social justice. It deserves a wider audience than those who already see themselves as activists, and lends itself to parishes and dioceses that are ready to get their hands dirty in the missional work of building a better and faithful world.
The Revd Chris Howson is the Chaplain to the University of Sunderland.
12 Rules for Christian Activists: A toolkit for massive change
Ellen Loudon, editor
Canterbury Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.39