About the Book
Book: Rest for the Justice Seeking Soul
Author: Susan K. Williams Smith
Genre: RELIGION / Christian Living/Devotional
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Susan K. Williams Smith is a minister and activist who has been on the front lines of social and racial justice for many years. As she has marched shoulder-to-shoulder to resist systematic oppression, she has heard the same question over and over: “How are we going to get through this?” Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul was birthed out of those cries.
Here is a soul-care manual for social justice-seeking believers who stand in constant vigilance against all forms of racial, class, and gender oppression. The fight for justice and equality is an exhausting daily grind—and the work is never over. That’s why it is incumbent upon all who speak and advocate for the less fortunate to practice self-care. You can’t fight when your tank is empty.
In response to the many calls and emails she has received from friends, clergy, and strangers who are in utter despair and even deep depression, she has created ninety daily devotions to provide a daily spoonful of hope and encouragement, a healing balm to “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12). Lift your gaze upward toward a better future by allowing God to restore harmony and focus in your soul and justice in your community. Our God is bigger than whoever is oppressing you. As the old hymn states, “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
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About the Author
Susan K. Williams Smith is an ordained minister, musician, writer, and activist living in Columbus, Ohio. She has written for the Washington Post and Huffington Post, as well as her blog, Candid Observations. She currently serves as one of the tri-chairs for the Ohio Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She also serves as national scribe for the African American Ministers’ Leadership Council (AAMLC), and communications consultant for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. The founder of Crazy Faith Ministries, she is a graduate of Occidental College and Yale Divinity School, and earned a D.Min from United Theological Seminary. Her previous book, Crazy Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, was published by Judson Press.
More from Susan
In response to calls and emails from friends, clergy, and strangers who are in utter despair and even deep depression in these political times, I’ve created ninety daily devotions to provide a daily spoonful of hope and encouragement, a healing balm for justice-seeking believers and social activists.
When I elected to read this book, I expected to encounter peaceful yet instructive readings about justice, with reassurances that in spite of the injustice extant in our world today, Jesus is our refuge and the One whose examples we need to follow to effect lasting change. However, the title is a misnomer because I felt anything but peaceful while reading, and although these readings are listed as meditations on the cover, they are referred to as devotions in the book description and are categorized as such on retailer websites. Each day begins with a Scripture verse, but aside from that, there are very few that I would classify as devotions. Rather, “Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul” is a clarion call to fight. The problem is that Williams Smith places most of the emphasis on us and our power as opposed to God’s power working within us, but the truth is that we can do nothing without Christ (John 15:5). She states that “God needs for us to seek God so we will be able to go and ‘hope’ somebody,” but our purpose is to glorify God. God doesn’t “need” us. To suggest that He does implies that He has weakness and disqualifies Him from being God. We also don’t “sap evil of its strength”; Christ’s power working within and through us does.
Throughout the 90 readings, the author’s working seemed off-kilter to me, hindering interpretation. In a few cases I thought I could see the point that the author was trying to make, but it could be easily misinterpreted. For instance, in day 4 she remarks that “It is in the darkness that our strength is made stronger, that our arguments become more pointed and vivid, and that our words become more inspiring, because only in the darkness can we ‘see’ places that we cannot see when we are in the light.” But I would argue that Jesus is the light of the world, and when we encounter darkness we should shine light on the darkness. Darkness does not enable us to see, nor does it strengthen us. God’s light does that. Growth does not occur in darkness as the author claims; through darkness, perhaps, but not in it, and neither does darkness give us power or life, which come from the Lord alone.
Theological issues throughout “Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul” disturbed me. This is considered a Christian book, but I found multiple ideas that go against God’s Word. The author references historical figures who “held on to God while simultaneously rejecting Christianity” and were strengthened by God, but it is Jesus who saves us. There is no God without Christianity; they are mutually inclusive. The author presents this dangerous idea that even if we reject God, we are still His children and He is with us (Emmanuel), but those who have never accepted Christ as their Savior or who have rejected Him outright do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. Furthermore, Williams Smith perpetuates the concept that “To be a peacemaker is to radically stand in faith, be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other brand…In the name of the God whom we claim as our divine Parent, now is the time to covenant to be a peacemaker, no matter the cost. Too much is at stake.” Steve Ham, in an Answers in Genesis article from December 3, 2010 entitled “What is a True Peacemaker?”, refutes this by saying, “There is no such thing as peace at any cost. The gospel message is about both repentance of sin and salvation from judgment through Christ. It is not a feel-good message of misdirected love and tolerance.” Romans 12 also speaks to being a loving peacemaker.
According to the author, deception is at times necessary for survival and is okay as long as we “get in touch with our true selves” and “look to God for enough ingestion of God’s spirit not to betray others or ourselves.” However, if we are deceiving, then we are betraying God. She claims that the good news of the Gospel is that God is with us and always there, as opposed to the “self-serving principle that merely provides us with assurance that we are safe from eternal damnation.” While I agree that God is indeed steadfast and faithful, this “self-serving principle” is the priceless gift of our eternal salvation, for which He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf. Far from being the defiant activist Who “was not willing to ‘grin and bear it’”, He allowed Himself to be crucified and oppressed for us after living here on earth with us and showing us how to live.
White supremacy and racism are repeatedly discussed. Blanket statements such as saying that “white religious people” support racism, however, do not advance the cause. I absolutely agree that both institutions are wrong and should not exist, and I believe that working to eradicate them is a worthy and necessary endeavor. My issue is with the author’s approach and with what appears to be a mixed-bag of theological concepts that often distort God’s Word and promote the idea that as long as you stand for a religion, any religion, in faith, you are a peacemaker. Social activism is a loaded topic, but we are never going to find a better approach than that of Jesus. Praise God for the truth of John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
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