Prophetic Activism

Progressive Religious Justice Movements in Contemporary America

287 pages

June, 2011

ISBN: 9780814783856



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Helene Slessarev-Jamir is the Mildred M. Hutchinson Professor of Urban Studies at the Claremont School of Theology. She is the author of The Betrayal of the Urban Poor.

All books by Helene Slessarev-Jamir

While the links between conservative Christians and politics have been drawn strongly in recent years, coming to embody what many think of as religious activism, the profoundly religious nature of community organizing and other more left-leaning justice work has been largely overlooked. Prophetic Activism is the first broad comparative examination of progressive religious activism in the United States. Set up as a counter-narrative to religious conservatism, the book offers readers a deeper understanding of the richness and diversity of contemporary religious activism.

Helene Slessarev-Jamir offers five case studies of major progressive religious justice movements that have their roots in liberative interpretations of Scripture: congregational community organizing; worker justice; immigrant rights work; peace-making and reconciliation; and global anti-poverty and debt relief. Drawing on intensive interviews with activists at all levels of this work—from pastors and congregational leaders to local organizers and the executive directors of the national networks—she uncovers the ways in which they construct an ethical framework for their work. In addition to looking at predominantly Christian organizations, the book also highlights the growth of progressive activism among Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists who are engaged in reinterpreting their religious texts to support new forms of activism.

Religion and Social Transformation series


  • Prophetic Activism provides an informative portrait of left-leaning religious activism. Those who want to better understand what that activism looks like—its major organizations, its strategies and tactics, its similarities to and differences from secular activism, and, most importantly, its potential and limits—will learn much by reading this book.”

    —Mark Chaves, author of Congregations in America

  • Prophetic Activism could be called ‘Groups That Make a Difference,’ like Sider and Unruh’s Churches That Make a Difference. It stands out because it analyzes change-groups with goals ranging from worker justice to immigrant rights, peacemaking, and global justice, identifying strategies that bring healing to a nation whose soul badly needs healing. Enormously instructive for people who know we need change for human rights in a big way, one victory at a time. This work shows that Evangelicals, too, have become increasingly active, with crucial biblical interpretation.”

    —Glen Stassen, Fuller Theological Seminary

  • "Rooted in scripture and transcendent faith, and defying the staid expectations of analysts and pundits--this is why faithful activism will always be more interesting than a candidates' debate."

    —Julie Polter, Sojourners Magazine