Micah Mandate

The Magazine of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Gang Leader For A Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sidhir Venkatesh (The Penguin Press HC, 2008)

Reviewed by Steve McNerney, guest contributor–

Sudhir Venkatesh has written a highly engaging book on urban life, poverty, and crime. Uninspired by dry statistics and ivory-tower analysis, Venkatesh ventured into the day-to-day lives of urban gangsters in Chicago and has produced an alluring, disturbing, and surprising ethnographic narrative.  Gang Leader For A Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets recaps the time he examined, up-close-and-personal, the lives of characters most Americans only read about in the crime pages of big city newspapers.

In 1989, as a student at the University of Chicago, Venkatesh met with his academic advisor, William Julius Wilson.  Wilson is the most eminent living scholar on poverty and race. At that time Wilson was interested in the “the difference between growing up in a neighborhood that was surrounded by other poor areas and growing up poor but surrounded by an affluent neighborhood.”  Venkatesh agreed to assist with the study. Equipped with questionnaires he began his endeavor–one that would run its course far longer than he could have imagined and morph well beyond the task of data collection. Read the rest of this entry »

Review of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett (Moody, 2009).

Reviewed by Mary Grace Edwards, guest contributor–

Forty percent of the world’s inhabitants are living on less than two dollars a day. From the slums of Calcutta to the housing project a few miles from your front door, poverty is everywhere. Thankfully, some are taking action to recognize and help the poor. But what happens when our good intentions are only making things worse? What if for all of our efforts, we are only keeping the poor poor? And how can we recognize if this is happening? This is the question tackled by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in their book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor.

Clearly, all Christ followers are called to share God’s heart for the poor. Given our relative level of wealth, North American Christians have particular responsibility. When Helping Hurts focuses specifically on the role the church should play. From a deep well of experience, the authors—both professors at the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College–examine both domestic and international poverty. They discuss Biblical principles and theology, share stories from the front lines, and offer practical advice. Read the rest of this entry »

Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—And How it Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)

Reviewed by Steve McNerney, guest contributor–

According to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman, America needs some new Mayflower pilgrims if it—and the rest of the planet—is going to survive our current ecological crisis.

Whatever we may think of their fashions and livelihood, the pilgrims had drive, giving themselves to a journey of discovery. Friedman argues that Americans today must embark likewise. Our task is to discover another new world—this time, one in which we abandon our reliance on dirty, exhaustible fuels and implement a vibrant green economy based on renewable energy. For him, this isn’t merely a fanciful idea. It’s imperative, and time is running out.

Freidman is a master of tone, so what could end up as screeching scaremongering is instead an incisive, entertaining, and informative read. The book is presented in two parts. First it explains how we came to live in what Friedman terms a hot, flat, and crowded world. The second offers potential solutions for reversing the damaging trends in our globalized world and finding our way to a more secure and vibrant planet. Along the way, Friedman does a masterful job of illustrating how the economic, social, religious, and cultural problems of the 21st century are intertwined with climate change, globalization, and population growth. Read the rest of this entry »