Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action, By Mae Elise Cannon

Just Spirituality

How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action

by Mae Elise Cannon

Just Spirituality
  • Length: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: January 25, 2013
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 3775
  • ISBN: 9780830837755

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Throughout history, Christians have been called by God to active engagement in society on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Christian leaders have been instrumental in caring for people who are poor, fighting injustice and advocating for social change. But they have never done so on their own power. Their energy and zeal were fueled by inner spiritual practices that propelled them forward into the world.

Activist and historian Mae Elise Cannon explores the direct connection between Christians' personal relationship with God and outward actions of kindness, mercy, compassion and advocacy. She looks at how notable Christian leaders were able to face societal challenges because of the rich depths of their spiritual practices. For example:

  • Mother Teresa's practice of silence compelled her to service.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer's prayer life equipped his discipleship.
  • Martin Luther King Jr.'s beloved community empowered his proclamation.
  • Oscar Romero's discipline of submission prepared him to face martyrdom.

Biographical profiles of these and other key figures from around the world give us concrete examples of how activism and advocacy can be sustained over the long haul. Cannon also describes modern-day activists who embody the synergy of faith and action, with practical lessons for our own lives.

Find yourself spiritually transformed by these examples, and follow in their footsteps in just service to the world.

"This book helps us to develop the kind of deep and pervasive spirituality that can provide motivation and inspiration for activists committed to social justice. Along with her own concrete directives, Mae Cannon taps into the resources of saints both ancient and modern who can nurture those who will to do God's work in the world."

Tony Campolo, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Eastern University

"Biblical justice requires a healthy spirituality. Christian spirituality demands a life of justice. Using powerful and relevant historical and contemporary examples, Mae Cannon offers the possibility of a deeply spiritual faith transforming and shaping our Christian mission. Mae Cannon's Just Spirituality is now the essential text that integrates justice and spirituality and empowers evangelicals for justice."

Soong-Chan Rah, author of The Next Evangelicalism and Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary

"Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action is a much-needed bridge between doing and being, between justice and spiritual formation, between faith and practice. Cannon's book is rooted in the lived experience of activists such as Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Watchman Nee and others who worked to bring the shalom and justice of God into their world. Cannon explores how their inward spiritual practices fueled their outward actions. At a time when people focus on either inner work or outer work, it is lovely to find a book that sees the genius of the both/and."

Adele Calhoun, copastor of Redeemer Community Church, Needham/Wellesley, Mass., and author of Invitations from God and Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

"Just Spirituality is a compelling call to a living faith that brings together Christian spirituality and social activism. Mae Cannon uses biographical narratives of Christian leaders to introduce and connect us to spiritual disciplines that anchor our lives as people working for justice. This book is an important read for activists seeking spiritual balance and contemplatives seeking a worldly vocation."

Curtiss Paul DeYoung, professor of reconciliation studies at Bethel University and author of Living Faith: How Faith Inspires Social Justice

"A book that theologically integrates spirituality and mission is compelling enough. But when it also lifts up faith heroes--both historical and contemporary--who have exemplified this integration, it goes from worth reading to must reading. Mae Cannon's Just Spirituality is such a book, as it puts names and faces to faith-inspired activism. As I met these people throughout the book, I kept saying to myself, I want to be like them. And fortunately, Cannon had people like me in mind, as she has provided guidelines to practice the disciplines in a way that releases us for mission. It's all here: theology, biography, missiology and spirituality. Let this book change the way we pray, meditate, worship and study the Scriptures, not just for our edification, but also for the transformation of the world."

F. Albert Tizon, Ph.D., associate professor of holistic ministry, Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University, and director of Word Deed Network, Evangelicals for Social Action

"Mae Cannon reminds us that we, too, are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. They call us to a life that is more deeply connected to God and more fully poured out for the broken and bruised world that he loves. There is power and calling in her wise guidance into just spirituality."

John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo Park, California

"Jesus' gospel is a call to action. The gospel requires us to right wrongs, to heal the broken places of this world. Mae Cannon is doing just that. Read this book for its rich wisdom that fuels activism like Mae's—the kind of activism needed in our world's toughest places."

Richard Stearns, president, World Vision, author, The Hole in Our Gospel

"What a fine and much-needed book! Mae Elise Cannon puts together in interesting and readable fashion what can never be separated--Christian spirituality and the work of justice. Even more effectively, she does it by the use of brilliant biographies. There is no ideology to resist or deny here, just some very real people who went all the way with the gospel."

Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"A new generation of advocates and activists of justice must face the harsh threat of burnout if and when their spiritual tanks run on empty. Unless they are replenished in Christ through the Spirit, they will never press on for the long haul. Such lack of endurance would be a major roadblock to the advance of justice in their midst. As a fellow traveler and seasoned guide, Mae Elise Cannon practices what she teaches and wisely instructs her readers on a vast array of spiritual resources available to them. She also points to saints who will energize and direct them along the way. Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action is a timely and important work. It shows those zealous for Jesus' just ways how to keep racing well and stay on the path until they reach their final destination, when Jesus' jubilee justice arrives in its fullness."

Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., professor of Christian theology theology of culture, Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University, and author of Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church

"Cannon has presented a timely and well-written book on how spirituality can fuel social action. Her decision to show this process through the lives of seven Christian leaders helps make the book more effective. The Christian church has wrestled with the interplay of spirituality and mission from the start. Cannon helpfully adds to this discussion with a clear call that, when it comes to spirituality and mission, it is not a case of either/or but both/and."

Steve L. Porter, Journal of Spiritual Formation Soul Care, Fall 2013

"I comment Cannon for lifting up the examples of these historic Christian individuals and thereby challenging contemporary Christians working for social justice to attend to their inner lives. I applaud her for remind us that there is an inviolable connection between a disciplined spiritual life and a commitment to social justice."

Drick Boyd,PRISM, Fall 2013

"Just Spirituality is an interesting read for those wishing to review the lives of social activists with an eye on the spiritual disciplines they practiced. The reflections are encouraging in that they help show how leaders of historic justice movements were ordinary people who also struggled with spiritual disciplines. The bottom line is that these disciplines lead us into closer relationship with God, a relationship that should prompt us to work for restoration and justice in our communities and around the world."

Jared Klassen, MB Herald, June 1, 2013


Introduction: Spiritual Practices as Fuel for the Soul
1. Mother Teresa: From Silence to Service
2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: From Prayer to Discipleship
3. Watchman Nee: From Study to Evangelism
4. Martin Luther King, Jr.: From Community to Proclamation
5. Fairuz: From Worship to Freedom
6. Desmond Tutu: From Sabbath to Reconciliation
7. Oscar Romero: From Submission to Martyrdom
8. Courage, Joy and Celebration
Study Guide


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Mae Elise Cannon

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). She is the author of Social Justice Handbook and Just Spirituality, and coeditor of Evangelical Theologies of Liberation and Justice.

Cannon formerly served as the senior director of advocacy and outreach for World Vision US on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and also as consultant to the Middle East for child advocacy issues for Compassion International in Jerusalem. She has served as the executive pastor of Hillside Covenant Church located in Walnut Creek, California, and as director of development and transformation for extension ministries at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois.

Cannon holds an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary, an MBA from North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, and an MA in bioethics from Trinity International University. She received her first doctorate in American history with a minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University of California (Davis) and her second doctorate in ministry in spiritual formation from Northern Theological Seminary. Her work has been highlighted in The New York Times, CNN, Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today, Leadership Magazine, The Christian Post, Jerusalem Post, EU Parliament Magazine, Huffington Post, and other international media outlets.