Friends, I’ve got a couple of books for giveaway on the horizon, so I can’t wait to introduce you to today’s author, Michelle Warren. Michelle and I met a couple months ago on the Ruby Woo Pilgrimage, and it’s been a delight to continue to watch and learn from this powerhouse of a woman. I hope to start reading her book, The Power of Proximity, this month, and would love to have you join me. Check out this interview with her!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? I love what I do and the people I do it alongside. I am an evangelical social justice advocate, passionate about immigration reform, access to affordable housing, mass incarceration, education equity and living wages. I didn’t roll out of bed one day deciding to be this kind of person but for over two decades, I have lived in a poor, predominantly immigrant community trying to be a good neighbor. Good neighbors care about each other and over the years as I have practiced being a good neighbor, I have found myself getting a little political.
I married my college sweetheart 25 years ago this June. We have 3 adult/nearly adult kids; they are 21, 20 & 16. I have lived in Denver for about 22 years. I love my community, music and nurturing relationships. My husband and I have worked alongside each other in an urban ministry context since before we were married. We have lived and reared our family in the same community that we have worked and worshiped and that experience alongside its perspective has changed everything.
Currently I work as the Advocacy & Strategic Engagement Director for the Christian Community Development Association. I’ve gone from living and learning about my community to joining them in their struggle for justice.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is The Power of Proximity about anyway? My book is the most honest telling of what I have learned these past 20 plus years living as a dominate culture minority in my community, moving from an awareness of poverty toward the alleviation of injustice. It’s not a biography but is memoir-like in that it uses my story and those in my community to set the stage. I weave Biblical truth and cultural insights, sharing what I believe the Church needs to examine to engage poverty and brokenness in our world, sincerely and effectively.
These days, the Church has done a little bit of talking about Micah 6:8 and doing justice. That is a fine start, but we need to move beyond talking, toward actual doing, yet, before we even consider our next steps we should be challenged to lean into what “walking humbly” looks like, right? My book is rally cry for the Church to move beyond awareness and toward an action that reflects humility, honesty and hope.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? There were a couple of driving forces. For anyone who writes a book, you know that one force is that you can’t NOT write it. The narrative won’t leave you alone until you finally get it on paper!
Beyond that I wanted to weigh in on the Church’s more recent awareness and desire to engage social justice. I have been doing it a long time and during a season when the dominant culture church was not talking about it. Now that they are – and I am glad – I also thought I’d share a little of what I’ve learned along the way. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to lean into leading this new wave of Christians who are very aware of injustice and care so much about engaging it. We need them. This movement needs them but it cannot be faddish; it needs serious engagement and a clear perspective. Proximity to people impacted by injustice is the key to transformation and provides the necessary landscape to move us toward deep, unified engagement that is effective and sustainable.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? The United States specifically is a very divided country and the Church stands at a crossroads. We want to “fix” issues like poverty, injustice & racism, because they make us feel uncomfortable and frustrated. Those of us in the pragmatic evangelical church context need to be challenged to see the issues and brokenness with new eyes and willingly engage its truth. We need an honest perspective that can start with the story of someone else’s choice and lessons learned but more importantly be followed up in practice. My hope is that those who read my book will be inspired to follow Jesus in new ways, to think about injustice and the call of the Church with a fresh perspective that moves toward a sincere action that restores and reconciles.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing The Power of Proximity? Sometimes it’s hard to embrace the truth of your story. It takes courage and freedom to not only take time to sit in it personally in the writing of it but to put it out for the world to read and respond. It is an entirely new type of vulnerable posture for me as I often write from a distance about high level policy issues. I believe the message that I wrote and stand by it, but I also know that there is no turning back. Talking about racism and privilege as a white evangelical to a crowd has its challenges but a book takes on a life of its own, and I have had to learn to let go in new ways.
How and where can we find you on the internet? I have never created a website, but think I am really easy to find. I work for the Christian Community Development Association, and I am also active on Twitter and Facebook, too.
So, what do you think? Is The Power of Proximity a good fit for your next read? Leave a comment below saying WHY you’d love to win this book, or visit Instagram and follow instructions on the post there. Contest ends Friday, March 9th. Good luck!
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