BookLog: Red Letters
The recurring theme of Red Letters is that Jesus lived a life of compassion, and if we are truly following Jesus, we too will respond with compassion to the “lepers” and “Samaritans” of our day: the victims of HIV/AIDS – especially the children who have been orphaned by the disease. Tom Davis (shown below) is the president of Children’s HopeChest, a child-advocacy group that helps children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Africa, Russia, and other parts of the world. In Red Letters, he tells us about the extent of the disease around the world (the soon-to-be 50 million people living with the disease) and he also offers concrete ideas about how we as individuals can help. For example, just buying the book – or buying one pound of Saints Coffee (I recommend St. George the Dragonslayer, a delicious dark-roast blend) – will feed an orphan for a month, through the network of food suppliers Davis works with through Children’s HopeChest.
Red Letters has a lot in common with other books that have come out of the emergent Christian conversation:
1. The book is unflinchingly honest. It can be hard to read at times, like when Davis talks about young girls in Africa being brutally raped by HIV-positive men because of a widespread belief that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS.
2. The book calls us to move beyond the words of Scripture, to actually do the words of Jesus, not just read them or talk about them.
3. The book emphasizes the biblical vision of justice, which in Davis’ words means “making wrongs right, bringing blessing instead of curse, and giving our lives to serve others in need” (page 114).
4. The book calls us to a real-world faith, to see Jesus in the world around us. Davis invites us “to live a faith that is so real, you bleed Jesus. Here’s how to start: Look for Jesus every morning in the eyes of the people you meet. And then look for him in the mirror” (page 28).
5. The book quotes Bono (of U2) a lot. Ten times, in fact, which seems to be about average for an emergent book. :o)
Red Letters calls us to move beyond the “blame-the-victim” mentality (an attitude I’ve seen not just in Christian circles but among New Agers as well): “Yes, the majority of people with HIV got it through sexual contact or because of drug use. But does that make them less worthy of compassion?” (page 77). Davis quotes Kay Warren, “Jesus never asked how someone got sick,” and adds: “We shouldn’t either” (page 159).
Davis ends Red Letters with an invitation to join Five for 50, to make a commitment to stand in solidarity with the soon-to-be 50 million people living with HIV:
1. Give 5 minutes a day to pray for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
2. Give 5 hours a week to fast for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
3. Give 5 dollars a month to the Five for 50 Fund to support worthy causes.
4. Give 5 days a year to travel overseas to help alleviate poverty and suffering (or to help those in our own communities).
5. Give 5 people an opportunity to join you on your journey.
If you’re on Facebook, you can join Five for 50 using the “Causes” application. There are also Facebook groups for Children’s HopeChest and Saints Coffee.
Red Letters includes a great quote from Richard Rohr (page 105):
I would say that if you only think about Jesus, “believe” Jesus and believe things about Jesus, not much new is going to happen. It is the risk of “acting” like Jesus acted that reconfigures your soul. We are converted by new circumstances much more than by new ideas. Or as I like to say, we do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.
Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds is a challenging and compassionate call to “reconfigure our souls,” to become more like Jesus by taking seriously his “red letter” words – to act like Jesus, not just “believe” in him.