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Keith Hebden: Seeking Justice

Keith Hebden

Seeking Justice:

The Radical Compassion of Jesus

ISBN: 9781 7809 9688 2

Circle Books, 2013, 168pp, £11.99

Revd Dr Keith Hebden is a Church of England priest and an activist committed to continued experiments in non-violent resistance and community organising. He works as a pioneer minister in the deanery of Mansfield.

This book blends theory and action. Keith Hebden draws on biblical, economic, historical, political and sociological scholarship, but his purpose is to encourage, enable and equip people to action, seeking justice through the radical compassion of Jesus. Each chapter ends with suggestions for building a compassionate community of resistance where readers are, including activities for small groups and further reading and inviting response to the website: www.compassionistas.net .

There are striking readings of the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Mustard Seed, of Matthew 5 and Romans 13. Theory and analysis are earthed in true stories about the author, such as his road rage provoked by being cut up on the motorway, being threatened by an aggressive neighbour in the East End, protest against a proposed library closure in his Gloucester parish, being dragged out of Gloucester Cathedral after interrupting a Zionist preacher there, realising his own personal prejudices, his family life and arrests by police.

Insisting that non-violent resistance is not passive acceptance, Hebden describes three common responses to aggression (hedgehog; teddy bear; rhinoceros) and shows how young children often use the tactics of non-violent resistance when dealing with their stronger parents.

Examples of effective non-violent resistance are given from the little known campaigns against Nazi policies in Hitler’s Germany and occupied Europe in World War II, and from the UK today: the East London Community Organisation, the Trident Ploughshares Movement, the London Catholic Workers and the think-tank Ekklesia.

This book is a stimulating and exciting read, but it will have failed if it does not prompt each reader to seek justice as part of a community following the radical compassion of Jesus.

Cecil King