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Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now

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"[A] powerful work. . . . Provides a road map for any Christian seeking greater racial justice."-- Publishers Weekly Reconciliation is not true reconciliation without justice! Brenda Salter McNeil has come to this conviction as she has led the church in pursuing reconciliation efforts over the past three decades. McNeil calls the church to repair the old reconciliation p "[A] powerful work. . . . Provides a road map for any Christian seeking greater racial justice."-- Publishers Weekly Reconciliation is not true reconciliation without justice! Brenda Salter McNeil has come to this conviction as she has led the church in pursuing reconciliation efforts over the past three decades. McNeil calls the church to repair the old reconciliation paradigm by moving beyond individual racism to address systemic injustice, both historical and present. It's time for the church to go beyond individual reconciliation and "heart change" and to boldly mature in its response to racial division. Looking through the lens of the biblical narrative of Esther, McNeil challenges Christian reconcilers to recognize the particular pain in our world so they can work together to repair what is broken while maintaining a deep hope in God's ongoing work for justice. This book provides education and prophetic inspiration for every person who wants to take reconciliation seriously. Becoming Brave offers a distinctly Christian framework for addressing systemic injustice. It challenges Christians to be everyday activists who become brave enough to break the silence and work with others to dismantle systems of injustice and inequality.


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"[A] powerful work. . . . Provides a road map for any Christian seeking greater racial justice."-- Publishers Weekly Reconciliation is not true reconciliation without justice! Brenda Salter McNeil has come to this conviction as she has led the church in pursuing reconciliation efforts over the past three decades. McNeil calls the church to repair the old reconciliation p "[A] powerful work. . . . Provides a road map for any Christian seeking greater racial justice."-- Publishers Weekly Reconciliation is not true reconciliation without justice! Brenda Salter McNeil has come to this conviction as she has led the church in pursuing reconciliation efforts over the past three decades. McNeil calls the church to repair the old reconciliation paradigm by moving beyond individual racism to address systemic injustice, both historical and present. It's time for the church to go beyond individual reconciliation and "heart change" and to boldly mature in its response to racial division. Looking through the lens of the biblical narrative of Esther, McNeil challenges Christian reconcilers to recognize the particular pain in our world so they can work together to repair what is broken while maintaining a deep hope in God's ongoing work for justice. This book provides education and prophetic inspiration for every person who wants to take reconciliation seriously. Becoming Brave offers a distinctly Christian framework for addressing systemic injustice. It challenges Christians to be everyday activists who become brave enough to break the silence and work with others to dismantle systems of injustice and inequality.

30 review for Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)

    "I will pierce the darkness of racism and injustice with the leader whom I will influence and nurture and encourage in their practice of what I believe reconciliation really means: repairing broken systems together." Dr. McNeil's book takes the framework of the book of Esther and shows how Esther herself was the first seeker of justice in the Bible. The narrative presented is important, convicting, and very real. In today's racial climate, we see the same stories happening again and again in the "I will pierce the darkness of racism and injustice with the leader whom I will influence and nurture and encourage in their practice of what I believe reconciliation really means: repairing broken systems together." Dr. McNeil's book takes the framework of the book of Esther and shows how Esther herself was the first seeker of justice in the Bible. The narrative presented is important, convicting, and very real. In today's racial climate, we see the same stories happening again and again in the U.S., and Dr. McNeil looks toward real solutions to this ongoing problem with racial justice. Solutions that don't just rely on a yearly highlight of diversity or a multicultural meal. "I will stand in truth, and I will no longer dumb down the truth to help White people feel less guilty. To do so is to be complicit in sanitizing the truth, and I refuse to be complicit in that any longer." If you are a Christian, I repeat that this is important work that must be done in the church. We can no longer hide behind centering whiteness, we need to step out in the truth. White people, myself included, cannot cloister ourselves in our protective bubble, we need to enter into the work of reconciliation. This is not easy work, and we need to take the words of Esther to heart: "If I perish, I perish." This book should set its readers on fire to push for real, lasting change in our country. The church must be a participant in restructuring the power equations. "It is deeply disturbing that so many Christians think that racial reconciliation is some kind of liberal, politically motivated social agenda that has nothing to do with their faith as followers of Jesus Christ. It is also an indictment of the church that so many Christians don't know that the gospel includes reconciliation across racial, gender, ethnic, social, and cultural barriers. Our call to discipleship is an invitation to follow Jesus int a new community." I highly recommend this book to fellow Christians looking for guidance to get to the difficult work of the pursuit of racial justice. This cannot happen alone, and Dr. McNeil gives the encouragement and tools needed to enter with a heart of courage. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karen Hurula

    Becoming Brave is such a beautiful combination of Brenda's lifelong passion and pursuit of racial reconciliation and an infusion of new determination to see change happen. Set in the context of the lessons from Esther, this work brings the truth of scripture to modern day reality. Dr. Salter McNeil has found a new tenor to her voice in Becoming Brave, calling out complacency in the church that has too long failed to take interest to passion and passion to action. This book is accessible and deep Becoming Brave is such a beautiful combination of Brenda's lifelong passion and pursuit of racial reconciliation and an infusion of new determination to see change happen. Set in the context of the lessons from Esther, this work brings the truth of scripture to modern day reality. Dr. Salter McNeil has found a new tenor to her voice in Becoming Brave, calling out complacency in the church that has too long failed to take interest to passion and passion to action. This book is accessible and deep at the same time. An excellent read from a voice who has earned our attention.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris Bishop

    I first heard about racial reconciliation several years ago at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, GA. One of those voices was Dr. McNeil. A short while afterward I began my own personal journey to uncover the reasons beneath the racial divide in our country, and I have taken in history and information from many sources recommended to me through others. I benefited mightily from them, and it is now my privilege to offer a recommendation to those who read this review. You should buy and read this I first heard about racial reconciliation several years ago at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, GA. One of those voices was Dr. McNeil. A short while afterward I began my own personal journey to uncover the reasons beneath the racial divide in our country, and I have taken in history and information from many sources recommended to me through others. I benefited mightily from them, and it is now my privilege to offer a recommendation to those who read this review. You should buy and read this book! Dr. McNeil offers up her personal experience in the arena of racial reconciliation while also tracing a road to what it looks like to be a reconciler through the Biblical story of Esther. The book is an easy and concise read; she cuts to the heart of things in each chapter making very important concepts easy to grasp. Most importantly, I can say definitively that this book has challenged and changed me. What the remainder of this journey looks like for me I have yet to find out. But, I came away with a great many things that will be valuable to me as I travel.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve Spencer (he, him.his)

    A significantg book, insightful and challenging.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Fran Parsons

    Such a great book to start off this year of 2021! My challenge now is to put her words into practice!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cara Meredith

    Wow! Brenda Slater McNeil does it again, this time renouncing the approach she took that cared more about attributes of gentle whiteness than speaking truth to systematic injustice. I’m SUCH a fan.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan Salerno

    Brenda Salter McNeil makes a powerful observation in the opening pages of the first chapter of BECOMING BRAVE: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now. "For both the Nones and the Dones [those who state they have no religious affiliation, and those who say they are done with religion] the church has lost its credibility. These folks aren't waiting for the church, and they aren't expecting Christians to show up. They are only concerned with what the church is willing to do." After meeting Brenda Salter McNeil makes a powerful observation in the opening pages of the first chapter of BECOMING BRAVE: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now. "For both the Nones and the Dones [those who state they have no religious affiliation, and those who say they are done with religion] the church has lost its credibility. These folks aren't waiting for the church, and they aren't expecting Christians to show up. They are only concerned with what the church is willing to do." After meeting with young activists shortly after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, she began to understand that "Reconciliation requires action, and it must be contextual, social and political." To figure out how to answer that challenge, Salter McNeil reaches back to the story of Esther in the Old Testament and weaves Esther's story, along with her own, in hopes of providing a template for the challenge of approaching social justice from a Christian perspective. Coming from this perspective, Salter McNeil encourages us to look beyond what our eyes can see, to determine underlying causes. She points out that "the Akan people in Ghana believe that all people are born with purpose and destiny written into their being. The Akan are monotheistic and believe that no one is here on earth by accident. There is a reason why the God of the universe has summoned every human being to be born. Therefore, according to the traditional custom of the Akan people, when someone wants to know a person better, they ask them the following powerful and prophetic question: 'What called you forth?'" For Salter McNeil, knowing the answer to this question, knowing who you are, and what you are called to, is one of the cornerstones to effective reconciliation. Especially when living in a time of extreme social confusion and injustice. "Ignorance and isolation feed off our fear, and vice versa. This is why fearmongering is such a powerful political tool. It doesn't appeal to the best in us. It appeals to the base in us. We sense a threat or a potential danger, and then we use inaccurate assumptions and sound bites to assuage the fear." As an example, Salter McNeil points to the significant rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. "It is quickly becoming a commonly held belief among Americans that Muslims are dangerous and anti-American." Dangerous assumptions often lead to deeply wrong actions. Part of the reconciliation process, for Salter McNeil, is the acknowledgment of past wrongs. She mentions the Stolperstein Art Project in Germany, which uses strategically placed cobblestones, with brass plates inscribed with names and life-dates of victims of German Nazism. In contrast, Salter McNeil writes that, in regards to slavery, "We [in the United States] have done nothing similar to commemorate and acknowledge our past. We refuse to face our shame. We refuse to acknowledge what it means to have done what we did to enslave human beings. We refuse also to acknowledge our confiscation of land and mass genocide against the native tribes of this land. Not only does this deprive communities of color of their full restoration; it also deprives those who are White of the chance to tell the truth and receive the healing that comes through confession. We can't have restoration and reconciliation without first telling the truth." Just as Esther was willing to listen to Mordecai tell her that her fellow Jews were in imminent danger, "we must realize that we can't tell the truth about what's happening unless we get better informed." Salter McNeil recognizes another ingredient to reconciliation, pointing to Bryan Stevenson's idea of "practicing proximity." Says Salter McNeil, "we must get close enough to the real facts to be able to see and know for ourselves what is actually going on in people's lives." For Stevenson, it has meant spending decades as a lawyer defending people of color on death row. At first, Esther is reluctant to do anything with the information that Mordecai has given her. but after being encouraged by Mordecai to go to the king, she breaks her silence. "Silence can be violent," warns Salter McNeil. "Silence isn't passive. Silence is active, and it carries with it the power... to fuel atrocity and unthinkable hatred." Christians carry a unique perspective into the struggle for social justice. "By coming alongside those making decisions about matters of justice and human flourishing, we have the opportunity to contribute our distinct perspective in a nonthreatening way that might influence a leader to do the right thing because we show them that we care about them." This perspective can totally disarm fear and the hate that is its companion. Salter McNeil quotes Howard Thurman's classic book Jesus and the Disinherited. "Fear is one of the persistent hounds of hell that dog the footsteps of the poor, the dispossessed, and the disinherited." A perspective of faith also brings the struggle into a spiritual dimension. "The key to unlocking the door of our individual and corporate hopes for the future is believing that we are made in the image of God and that an unseen force is working on our behalf," Salter McNeil says. This is not a uniquely Christian concept. Salter McNeil writes: "The belief that our humanity is interconnected is central to an ancient South African philosophy called Ubuntu. This term means 'humanity to others' or 'I am what I am because of who we all are...' In other words, God created us to need each other to survive. We are meant to be nurtured in communities characterized by mutually affirming, interdependent relationships." In the story of Esther, she intercedes to the king on behalf of her people. Haman [the court official who had written a decree to exterminate the Jews] is himself executed. "As I read of Haman's demise, I was struck by how he equated leadership with power," Salter McNeil points out. "It seemed that his sole purpose for gaining the favor of the king was to extend his reach, solidify his reputation, and harm his enemies. Unfortunately, in my experience, many leaders share with Haman some version of those same flaws. But what makes [people like] Haman dangerous is that those were his only goals. When this happens, that's when leadership becomes a code word for power." Haman didn't repent of his power-driven ways. But, says Salter McNeil, "reconciliation must always hold out hope for transformation to occur and provide the opportunity for people to repent. This is what is uniquely different about how we engage the work for justice and reconciliation from a Christian perspective." Such a perspective, then, offers hope for the oppressed and the oppressor. Continuing to draw on the example of Esther, Salter McNeil writes, "Women, especially women of color, must be encouraged and supported in positions of leadership. Our experience of oppression has given us clarity into how things must change. If we are really looking for reconciliation leaders, we must look among the marginalized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable in any society and culture because they are the ones who push, prod, and poke people to move toward equality and freedom." Towards the end of BECOMING BRAVE, Salter McNeil makes a clear observation. "It is deeply disturbing that so many Christians think that racial reconciliation is some kind of liberal, politically motivated social agenda that has nothing to do with their faith as followers of Jesus Christ. It is also an indictment of the church that so many Christians don't know that the gospel includes reconciliation across racial, gender, ethnic, social and cultural barriers." "In the face of these pressing social problems, we must demonstrate that reconciliation happens by repairing broken systems and confronting power, not just be focusing on relationships and feelings." Ultimately, Salter McNeil remains optimistic, despite the lack of social justice in the world. "The message of the gospel, the story we must tell, infuses the work of reconciliation with hope! Without a story bigger than ourselves, as finite humans we fall into perpetual despair. However, rooted in a theology and narrative of hope, we are able to continue to resist and defy the odds that seem to be stacked against us." Salter McNeil gives us a powerfully apropos quote from the late civil rights icon and congressman, John Lewis: "Faith is being so sure of what the spirit has whispered in your heart that your belief in in its eventuality is unshakeable. Nothing can make you doubt that what you have heard will become a reality. Even if you do not live to see it come to pass, you know without a doubt that it will be. That is faith."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I was drawn to this book because of the author's reputation of years of work on reconciliation. And then I was a little off-put - the title seemed so similar to another recent publication by a famous Black American woman. And I was worried this call to action would be preachy. I was wrong on both counts. The story of Dr. McNeil's very personal story gives the foundation for a rally cry. She lays her heart bare as she takes us through her years of becoming more brave in her work. It was not an easy I was drawn to this book because of the author's reputation of years of work on reconciliation. And then I was a little off-put - the title seemed so similar to another recent publication by a famous Black American woman. And I was worried this call to action would be preachy. I was wrong on both counts. The story of Dr. McNeil's very personal story gives the foundation for a rally cry. She lays her heart bare as she takes us through her years of becoming more brave in her work. It was not an easy journey. The connections with the story of Esther are poignant and relevant, not just to finding courage to act on our convictions but in today's BLM reckoning. I recommend this book fully for anyone who is seeking to grow in awareness of racial injustice and wanting to do something about it. I can't wait to discuss this with a book group!

  9. 4 out of 5

    SweetheartSeerBooks

    *I was sent an e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. * This book. Oh. This book is so needed right now. Is Brenda Salter McNeil a prophet? Did she know this was going to happen? I feel like many of us knew the night after the 2016 election. It is why we cried and were so distraught. We knew that the US was headed for this point. Using her own personal experience to show how she got to where she is now, McNeil doesn't sugarcoat anymore. Illustrating when she realized she needed to a *I was sent an e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. * This book. Oh. This book is so needed right now. Is Brenda Salter McNeil a prophet? Did she know this was going to happen? I feel like many of us knew the night after the 2016 election. It is why we cried and were so distraught. We knew that the US was headed for this point. Using her own personal experience to show how she got to where she is now, McNeil doesn't sugarcoat anymore. Illustrating when she realized she needed to add more action to her words, she shows the reader how to be the change we want to see, and how to do that. She is not all talk. Using the book of Esther, she breaks down and expands on the themes of womens rights, identity, culture, racism, and so SO many other very poignant topics right now. Learning Spanish so she could help to minister to and understand another culture, she is the living embodiment of practicing what you preach. She brings up topics that may make white people uncomfortable to reflect on and that is the point. Jesus did not put us here to stay quiet while our fellow humans are being mistreated. He put us here to be the voice. The amount of History covered in such a short work is a testament to her writing prowess. This is easily consumable in one day, yet has so much to draw from and ponder as history truly does repeat itself. A passage that stood out to me in particular was one in which McNeil discusses Germany. She tells how Germany has acknowledged the wrongs of their past and expressed horror at the lives lost due to their own citizens and leaders of that time. She goes into much more detail, but essentially she makes the correlation of how Germany has handled their transgressions versus the lack of that handling in the United States. How we as citizens haven't acknowledged the treatment of Native Americans (This part hit hard for me as I am of Potawatomi heritage) and slaves. How we collectively haven't owned up to our mistakes and are going to keep repeating them unless we learn from our past to change. This book spoke to me in many ways on many different levels. As a Christian. As a woman. As a human. I highlighted many important passages that I will be referring back to again. This book was short, but POWERFUL. I don't want to highlight everything this book covers as I believe you should read it yourself. I recommend this one if you think you can handle it, BUT EVEN MORE IF YOU THINK YOU CAN'T because that means you really NEED it. Engaging. Inspiring. Empowering. ♡

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adriel Rose

    “Listen to Black women”. As I sat down to write this review, this is the first thing that came to mind. There have been countless examples throughout history of societies collectively and individually refusing to listen to Black women. And the spheres of racial injustice and racial reconciliation are no less rampant with these examples. It is long past time for us all, particularly White people, to be closing our mouths and opening our ears to hear the voices of those who have been continually si “Listen to Black women”. As I sat down to write this review, this is the first thing that came to mind. There have been countless examples throughout history of societies collectively and individually refusing to listen to Black women. And the spheres of racial injustice and racial reconciliation are no less rampant with these examples. It is long past time for us all, particularly White people, to be closing our mouths and opening our ears to hear the voices of those who have been continually silenced; silenced by our expectations, our ignorance, our disbelief, and our hard-heartedness. One of these voices that we desperately need to treasure is Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil. Not only is she a speaker, teacher, preacher, but she is also a gifted writer. Her new book, Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now, brings all of her invaluable experience to the reader right when we so desperately need a guide through very troubled times. Becoming Brave is a walk, hand in hand, along two iconic journeys: McNeil’s own and the biblical story of Esther. Both women find their voices and God-given purpose in leading others to the truth about how historically broken relationships need to be divinely mended. And how God calls us all into participation with Him in the process. Equal parts philosophical, poetic, and practical, Becoming Brave is a lesson for us all in looking at our own stories, accepting the parts that need it, and asking how we might use them for joining the good work of fighting racial injustice. Whether we are just beginning to put our hands to the plow or we’ve been planting seeds for years now, McNeil’s book gives us the tools that we need for this work and for encouraging those around us: prophetic imagination, prayer, biblical examples, protest, and more. Don’t let this moment pass you by. Grab a copy of the book for yourself and others and give McNeil a chance to speak into your life. It’s truly a gift to be able to listen.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    This book is equal parts convicting and encouraging. The author teaches us what it means to become brave in the pursuit of racial reconciliation through the story of Esther. I learned so much through reading this book and discussing the concepts with a small group of women. My biggest takeaways are that this work is HARD and risky and dangerous, but could be the most important thing we do with our lives - perhaps we were made for a time such as this! To quote the author, "Reconciliation happens This book is equal parts convicting and encouraging. The author teaches us what it means to become brave in the pursuit of racial reconciliation through the story of Esther. I learned so much through reading this book and discussing the concepts with a small group of women. My biggest takeaways are that this work is HARD and risky and dangerous, but could be the most important thing we do with our lives - perhaps we were made for a time such as this! To quote the author, "Reconciliation happens by repairing broken systems and engaging power, not just focusing on relationships and feelings." There is a new paradigm people like me (white, evangelical upbringing) need to face: break free of the distorted sense of identity we've internalized from the narrative of racial difference. This has been a long journey for me and continues, through reading books like this, discussing the content, and then acting on what I have learned. Courage comes from seeking God, because "what is happening in the world is beyond a social or political reality; it is evil." We need to "...come out of our individualism and come together as a community to make and execute a plan based on a united vision for the future." And again, we need to seek God to accomplish this task. I love these words in her conclusion: I am hoping in a God of light and restoration and peace. I am hoping in a God who broke into this damaged world to offer us abundant life. I am hoping in a God who repairs broken systems. I am willing to believe that transformation is possible with God. I am willing to believe that God is always at work among us, always inviting us into that reparative work. This is a book I highly recommend to all readers interested in learning about what it takes to seek racial reconciliation NOW, whether you follow God or not, I truly believe this author's words will inspire, encourage, provoke, and convict you!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Wells

    I have been a follower of Brenda Salter McNeil since hearing her preach during my undergraduate days with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Occidental College. Her work planted a seed in me then that reconciliation is a gospel imperative. I'm grateful to have put the work of racial justice and Christian faith so firmly together at that time, and I've been inspired by Brenda's long-term commitment to helping Christians understand and respond to this imperative. Becoming Brave is a powerful and I have been a follower of Brenda Salter McNeil since hearing her preach during my undergraduate days with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Occidental College. Her work planted a seed in me then that reconciliation is a gospel imperative. I'm grateful to have put the work of racial justice and Christian faith so firmly together at that time, and I've been inspired by Brenda's long-term commitment to helping Christians understand and respond to this imperative. Becoming Brave is a powerful and timely book. Brenda grounds this text in an exegesis of the Book of Esther, digging deep into what it means to respond to the call for reconciliation for "such a time as this". The message of the text is also guided by Brenda's honest reflections of her own life and ministry of reconciliation, explicating for the reader the very real costs of living out the ministry of reconciliation. In the end, Brenda hopes that reading this book provides readers the "necessary tools and encouragement to respond, like Esther, to God's leadership call", helps "create a new vision of socially relevant leadership that fuels [one's] hope to pursue racial justice, and expands the reader's "concept of reconciliation" (194). I can say unequivocally that this book has done all this and more for me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Becoming Brave is a must read! It is a timely reflection on what reconciliation is and why the non-white church should take the lead. Brenda Salter McNeil writes about her own journey to understanding more fully what reconciliation truly entails. She writes about the need to call things what they are. She writes honestly about the pain of assimilation culture and of racism within systems. For far too long the White church has expected people of color to make their pain palatable for us. But no m Becoming Brave is a must read! It is a timely reflection on what reconciliation is and why the non-white church should take the lead. Brenda Salter McNeil writes about her own journey to understanding more fully what reconciliation truly entails. She writes about the need to call things what they are. She writes honestly about the pain of assimilation culture and of racism within systems. For far too long the White church has expected people of color to make their pain palatable for us. But no more! I firmly believe true reconciliation within the Church will come when POC decide to take the lead. The Black church does not need to make white evangelicals comfortable. They need to speak, move, and stand in the Word, holding Truth – as uncomfortable and hard as is it for us white folk to take – as the beacon to a more just society.   McNeil is a wise and trustworthy guide to those who realize reconciliation is Kingdom work. For people disenfranchised with the silence and complicity of the Church, McNeil’s book in a lantern in our current evangelical darkness.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Linda Ruth

    In this engaging book, Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil weaves together a powerful and insightful exegesis of the Biblical story of Esther, stories from her own journey as an African-American woman, mother, wife, preacher, author, speaker, and university professor, and examples of other contemporary women warriors for community goodness and justice into a compelling narrative that encourages us all in our own personal journeys of becoming brave. You will never read Esther’s story the same way again. You In this engaging book, Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil weaves together a powerful and insightful exegesis of the Biblical story of Esther, stories from her own journey as an African-American woman, mother, wife, preacher, author, speaker, and university professor, and examples of other contemporary women warriors for community goodness and justice into a compelling narrative that encourages us all in our own personal journeys of becoming brave. You will never read Esther’s story the same way again. You will connect with the accounts of contemporary injustices and how Esther’s courage and strategies can inspire us to speak up and to act. “Our calling to speak out and break our silence about injustice, to raise our voice for the voiceless, and to take a stand against oppression and systems that weaken and abuse others will always involve personal risk.” (Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil, chapter 12.) This book is a must-read for all who don’t want to miss this moment in history. NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    You probably haven't heard Esther's story explained like this before! Through the lens of this ancient, activitst, Biblical queen, Dr. Brenda shows us how to courageously move forward with God's heart for justice. Sharing pieces of her story and highlighting people she has learned from, the author encourages the reader grow into their own story of reconciliation and learn from the tales of those, like Esther, who have bravely gone before us. You can find book study discussion questions on our bl You probably haven't heard Esther's story explained like this before! Through the lens of this ancient, activitst, Biblical queen, Dr. Brenda shows us how to courageously move forward with God's heart for justice. Sharing pieces of her story and highlighting people she has learned from, the author encourages the reader grow into their own story of reconciliation and learn from the tales of those, like Esther, who have bravely gone before us. You can find book study discussion questions on our blog at Down the Hobbit Hole Blog dot com. While it's not a direct commentary on the book of Esther, it does shed a lot of light onto the context and story of the book. If you have been feeling a push towards social justice and racial reconciliation but you aren't sure where to start, or if you've been doing the work for years and want some encouragement- this is the motivational read you are looking for! We highly recommend this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Humphries

    I wanted to read this book after listening to Rev. Dr. McNeil speak as part of a virtual panel with Lisa Sharon Harper, Jemar Tisby, and LaTasha Morrison. She was the panelist with whom I was least familiar, but whose contribution I most enjoyed. Becoming Brave is essentially a book-long expansion of what she shared during that panel. Using the book of Esther as the framework, she describes her journey from fighting for diversity and inclusion in the church, to fighting against injustice and sys I wanted to read this book after listening to Rev. Dr. McNeil speak as part of a virtual panel with Lisa Sharon Harper, Jemar Tisby, and LaTasha Morrison. She was the panelist with whom I was least familiar, but whose contribution I most enjoyed. Becoming Brave is essentially a book-long expansion of what she shared during that panel. Using the book of Esther as the framework, she describes her journey from fighting for diversity and inclusion in the church, to fighting against injustice and systemic racism. It's challenging and hopeful, without ignoring the very real obstacles that everyone doing anti-racism work faces. That we cannot have true reconciliation without justice and reparations may seem obvious to some and yet it is an idea that so many in the church deny both implicitly and explicitly. I appreciated Rev. Dr. McNeil's honesty and vulnerability as she confronted her own erroneous assumptions and modes of work as she calls the reader to do the same.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Holly Dowell

    “Esther serves as an example for how to bravely deal with political powers, judicial leaders, government officials, college administrators, CEOs, and denominational hierarchy as we pursue reconciliation and equity for all people.” In this thoughtful and equipping book, Dr. McNeil uses Esther’s story as a guiding example of individual engagement with injustice. She mixes in personal anecdotes, current events, and theological reflections to talk about the urgency of racial reconciliation (in the ch “Esther serves as an example for how to bravely deal with political powers, judicial leaders, government officials, college administrators, CEOs, and denominational hierarchy as we pursue reconciliation and equity for all people.” In this thoughtful and equipping book, Dr. McNeil uses Esther’s story as a guiding example of individual engagement with injustice. She mixes in personal anecdotes, current events, and theological reflections to talk about the urgency of racial reconciliation (in the church and in broader American society) and how we would be remiss to not heed that call. At one point, when examining Esther’s famous line (“If I perish, I perish,” verse 4:16), Dr. McNeil observes: “She decided to join in God’s reparative work in the world, knowing full well that there were no promises that everything would turn out okay. And that’s exactly what we’re being asked to do.” Growing up, Esther was by far my favorite Bible story. I did not realize going in that Becoming Brave was written with Esther as the backbone, and I was thrilled to get to revisit and re-examine this personally formative story. Dr. McNeil added so much nuance and context to the narrative that I am even more moved by it now. Part of me attributes my bent towards justice work to Esther’s presence as a staple in my childhood. I’m so glad I read this book. I came away feeling both stretched and encouraged.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tone Waters

    Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, one of my absolute favorite prophetic voices in the church today does it again—only this time she’s bold, direct, and clearer than ever. Her call for the church to rise up, draw our strength from God, and pursue racial justice is stirring. As a Christian, white woman, my anti-racism journey for the past decade has been filled with moments of passivity and action. Dr. Brenda reminds us of the prayerful, action-oriented nature of Esther, as well as her own journey into sp Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, one of my absolute favorite prophetic voices in the church today does it again—only this time she’s bold, direct, and clearer than ever. Her call for the church to rise up, draw our strength from God, and pursue racial justice is stirring. As a Christian, white woman, my anti-racism journey for the past decade has been filled with moments of passivity and action. Dr. Brenda reminds us of the prayerful, action-oriented nature of Esther, as well as her own journey into speaking truth to power, encouraging all of us to do the same. After reading this book I am emboldened to stand with my sisters and brothers of color as well as other marginalized groups. Silence will never be an option again and I thank Dr. Brenda for ministering so well to my heart and so many others. This book is a must read!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dr Jeanne Porter King

    A Clarion Call for Today Becoming Brave is a clarion call for all believers to take stock of their context and summon the courage to heed the call to fight, advocate for and live out racial justice in the world. Kingdom work transcends the church and emanates out into every institution that touches the lives of people. Dr Salter-McNeil tells her very personal story of responding to the call to advocate for racial justice on her own terms, and not on the terms that make white people, especially wh A Clarion Call for Today Becoming Brave is a clarion call for all believers to take stock of their context and summon the courage to heed the call to fight, advocate for and live out racial justice in the world. Kingdom work transcends the church and emanates out into every institution that touches the lives of people. Dr Salter-McNeil tells her very personal story of responding to the call to advocate for racial justice on her own terms, and not on the terms that make white people, especially white people in evangelical spaces, more comfortable. That call is reverberating out to each of us, in whatever context or space we work, to speak up, speak out and stand for racial justice now. Dr Salter-McNeil’s story intertwined with Esther’s story will inspire you and prod you to move forward.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Masten

    If you are BIPOC, especially with formative years in White Evangelical spaces, you will recognize yourself in this book. If you have regularly policed your own actions and words to keep the peace and to ensure that you maintained your welcome in these same spaces, again, Brenda Salter McNeil is saying out loud the timid murmurings in your racial reconciliation spirit. She lays out the urgency of the racial justice journey and equips you to not only find your voice, but provides the courage to us If you are BIPOC, especially with formative years in White Evangelical spaces, you will recognize yourself in this book. If you have regularly policed your own actions and words to keep the peace and to ensure that you maintained your welcome in these same spaces, again, Brenda Salter McNeil is saying out loud the timid murmurings in your racial reconciliation spirit. She lays out the urgency of the racial justice journey and equips you to not only find your voice, but provides the courage to use an Esther informed megaphone once you do! To the justice discouraged, betrayed, weary and righteous indignant from the full diaspora of all humanity, who are asking “now what do we do?” #BecomingBrave is the answer!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Williston

    This book reads like one of the authors famous talks or sermons that people travel and pay good money to hear. She fleshes out the story of Esther from the Bible to show how each of us may be called to racial justice. Equal parts challenge and encouragement, the author pulls no punches in her exhortation. She uses personal stories, information from experts, and other Bible stories to complete the picture, and she is brutally honest about her own struggles. I often struggle to finish non-fiction This book reads like one of the authors famous talks or sermons that people travel and pay good money to hear. She fleshes out the story of Esther from the Bible to show how each of us may be called to racial justice. Equal parts challenge and encouragement, the author pulls no punches in her exhortation. She uses personal stories, information from experts, and other Bible stories to complete the picture, and she is brutally honest about her own struggles. I often struggle to finish non-fiction books and prefer to read fiction, but this book was compelling right to the very end. The book is educational and inspirational and just a really good read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    Using the narrative of the story of Esther from the Bible, Salter McNeil shows us a pathway toward boldness and justice in our world today. Her wise words take us through her own story and call to prophetic reconciliation in a time when systemic racism is forcing people of all skin colors to reassess their place in the world. As a non-colored person, I found this book to be inspiring and scary - I have work to do to become brave in my place of calling as I pursue God's heart for justice. But wit Using the narrative of the story of Esther from the Bible, Salter McNeil shows us a pathway toward boldness and justice in our world today. Her wise words take us through her own story and call to prophetic reconciliation in a time when systemic racism is forcing people of all skin colors to reassess their place in the world. As a non-colored person, I found this book to be inspiring and scary - I have work to do to become brave in my place of calling as I pursue God's heart for justice. But with Esther, I must say, "if I perish, I perish."

  23. 4 out of 5

    April Yamasaki

    In Becoming Brave, author Brenda Salter McNeil weaves together her own story of growing activism with the biblical story of Esther and the urgent need for racial justice and reconciliation in America. Her intent is to “activate reconcilers to repair broken systems that are rooted in the evil of racism and resist the kingdom of God” (183-184). Her call to action is clear and compelling. Read my full review: Becoming Brave in Your Own Backyard. In Becoming Brave, author Brenda Salter McNeil weaves together her own story of growing activism with the biblical story of Esther and the urgent need for racial justice and reconciliation in America. Her intent is to “activate reconcilers to repair broken systems that are rooted in the evil of racism and resist the kingdom of God” (183-184). Her call to action is clear and compelling. Read my full review: Becoming Brave in Your Own Backyard.

  24. 4 out of 5

    K

    A gift from Mom by my favorite Christian preacher right now. I really love Pastor Brenda, but I don't think Mom fully understands that spending time listening to her will not make me a believer again. I access all kinds of spitirual inspiration and practice. I *do* really want to read this, because Pastor Brenda shares most of my values and I've read plenty of books exploring themes of racial justice, but I'm curious what her spin on it is, through a Christian lens. I'm guessing she believes tha A gift from Mom by my favorite Christian preacher right now. I really love Pastor Brenda, but I don't think Mom fully understands that spending time listening to her will not make me a believer again. I access all kinds of spitirual inspiration and practice. I *do* really want to read this, because Pastor Brenda shares most of my values and I've read plenty of books exploring themes of racial justice, but I'm curious what her spin on it is, through a Christian lens. I'm guessing she believes that true healing can't occur without ultimatly having the help of God. Excited to find out!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristine Ives

    Dr McNeil’s book is deeply moving, skillfully constructed, and needs to be required reading for all. She masterfully recounts the story of Esther as an example of how we can bravely step into the work of racial reconciliation. She gives us a peak into her own process, her own struggles and failures, as a means of illuminating the path we are called to. I feel energized in my commitment to anti racism and am grateful for the lessons learned in this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy Jacobsen

    I so appreciate Dr Rev. Brenda's humility and courage. The weaving of her personal story with the life of Esther was brilliant. Two brave women who are inspiring me to be brave. Thank you! Also appreciate that she explicitly named the costs that will inevitably come from being committed to being a reconciliation leader and pursuing justice for all. I so appreciate Dr Rev. Brenda's humility and courage. The weaving of her personal story with the life of Esther was brilliant. Two brave women who are inspiring me to be brave. Thank you! Also appreciate that she explicitly named the costs that will inevitably come from being committed to being a reconciliation leader and pursuing justice for all.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Hearing Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil preach at my church five years ago was a defining moment in my life and spurred me to focus my energy on racial reconciliation. I enjoyed reading about her personal journey since then as well as her commentary on the book of Esther. As I read, I felt like I was hearing her personal encouragement to be bold and persist.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle

    Becoming Brave... presented with a very fair and non-judgemental voice, the author compares Christian teachings with recent and historical events in brown and black and LGBTQIA communities. She shares biblical stories in a modern way that makes the reader feel known and appreciated. Thought provoking and well explained.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Geovanna Toliver

    I like this book. Although it is an autobiography, she challenges the reader to rethink their ideas and actions in regards to racial justice using the the biblical book of Esther. Sometimes you just have to say "ouch." Such is the case with this book. She encouraged the reader that it never too late to become involved in racial just. I like this book. Although it is an autobiography, she challenges the reader to rethink their ideas and actions in regards to racial justice using the the biblical book of Esther. Sometimes you just have to say "ouch." Such is the case with this book. She encouraged the reader that it never too late to become involved in racial just.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nora Osendorf

    This is a beautifully written book where the author uses the character of Esther in the Bible to examine the ways women of color (and ultimately many women) have been pressured to change themselves to fit the dominant cultures in which they were live and navigate. How do we “become brave” and how do we help others break this cycle of not being our true selves? A short but eloquent read on racial justice.

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