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Stakes Is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America

SKU 9780827235403

By Michael W. Waters

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Foreword by Vashti Murphy McKenzie

2018 Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Award Winner

"Michael W. Waters... is both blunt and lyrical as he meditates on police violence, racism, hip-hop, and the power of faith." -Sojourners

Download the Stakes Is High Companion Guide

What happens when a people can take no more injustice rained down upon their sons and daughters? When each new travesty echoes the cries of ancestors killed for the color of their skin? How do a people rediscover hope? And how do they use that new-found hope as momentum and strength for change?

In his powerful new book Stakes Is High, pastor, activist, and community leader Michael W. Waters blends hip-hop lyricism and social justice leadership, creating an urgent voice demanding that America listen to the suffering if it hopes to redeem its soul. Weaving stories from centuries of persecution against the backdrop of today’s urban prophets on the radio and in the streets, Waters speaks on behalf of an awakened generation raging against racism – yet fueled by the promise of a just future. Through the pain and hard but holy work, you will hear the call to join the faithful struggle for racial justice.

EPUB and EPDF versions available through your preferred e-book reader (Kindle, Nook, Kobo).

Part of the FTE (Forum for Theological Exploration) Series


 "Stakes Is High isn’t a how-to-end-racism manual. It is a collection of essays, most of them previously shared on the internet as real-time responses to tragedies and top news stories....Waters is a translator who weaves several strands together in this book: storytelling, theologizing, personal reflection and historical context. He even explains the title in the introduction, so those worrying if they can trust a book with 'bad' grammar in the title can quickly see the link to the hip-hop lyric from which the phrase is taken. Lastly, there is a free companion guide available on Waters’ website, which was designed by a team of pastors and Christian education experts. I think this book would make an excellent choice for a Sunday school book club or even a high school youth group—however, you may need to make adjustments to some of the discussion questions. The companion book has a more academic feel for many of the discussion questions it provides, and may need to be adjusted if most of the people in the group haven’t had academic theological training. If you are considering what to do for a fall or winter book club, or even a late summer read—Stakes Is High would be well worth the read. ― Micky ScottBey Jones, the Justice Doula, “The Stakes are Indeed High, and Rising: A Book Review and Conversation in Two Parts,” Evangelicals for Social Action, June 22, 2017 (read the entire review here)

“Not many Christian publishing houses, these days, would release a book bearing the title of an angry rap song with a black activist on the front cover shouting into a microphone. So, why was Stakes Is High published by the venerable Chalice Press—officially the publishing arm of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)? The author, African Methodist Episcopal pastor Michael W. Waters...argues that, in 2017, church people are long overdue in joining a nationwide movement for justice for vulnerable minorities. It’s time to turn to ‘urban prophets’ like the hip hop group De La Soul, who have been ‘crying out for justice’ in songs like Stakes Is High for many years. Waters quotes lines from the song: "Let me tell you what it’s all about/A skin not considered equal/A meteor has more right than my people." ...Quite simply, those lines also sum up Waters’ new book—an incendiary series of real-life stories about injustice and prophetic responses, wrapped up with a ringing appeal for long-overdue justice. The ‘sense of urgency’ is apparent on every page of this book. Waters clearly hopes to ‘awaken the masses from their slumber.’ If you know Waters’ work, then you may have seen his earlier book Freestyle, also released by a publishing house with mainline Protestant roots (in that case Upper Room Books, connected with the United Methodist Church). Comparing Freestyle with Stakes is like comparing Guideposts to a sermon preached at an open air protest....In Stakes, there is nowhere to hide from the prophet’s call. The cover should contain a warning label: Reading this book will propel you to action....Stakes is a dangerous book to carry around in your congregation. Many passages are raw, recounting violence against the vulnerable, and filled with righteous wrath as Waters encourages us all to find constructive ways to respond.” ―David Crumm, “Chalice Press knows “Stakes Is High’ for people of faith,”, 08/07/2017

“Through raw emotion and critical analysis, Stakes Is High grapples with the race matters plaguing America. Shifting us away from sound bites, Waters takes us on a journey that is deeply historical, theological, cultural, and personal. In the end, we are challenged to view the complexities of the black experience in ways that are both familiar and fresh.” ― Rahiel Tesfamariam, Founder/Publisher of Urban Cusp

“Timely and important. Too often these words are used for books simply well written; not so here. Stakes Is High is the rare book that brings a keen theological eye to contemporary events. In the midst of what has been one of the most important movements for human dignity, Black Lives Matter, in recent decades, hearing the voice of emerging Christian leadership dedicated to both chronicling the moment and changing the world is vital! The style of the book fits the moment precisely. Using blog posts and moments in ministry is genius. This book is a resource for practitioners of public ministry and those of us dedicated to their preparation.” ― Stephen G. Ray Jr., Fisher Professor of Theology, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

“In Stakes Is High Dr. Waters shares some of his most thought-provoking writings on race relations in the United States. Part theology/part commentary this book has a wide reach and relevance from seminaries to academic classrooms to book clubs. Dr. Waters will challenge you, inspire you, and make you question your own thoughts about the state of the nation.” ― John Thomas III, Editor, The Christian Recorder and General Officer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

“I appreciate the way Waters challenges us to consider the question ‘How often must we drink from this bitter well? of racism in America.’ His use of historical narratives juxtaposed with contemporary illustrations gives the reader a sense of this long arc of injustice. Waters mixes the names of familiar and lesser known people who have found themselves on the underside of this arc, and challenges us to think critically and creatively about next steps toward liberty and justice for all.” ― Leah Gunning Francis, Christian Theological Seminary, author of Ferguson and Faith

“The years in office of President Obama have also been years of increased racial tensions, as backlash against the first African American president took many forms, accompanied by growing economic inequality. No one will remain unaffected as Michael Waters masterfully tells the stories of the struggle and gives powerful evidence for the hope that things are about to change.” ― Joerg Rieger, Vanderbilt University, co-author of Unified We Are a Force

“Rev. Dr. Michael Waters personifies the truthful image of a powerful, young, Black pastor/preacher/lecturer, raw cultural writer, boots on the ground, social justice advocate, and true lover of hip-hop music. His keen insight on the intersection of religion and the hip-hop culture is phenomenal. Stakes Is High is powerful and thought-provoking.” ― Sharon Risher, Chaplain, Gun law reform advocate, daughter of Emanuel 9 martyr