I have a confession. I’ve never used the word, “sista.” I’m also white and from the northeastern USA, so I’ve rarely even heard “sista” uttered. Thus, when I was asked to review Shalom Sistas, I almost refused, thinking I might not relate to the book.
Then I saw the subtitle: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World, and I got excited. I perused the long list of endorsers, and I like them. I did not know until I delved into the book that I would also really like the author, Osheta Moore.
A podcaster, mother, and wife to an urban pastor, Moore shares many stories of her life, and she doesn’t airbrush them. Moore’s sense of humor, sometimes dry and sometimes at her own expense, can’t be missed and draws the reader in. Her style makes the reader feel like she’s chatting with Moore over coffee. They laugh, sometimes cry, and they always move forward together. And this is Moore’s purpose—to move forward together. She desires to create a “sistahood” whose members have shalom with God and within themselves, and who bring shalom to their relationships and to their world (she even allows us northerners to use “sister” instead of “sista” (34). She has a Shalom Sista Manifesto that has three primary ideas for each of the four mentioned areas of shalom (55-57). Each of these primary ideas has its own chapter.
Most chapters begin with a story, connect to a biblical story, and then bring it all together with practical ideas. In fact, Moore includes several recipes as well as basic lists of ways to practice the different chapter themes.
Moore’s book gets better as it goes on. There’s tension as well as admitted snark and sass particularly in chapter one. A reader that doesn’t favor this tone should still persevere lest she miss the message of the book.
Her honesty about life is a great draw. We walk with her through what it means to be black in the United States—questioning the beauty of brown skin (chapter 7) and coming face to face with blatant racism when her son is called the n-word by a coach (chapter 14). Whether we share her skin color or not, she challenges us all to have shalom by seeing the beauty of the image of God in ourselves and bringing it to others by showing up, speaking, and being still, when our shalom is threatened.
Moore’s original goal was to “do something big” in service to God—bring peace to urban areas. When those dreams and plans were thwarted, she wondered about God’s call as she stayed at home and mothered. Her journey helped her realize that following Jesus wasn’t about doing the “biggest” things, but about being faithful in the day-to-day. It is about bringing shalom even to what appear to be the most mundane relationships, like those with servers or cashiers (189-193).
Moore’s primary idea is peacemaking in our personal context, and that is a great goal. However, some may get tripped up on her ideas of the difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper. Her definition of peacemaking is initially a passive one (23), and Jesus’ peacemaking was certainly not passive. It seems that at times, even in her final chapter, she confuses peacemaking (which is active work) and peacekeeping (passivity designed to make everyone happy).
The extent of her peacemaking is endless. She offers peace to the surviving Boston Bomber (217), as well as to the Steubenville rapists (149-152). I wholeheartedly agree that God desires these people, and yet I do sense that they would have to prove their trustworthiness over time before they could hang out with my kids. In fact, I’m not sure they could ever hang out with my kids. There are certain consequences for our actions here on earth, even when we offer people peace.
Shalom Sistas is based on Jeremiah 29:7, a part of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles. He calls the recipients to seek the peace of the city (Babylon) to which they were exiled. Moore heard a sermon that used this verse to call all people to seek the peace of their cities (22-23). Unfortunately, neither the preacher nor Moore seem to offer an explanation of the context of Jeremiah’s letter—exile, an undesirable, forced state. The verse seems to be taken out of context, and it may have been better to find a different passage to support this important endeavor of peacemaking.
Overall, Shalom Sistas is a fun read. It’s not too heavy on theology, but not without it. It’s primarily story-based, but also teaches the reader the peacemaking way of life. It’s humorous, but the reader will sometimes find herself crying. At the end of the day, it’s worth taking the time to join Osheta Moore, and think about bringing shalom to all areas of our lives.
CBE reviews books on their own merit, whether or not an author has expressed agreement with CBE’s values or mission elsewhere. A positive review does not constitute an endorsement of an author’s entire body of work or of any institutions they represent. Likewise, a negative review is not a condemnation of an author’s body of work or associated institutions.