Barking to the Choir

Barking to the Choir

The Power of Radical Kinship

Book - 2017
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"This is a beautiful and important and soul-transporting book. . . . Please read it." --Elizabeth Gilbert

"If you're in the market for genuine inspiration, I urge you to read Barking to the Choir ." --Ann Patchett

In a moving example of unconditional love in dif­ficult times, the Jesuit priest and bestselling author of Tattoos on the Heart , Gregory Boyle, shares what three decades of working with gang members in Los Angeles has taught him about faith, compassion, and the enduring power of kinship.

In his first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion , Gregory Boyle introduced us to Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention program in the world . Critics hailed that book as an "astounding literary and spiritual feat" ( Publishers Weekly ) that is "destined to become a classic of both urban reportage and contemporary spirituality" ( Los Angeles Times ). Now, after the suc­cessful expansion of Homeboy Industries, Boyle returns with Barking to the Choir to reveal how com­passion is transforming the lives of gang members.

In a nation deeply divided and plagued by poverty and violence, Barking to the Choir offers a snapshot into the challenges and joys of life on the margins. Sergio, arrested at nine, in a gang by twelve, and serving time shortly thereafter, now works with the substance-abuse team at Homeboy to help others find sobriety. Jamal, abandoned by his family when he tried to attend school at age seven, gradually finds forgive­ness for his schizophrenic mother. New father Cuco, who never knew his own dad, thinks of a daily adventure on which to take his four-year-old son. These former gang members uplift the soul and reveal how bright life can be when filled with unconditional love and kindness.

This book is guaranteed to shake up our ideas about God and about people with a glimpse at a world defined by more compassion and fewer barriers. Gently and humorously, Barking to the Choir invites us to find kinship with one another and reconvinces us all of our own goodness.
Publisher: New York :, Simon & Schuster,, 2017.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476726151
Branch Call Number: 277.9494083 Boy
Characteristics: ix, 210 pages ; 22 cm

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jeffreyochsner
Jul 14, 2018

This deeply moving book blew me away! It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think.

As you might have guessed, the title is a mash-up of “preaching to the choir” and “barking up the wrong tree.” When a homie said “you’re barking to the choir,” Father Greg knew he had the title of his next book.

So what is so great about this book? It will be impossible for me to capture the spirit and emotion of this book; you will have to read it yourself to get that part (and I hope you will). This book includes the stories of so many gang members who turned their lives around through the love and support at Homeboy Industries. Father Greg has speaking engagements all over the US, and he usually brings along some homies to speak as well. Hearing those stories is overwhelming; you can’t imagine what horrific childhoods some children endure.

This book demonstrates what can happen when someone follows the “original program” (as Whoopi Goldberg called it) that Jesus Christ lived and taught. The “original program” is about living the gospel with joy and always being mindful of the poor. It Is not about taking the right stand on the issues; it is about standing in the right place, with the excluded and the demonized. It is about helping “Jesus, in his least recognizable form.” And that includes the gang member; the welfare mother; the homeless person; the refugee.

This is not a liberal or a conservative view; it is a radical take, because it takes seriously what Jesus took seriously: inclusion, nonviolence, unconditionally compassionate loving-kindness, and acceptance. True spirituality should not end in the privacy of our own souls, but in real kinship (radical kinship) with the poor.

There are 200 references in the Scriptures that ask us to take special care of the poor. Father Greg says this preferential care and love for the poor are what set the stage for the “original program”. It doesn’t draw lines; it erases them. It rises above the polarizing temperature of our times.

What is really important, Father Greg tells us, is not only our service to the poor, but our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with the poor. He tells us that Christians want to bridge the gap that exists between people. Even in service, there is a distance between service provider and service recipient. “At Homeboy Industries, I’m not the ‘Great Healer’ and that homeboy over there is in need of my precious healing. Truth be told, we are all in need of healing; we are all a cry for help.” We should be seeking a kinship so rich that the line between service provider and service recipient is erased. “We are sent to the margins NOT to make a difference but so the folks on the margins will make us different.”

Stop trying to reach them; instead, can you be reached by them? Folks on the margins ask us only to receive them. Wage peace by listening! Every moment is an invitation to recognize our interconnectedness. “You are the other me and I am the other you.”

This is a beautiful 5-star book. Even if you are not a Christian, even if you are not religious at all, this book will speak to you.

c
chenc1
Mar 16, 2018

I can't tell you how much I loved this book and how it has affected me. I adored Fr Greg Boyle's "Tattoos on the Heart" and when I heard he had written a second book, I couldn't wait to read it. I didn't think he could top his first book but this definitely is as heartwarming and thought-provoking as ever. As he said, let's get the Church back on "The Original Program". Let's all work together to build "radical kinship" - such a simple concept but getting harder and harder to do as our society continues to fragment.

So many lovely quotes from his book. Bottom line - go and read this book and share with friends and family! Your heart and soul will thank you for it.

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