Troubling the Water

The Urgent Work of Radical Belonging

Troubling the Water

The Urgent Work of Radical Belonging

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Can you imagine a future that includes your enemies? If not, what happens next?

From one of the most courageous and visionary leaders of our time comes Troubling the Water, an immersive book about the violence and injustice that threaten to drown us all. Activist Ben McBride recounts how he first waded into the water: from the Kill Zone in Oakland, where he moved with his young family, to the uprising in Ferguson, to the moral impoverishment of the white evangelical church. In the truth-telling tradition of Bryan Stevenson and Bishop William Barber, McBride leads us right into the fury and fragmentation of our moment, and then steadies us once we're there.

What would it take to truly belong to each other? Radical belonging, McBride argues, means looking at our implicit biases, at our faulty understandings of power, and at how we "other"--or "same"--people. Sometimes it even means troubling the waters—speaking hard truths in situations that appear calm but that cloak injustice.

With a blend of provocation and good humor, McBride leads us beyond inaction on the one hand and polemic on the other. What results is an indelible manifesto--a troublemaking reverend's call to the most urgent task of our time. As inequality, racism, and alienation weaken our common life, well-meaning people ask: What do I need to do to create a world where all can belong? But McBride asserts that instead, we need to ask: Who do I need to become?

Building a shared humanity is hella messy. "Peacemaking" sounds cloying and staying apart seems safer. But unless we want violence to intensify, we are running out of options. In this unforgettable book, McBride reminds us that wading into conflict and stirring up truth is the only way to find real healing.


"An urgent, vibrant, and necessary call for justice, which is what God asks--demands--of us all."

--Father James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and other books

"Troubling the Water is a clarion call to walk toward the very people we see as adversaries. Doing the work of confronting implicit bias and bridging lines of difference with others can be grueling; in fragmented and unjust times, those things can be seen as complicit or even traitorous. But Ben McBride doesn't let us off the hook that easily. With engrossing stories, accessible theory, and strategies for everyday life, he schools all of us--whether we're powerful, privileged, persecuted, or prevented--in the strong language of justice, belonging, and even love. By reading this powerful book, you'll be poised to make the 'good trouble' to which John Lewis called us. This is a game-changer."

--Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD, author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

"This visionary and courageous book stands in the great tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. Ben McBride powerfully and persuasively shows how radical belonging and radical self-care are integral to a radical Christianity--a Christianity serious about the radical love of Jesus Christ."

--Dr. Cornel West, philosopher, activist, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary

"At once practical and profound, Ben McBride's Troubling the Water reflects the hard-earned wisdom of the author--a practitioner and prophet. McBride's own story offers invaluable guidance for all who wish to be healing agents in our writhing world. But this is not a simple how-to book. McBride leads readers to the heart of the problem--we are failing to see each other (and ourselves) as human. Then he casts a vision and points the way toward a radical kind of belonging that challenges us all to the core. Read this book. It will change you."

 --Lisa Sharon Harper, president of Freedom Road and author of The Very Good Gospel and Fortune

"Ben McBride is a bridge-builder. He is one of those rare leaders who can bring people together across the barriers that divide us, without compromising truth. He transcends the stale rhetoric, toxic self-righteousness, and paralyzing polemics of our day. I will continue to cherish every opportunity I get to collaborate with Ben and support his marvelous work. The world is a better place because Ben McBride is in it."

--Shane Claiborne, activist and author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and other books

"Troubling the Water challenges us to find ways for everyone to belong across differences. This is a clear-eyed challenge to face into the real work of bridging divides and finding a way beyond 'us' and 'them.' Acknowledging where we have power and privilege and where we are persecuted and prevented allows us to create the path to the common good that is inclusive of all. Ben McBride is an engaging storyteller and challenges us to move forward together where all of us are agents of change and welcome."

--Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, attorney, author of A Nun on the Bus, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

"Pastor Ben McBride is a national treasure. In his fierce, lifelong commitment to ending gun violence in America's most harmed communities, he's stepped up to the thankless, frustrating, but absolutely critical task of speaking truth to power in American policing. If we are ever to have the kind of policing that the Black and brown communities so long devasted by gun violence will see as legitimate, it will be because of the kind of engagement Ben McBride has modeled."

--David Kennedy, author of Don't Shoot and director of the National Network for Safe Communities

"So often we talk about diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. Some of us have even developed a recipe for nurturing diversity, cultivating inclusive cultures, and assessing equity. Few, however, have embarked on an intentional journey to create a community of belonging. Through his deliberate lived experience on the front lines in Oakland, California, Rev. Ben McBride offers a compelling framework for addressing race-related violence and understanding America's social ills. As I turned the pages in McBride's master-class manifesto, I found myself no longer asking how I can make a difference, but questioning who I need to become if I'm to be a part of the solution. How can I wade into America's troubled waters? Enjoy this journey of self-discovery."

--Cynthia Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks

"Pastor Ben McBride is a true leader in every sense of the word. He embraces bridging at every level, including conceptually, spiritually, and practically. As the world struggles with fragmentation in search of a meaningful way to bridge, Pastor McBride may be one of our best hopes and greatest exemplars."

 --John Powell, director of the Othering and Belonging Institute, University of California Berkeley

"Ben McBride is an exemplary leader--wise, courageous, articulate, and motivational. His character can, should, and does show itself in the wide spectrum of emotion and action necessary for a prophetic Black Christian man in America to have a voice of leadership and influence in the church and in the public square."

 --Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary

"There exists a mosaic of ideas that fuel transformative movements for justice. Yet while ideas about power, politics, and policy are important, Ben McBride shows us a critical missing element in our efforts to build a more just society: becoming. Troubling the Water is a brilliant and extraordinary glimpse into the inner workings of deep social change. Through profound insights from his years of work, McBride illustrates how our movements require deeper self-reflection about who we need to become to create the world we envision. Bold and tender, visionary and practical, fierce and precious, Troubling the Water is more than a great read; it is a moral and ethical compass pointing us in the direction of who we all need to become."

--Shawn A. Ginwright, PhD, author of The Four Pivots and Jerome T. Murphy endowed chair, Harvard Graduate School of Education


"[O]ne of the best ways to prepare for change is to immerse yourself in some entertaining and thought-provoking books...we can't wait for you to read this..."


Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506489858
  • eBook ISBN 9781506489865
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 200
  • Publication Date October 24, 2023