New calendars adorn office desks and kitchen walls. Daily organizers with pages still fresh, crisp, and clean fill breast pockets, backpacks, and briefcases. Anticipating this newness, we have ritualized the reminiscence of what has passed, the transition of one year to another. Before 1996 is relegated to the history books, a handful of books are worth noting.
Cease Fire: Searching for Sanity in America's Culture Wars. By Tom Sine. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Evangelical writer and teacher Tom Sine confronts ideologies Left and Right...and the dangers of people of faith too closely identifying with any particular political doctrine. Still, Sine does not make the mistake of social withdrawal. Instead he constructs options for political activity that can be Christocentric as well as processes for Christians of differing perspectives to model prophetic dialogue for society at large.
Sine cautions us that culture wars precede shooting wars. Fearing that the growth of dueling monologuespro-choice vs. pro-life; flag burning vs. freedom of expressionpresages a coming disaster, he argues that Christians must be a force for tolerance and de-escalation (while still clarity), not brutal participants in the conflict.
The primary contribution of Cease Fire may well be its documentation of the interactivity between the Christian Right and secular right-wing groups. (It shows how the Christian Left is beholden to secular forces as well, but these are, frankly, less consequential.) With the Christian Right, the reader can begin to see what adherents perceive to be at stake, and the depth of conviction. But Sine doesn't simply leave the reader better informed; he also points to avenues for dialogue and reconciliation.
Those Sojourners readers who are involved in the Call to Renewal will find this book a helpful resource. Language that helps to bridge historicalracial and denominationalfissures is provided, as well as a framework for common interpretation...of scripture and the world.
The Threats of Life: Sermons on Pain, Power, and Weakness. By Walter Brueggemann. Edited by Charles L. Campbell. Fortress Press, 1996.
Pre-eminent biblical scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann proves himself to be an exceptional preacher as well in this book of sermons. The Hebrew Scriptures come to life in the imagination of this Old Testament professor from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
Those who preach from the pulpit regularly will find great help in these pages. Brueggemann's sermons are powerful, not only in and of themselves but because they point to a way to preach from the lectionary (intertextually) without sacrificing the point of either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament. The older testament's integrity can be respected while still identifying the good news of the latter.
Brueggemann captures the divine image with a poetic preaching style. After reading (hearing) the sermons, we are equal parts comforted and challenged. The prophetic pastor can hope for nothing better than the chance to reflect on Brueggemann's reflections on scripture.
A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God. By Joan Chittister, O.S.B. Icons by Robert Lentz. Orbis Books, 1996.
What would in any case be a very valuable book of biographies of the progressive saints becomes a spiritual classic with the addition of Robert Lentz's icons. Joan Chittister's expansive collection of meditations on the lives of the faithful ranges from Eve ("The Image of God") to the University Martyrs ("Icons of the Patience of God"), and from Julian of Norwich ("Icon of the Motherhood of God") to Martin Luther King Jr. ("The Icon of Light in Darkness").
This book is an aid in sorting the ambiguities of a paradoxical world. Because things are often not what they seem, we look to the lives of the faithful, the saints, for clarity. And in A Passion for Life, we are invited to come at this with both sides of our brain intact.
Families Valued: Parenting and Politics for the Good of All Children. By Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. Friendship Press, 1996.
Families Valued is Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's attempt to present the world through the lens of the lives of children. Bringing his international experiences to those of his neighborhood, he shows how we have created a world that is unfriendly to children. He challenges all of us to wake up and take seriously the calling to create a brighter future. His passionate appeal to make children central to all political discussion parallels the work of Marian Wright Edelman and Hillary Clinton; these books may work well together in a study group (see "No Shortcuts," March-April 1996).
With Our Own Eyes: The Dramatic Story of a Christian Response to the Wounds of War, Racism, and Oppression. By Don Mosley with Joyce Hollyday. Herald Press, 1996.
Jubilee Partners has been one of the most powerful faith expressions of the Good Samaritan in modern America. Born late in the '70s out of Koinonia Community, Jubilee has spent years escorting refugees, attending to the condemned, and witnessing for peace. Don Mosley and Joyce Hollyday document that history in a form accessible by any group willing to carry the cross for those who are persecuted (see "Come, Ye Disconsolate," July-August 1996).