The Common Good
November 2012

In Pursuit of Peace

by Elaina Ramsey | November 2012

Books for traveling the hard and worthy path of nonviolence.

Complete with pictures, The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace, and the Good Samaritan Story in Iraq (Orbis, 2012), by Greg Barrett, details a remarkable story of generosity, hospitality, and community between the citizens of two warring nations. After three U.S. Christian peace activists visiting Iraq were nearly killed in a car accident outside the bombed-out town of Rutba, Iraqi Muslims came to their aid and initiated a sacred friendship. This “good news” amidst war is a gospel worth retelling.

With both truth and grace, Logan Mehl-Laituri—an Iraq combat veteran turned conscientious objector—explains in Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism, and Conscience (InterVarsity Press, 2012) how the glorification of military service does not live up to the reality of war. A compelling read for churches and Christians struggling with questions of faith, patriotism, and violence.

Coauthored with human-rights journalist Julia Lieblich, Wounded I Am More Awake: Finding Meaning After Terror (Vanderbilt University Press, 2012) recounts the extraordinary life of Esad Boskailo—a doctor who survived the genocide in Bosnia and now helps victims of terror as a psychiatrist specializing in trauma recovery. Employing a human-rights framework rather than a theological one, this book illustrates how storytelling can be healing—a timely lesson for congregants, churches, and clergy as they grapple with the problem of evil in an age of terror.

While helping to liberate South Africa from the bonds of apartheid, Father Michael Lapsley lost both of his hands and an eye during a letter-bomb explosion in 1990. His memoir, Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer (Orbis, 2012), is filled with photographs and reflections on hope and healing, as he uses his traumatic experience to offer reconciliation and inspiration to a hurting world.

Revered as “the godfather of nonviolent resistance,” Gene Sharp released the primer Sharp’s Dictionary of Power and Struggle: Language of Civil Resistance in Conflicts (Oxford, 2012) to provide activists and educators with an A-to-Z guide to the ideologies, strategies, and history of nonviolent action.

Gabriel Moran’s scholarly work Living Nonviolently: Language for Resisting Violence (Lexington Books, 2011) rethinks how we speak about violence in our everyday life—such as the “war” on poverty—to illuminate a new way of being. Recommended for religious and secular educators, fans of political philosophy and peace studies, or anyone interested in living nonviolently.

Peace from Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace, and Nationalism (Orthodox Research Institute, 2011), edited by Father Hildo Bos and Jim Forest, is a compendium of case studies, canonical texts, and theological essays to help Orthodox Christians respond faithfully to the demands of modern warfare. While no easy answers are provided, this volume allows readers to think and act thoughtfully in regard to war-making and the challenge of peace.

What would you do if someone were attacking a loved one? What about Hitler? The essayists in A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Nonviolence (Cascade Books, 2012) take seriously these and several other challenges to pacifism while explaining how nonviolence is “at the heart of following Jesus.” This accessible volume was edited by Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer.

Artists and visual learners will appreciate Charles McCollough’s latest book, The Non-Violent Radical: Seeing and Living the Wisdom of Jesus (Wipf and Stock, 2012). Using both words and images, McCollough reveals simple and timeless truths about the nonviolent ethic of Jesus’ wisdom sayings.

Allan Aubrey Boesak, a leading figure in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and Curtiss Paul DeYoung, a white U.S. theologian, join forces in Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism (Orbis, 2012) to challenge Christians to practice true reconciliation and rise up against systemic injustice, even at the cost of losing one’s own power and privilege. A great book for those interested in race relations (which should be all Christians).

Elaina Ramsey is assistant editor of Sojourners.

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