History was made in the movements for civil rights, feminism, and inner-city organizing while I was growing up in the 1960s. By the time I came of age in the mid-'70s, I had a lot of catching up to do. Ethics in the Present Tense: Readings From Christianity and Crisis, 1966-1991, edited by Leon Howell and Vivian Lindermayer (Friendship Press, 1991, $12.95, paper), has done much to make these movements my own.
I take it for granted now, with the vivid memory of watching Watergate hearings on television, that it's best to get information from primary sources whenever possible. The beauty of this book is that its contents are presented as originally written; editors Howell and Lindermayer made no attempt to update or explain the articles here, although they have provided interesting section introductions. The result is a record of the church, albeit selective, over the last 25 years - on liberation theology, religion and politics, faith and empire, sexual politics - that does not benefit or suffer from hindsight, maturity, or someone else's analysis.
Herein can be found groundbreaking material, such as: Rosemary Radford Ruether's 1974 perspective on feminist and black theologies ("Unfortunately, an undeclared war is brewing between them"); Jorge Lara-Braud's stunning firsthand account, published on May 12, 1980, of what happened after the bomb exploded during Archbishop Oscar Romero's funeral in San Salvador; Leon Howell's 1983 investigative interview with Ed Robb about the origins of the Institute on Religion and Democracy; John David Maguire's May 1, 1967 commentary on Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech, which serves as a reminder of the strategic discussions that occurred while King was still alive.