God, Truth, and Witness: Engaging Stanley Hauerwas. Ed. L. Gregory Jones, Reinhard Hutter and C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press. 2005. Pp. 336. $39.99.
In 2001, Time knighted Stanley Hauerwas ?America’s best theologian.? Did the editors realize the irony of bestowing such an appellation upon a thinker who insists that the secular mainstream not set the agenda for the church? Or that in the year of 9/11, Hauerwas was a Texan who would refuse to defend his homeland with arms? Hopefully less dubious is the honor Hauerwas received from his friends in this Festschrift. I highlight those essays that may be of particular interest for Mennonites or pose the question ?whither the Hauerwasians’? (Forgive me for not selecting any female contributors; all fifteen writers included are men! Does this imply that woman theologians are not engaging Hauerwas’s work’)
It is perhaps surprising that a man who has so prioritized the life of the church in his theology confesses to a kind of ecclesial homelessness. In opening his 1981 classic, A Community of Character, Hauerwas described himself as ?a (Southern) Methodist . . . who teaches and worships with . . . Roman Catholics; who believes that the most nearly faithful form of Christian witness is best exemplified by the often unjustly ignored people called Anabaptists or Mennonites. In short my ecclesial preference is to be a high-church Mennonite.? George Lindbeck presses Hauerwas on this matter of ecumenical relationships in his ?Ecumenisms in Conflict: Where does Hauerwas Stand’? Lindbeck contends that Hauerwas’s writing has largely dispensed with the ecumenical movement. He notes the twentieth-century ?saints? lifted up by Hauerwas in his recent With the Grain of the Universe: Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, John Howard Yoder and John Paul II. These exemplars make visible a unity to Christian witness that transcends denominational divisions. While Lindbeck affirms this vision for a unity-in-praxis of radical (Catholic-Anabaptist) witness, he suggests that such insights would not have come to Hauerwas without the post-Vatican II ecumenical developments that allowed the likes of Hauerwas and Yoder to teach together at a Catholic university (Notre Dame). Lindbeck delineates two camps in the current ecumenical debate: a ?Faith and Order? doctrinal impulse that seeks unity along a God-church-world axis of epistemology, and a ?Life and Work? praxis group that operates within a God-world-church ordering of revelation. He associates the first group with the 2003 ?Princeton Proposal,? of which Lindbeck himself was a drafter. Lindbeck challenges ?Hauerwasians? to enter this ecumenical fray’just as Hauerwas’s two favorite ?Johns? (Yoder and Paul II) did in their lifetimes’and argues that the Princeton Proposal is the better road to take if they do.
If Lindbeck gently criticizes Hauerwas for neglecting Christian ecumenics, the Jewish scholar (and onetime Yoder collaborator) Peter Ochs warmly affirms him for joining the emerging interfaith movement called ?Scriptural Reasoning.? This network gathers Jews, Christians and Muslims to reason together over their respective Scriptures and has birthed a Hauerwas-edited book series entitled Radical Traditions. Unapologetically reading their own and each other’s texts around the same table, participants have discovered that ?it is Scripture that enables this vision of three traditions that are one in their affirmation of the unity and holiness of God. . . . Scripture alone offers each of the Abrahamic faiths words through which to speak about [God] and directives about how to speak to one another? (309). This is surprising, Ochs admits, since ?those who champion interreligious dialogue often do so at the expense of Scripture, claiming that dialogue comes when the three faith communities discuss common ethical issues, apart from the divisive theological doctrines presented in the scriptural canons? (310). We see here a reiteration of the Faith and Order versus Life and Works intra-Christian argument cited by Lindbeck. Ochs believes Scriptural Reasoning provides a ?nonliberal path to inter-Abrahamic peace and understanding? while clarifying that ?nonliberal? does not mean nonbenevolent, noncompassionate or even nonrespectful of the modern political goals of democracy and human rights. It refers to a refusal to buy into modern secular assumptions that humanity can redeem itself: that it can construct instruments for observing universal truth and engineering universal peace, or even that it is graced with feelings and intuitions or habits that serve as instruments of this kind. ??Nonliberal? refers . . . to a refusal to accept the . . . despair that follows when humanistic visions fail? (310).
As a research assistant participating in Fuller Seminary’s ?Conflict Transformation? project between evangelical Christians and Muslims in North America, I found this essay’and Scripture-reading practice’stimulating.
Of particular interest for Mennonites is Harry Huebner’s ?Learning Made Strange,? and not only because he is the book’s lone Mennonite contributor or that he cites the work of recent Mennonites who studied with Hauerwas (Alex Sider, Chris Huebner and Peter Dula). Rather, the pertinent question posed in his essay’s subtitle’?Can a University be Christian’??explores Hauerwas’s suggestions given in a sermon preached at the installation of Gerald Gerbrandt as president of Canadian Mennonite University. Hauerwas there stressed that a Christian university is not a university with a Christian ?difference,? but one that reorders the spectrum of supposedly autonomous modern disciplines around the Lordship of Christ. Following Hauerwas, Huebner asserts that the better question is not whether a university can be Christian, but ?whether a church exists that can sustain a Christian university.?
Huebner goes beyond Hauerwas, however, by offering a set of criteria for ?non-Constantinian pedagogy’: Jesus as norm (for the whole curriculum); Jesus as teacher (?it matters less how he taught,? Huebner argues, ?and much more what he taught’); ecclesiology precedes pedagogy (?the shaping of a political-social body of believers’the church’becomes the primary objective of the university, even if it may not be its only task’); patience, humility, love of enemies and witness as pedagogical foci (?loving enemies,? for example, requires assigning’and empathically interpreting’thinkers you don’t agree with); and cultivating the mystery of God in a way that issues in education as Spirit-blown doxology rather than data-transfer operation (299-307). Even if one might not say with Huebner that ?those who worship God . . . cannot survive without a university? (303), hopefully Mennonite professors can affirm that ?Christian teachers are much more than neutral presenters of facts, interpretations, and stories, for they participate in the very stories they are attempting to make credible. Their argument is witness, for they teach as disciples? (285). Huebner serves as a model for Mennonite intellectuals in the way he concretizes Hauerwas’s unsystematic sketches.
Arne Rasmussen is the Swedish author of The Church as Polis (1995), an excellent comparison of the theologies of Hauerwas, Yoder and Moltmann. In ?The Politics of Diaspora? he provides a cogent delineation of how John H. Yoder fruitfully carried forward Karl Barth’s post-national/post-liberal/confessing church theology into a full-fledged free church ecclesiology modeled on the practices of the Jewish Diaspora that, as it turns out, is the most ?catholic? faithful way of living available to the church. Rasmussen unearths the following ?Yoderian? gems from Barth’s voluminous writings: first, that ?the Christian community exists at all times and all places as a politeia with definite authorities and offices, with patterns of community life and divisions of labour. In this sense, therefore, the existence of the Christian community is political’; and second, that ?according to . . . the New Testament we cannot be pacifists in principle, only in practice. But we have to consider very closely whether, if we are called to discipleship, we can avoid being practical pacifists, or fail to be so? (97-99). Perhaps Rasmussen would say of Yoder vis–vis Barth what H. S. Bender said of the Zurich Anabaptists in relation to Zwingli: they brought an initial Reformation to its logical (radical) conclusion!
One prominent interlocutor of Hauerwas who was not included in this collection is the political philosopher Jeffrey Stout. (See his 2004 Democracy and Tradition, where he criticizes Hauerwas, MacIntyre and Yoder for perceived illiberal predilections.) The question Stout presses’?whither the Hauerwasians? when it comes to democracy’?is one Mennonites might well consider. (The Spring 2005 Conrad Grebel Review published the papers from an intra-Mennonite panel in response to this broader Hauerwas-Stout argument.) Does Hauerwas’who once said that justice might be a bad idea for Christians’in fact agree with his Jewish friend Peter Ochs that to be ?nonliberal? does not necessarily entail being against democratic aspirations and polities? The Anabaptist-minded Baptist Glen Stassen has sought to establish the origins of modern human rights prior to Enlightenment modernity, in the Puritan-free church hybrid represented by the English Anabaptist-Baptist-Leveler William Overton (see Stassen’s 1992 Just Peacemaking). A New Zealand Anabaptist, Christopher Marshall, has also sought to ground human rights and a theory of (restorative) justice in the biblical canon. The most influential believers/peace church advocate of the twentieth century’the Black Baptist Martin Luther King Jr.?challenged Christians to be on the right side of the ?human rights revolution.? Moreover, in Body Politics, Yoder himself locates one of the sources of democracy in the ?rule of Paul? for open meeting sacramental practice of the early church.
Hauerwas expresses sympathy for the politically radical, democratic work of his Duke colleague Romand Coles (see Coles’s 2005 Beyond Gated Communities). Coles, Hauerwas and Stout all have expressed appreciation for the communitarian social critic Wendell Berry, who speaks the language of the American democratic experiment. Yet some read Hauerwas as being unhelpfully ambiguous on the resonance that democracy, human rights and justice have with the mission of the church. Given the stir raised by John D. Roth’s call for a ?sabbatical? from (partisan’) politics’and George W. Bush’s improbable claim to be the champion of global democracy’it would seem that American Mennonites are looking for clarity on this issue. Deeper engagement with this Stout-Hauerwas argument might prove edifying.
To conclude, I offer the confessional comments made about Hauerwas by perhaps the most influential of his Festschrift friends, sociologist Robert Bellah of Habits of the Heart fame (in his essay ?God and King’). Bellah acknowledges that he is ?probably one of several of Stanley’s friends whose friendship with him is in good part constituted by an argument? (112). Yet he confesses to having eventually been won over by much of that argument. Referring to his landmark 1967 article ?Civil Religion in America,? Bellah states:
[W]hen I published that article, though I considered myself a Christian, I was not a member of a church, and I was concerned almost exclusively with the nation and not the church. . . . I am now much closer to Stanley’s position . . . in that I see my first loyalty to the church, not to the nation. That does not mean that Stanley and I feel no responsibility to the nation, but that for both of us the relationship between church and nation is problematic, to say the least. Finally, and here too I think Stanley would agree with me, I do not see the church as exclusively ?religious? and the nation as exclusively ?political.? Both nation and church are religious and political (113).
Amen! Sometimes it takes a nontheologian to get to the heart of the matter. Such conversions among America’s academic elite’in whose membership Hauerwas must be included, at least if Time is any judge’may indeed demonstrate that being ?against the nations? is sometimes the best way to be for them. We urgently need some contrarians for Jesus’and ?Hauerwasians’?in the body of Christ!
Fuller Theological Seminary KENT DAVIS SENSENIG
Is it Insensitive to Share Your Faith’: Hard Questions about Christian Mission in a Plural World. By James R. Krabill. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books. 2005. Pp. 148. $9.99.
Book titles that ask questions had better answer them by the end of the book. James Krabill’s new book does. Before beginning the book I had suspected that Krabill’s answer to the title question would be: ?No, it is not necessarily insensitive to share your faith.? In fact, Krabill, who has spent thirty years on three continents involved in a variety of forms of mission, goes much further, making the case by quoting Lesslie Newbigin, that not to share one’s faith is tantamount to ?treason to our fellow human beings.?
How can one keep silent with the good news? Why would anyone want to? As anyone can tell you who has discussed the sensitive topic of ?mission? with young adults or with the baby boomers of Krabill’s generation who consider themselves to be more culturally aware and sensitive than their parents, there are endless questions originating from cultural assumptions that challenge mission at every level. ?There is a degree of discomfort and pestering uncertainty about the whole mission enterprise,? Krabill notes, which makes a mission apologetics among Christians a prerequisite to mission. Krabill seeks to build confidence among Christians for mission by taking on the widespread discomfort directly, asking: ?How does one present the gospel without imposing one’s own cultural viewpoints’? ?Is Jesus the only way’? ?What about those who have never heard of Jesus’?
Krabill does not attempt to answer all of these questions systematically in this brief book, but the answers are implied as he outlines the problems of mission and the cultural bias of the West toward tolerant, sensitive silence, and as he reviews the sweep of the missio Dei, Jesus? self-identity, the mandate of the church and the needs of the world. This is the theological presupposition part. However, this is not only a book of biblical and theological principles. It includes personal experience and the model of the church in Africa (especially of the prophet/evangelist William Wade Harris), and concludes the argument with some basic principles of mission in the way of Jesus. You may want to argue with Krabill, but you realize, by the time you have considered the issue of mission from these perspectives, that you just might be disagreeing with the central assertions of Jesus, the early church and a large part of the contemporary church located outside of North America.
This book addresses the hard questions of sensitive, thoughtful and acculturated Christians directly. Krabill has the gift of keeping the questions and the arguments simple, and treating the issues with humor, anecdote and reflections collected from a life of mission. He writes in a conversational style that includes the delightful, the humorous and the off-beat features of the church as it messes about in mission. The result is a nonacademic apologetic for timid believers who might be cringing from either overconfident, chauvinistic Christian mission on one hand, or from culturally over-sensitive, super-tolerant criticism of Christian mission on the other.
While there is an African point of reference, the perspectives Krabill brings to mission are applicable to the dynamics of globalization and the cultures of the world. The African Christian wisdom offers both a critique of Western mission as well as fresh insight into mission in the way of Jesus. Krabill quotes an African theologian: ?Before the bread of life came to our part of Africa, it stayed in Europe for over a thousand years. There the Europeans added a plastic bag (their own customs) to the bread. And when they came to Southern Africa, they fed us the bag along with the bread. . . . Now [we must] remove the plastic and enjoy the bread.? There is little plastic, and much to enjoy, in Krabill’s book.
This book would make interesting reading for all Christians who have serious questions about the appropriateness of mission in the contemporary world. High school and college classes, as well as Sunday school and other small groups, would especially find this book provocative for discussion. Krabill draws on an incredible reserve of stories, attempting’sometimes more successfully than others’to relate them to the subject under discussion. Yet the book succeeds. You want to keep reading, and when finished you remember both the stories and the point being made about mission.
I would recommend Krabill’s book for a number of reasons. It is entertaining, informative, provocative and unapologetically clear. Yes, there are insensitive ways of communicating the good news to a broken world, but no, it is not insensitive to share your faith. Jesus and thousands of Christians through the centuries and around the world have demonstrated the culturally sensitive goodness of the good news. And, according to Krabill, so should the rest of us.
Eastern Mennonite University LINFORD STUTZMAN
MennoFolk2: A Sampler of Mennonite and Amish Folklore. Edited by Ervin Beck. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2005. Pp. 247. $15.99, U.S.; $19.99, Can.
Mennonites are a difficult lot to pin down as a folk group. They are primarily united (and sometimes fractured) by a set of religious beliefs. But when one starts examining their folkways and folklore it becomes clear that Mennonites as ?folk? are very diverse. Ethnic differences in Europe between Swiss, German and Dutch Mennonites were compounded by geographic migration patterns and isolation both in Europe and in the New World. During the 300 years that the Mennonites have been in North America, other ethnic groups and the dominant culture have influenced and molded those folkways. As people with differing ethnic backgrounds have joined the Mennonites, this simmering pot of Mennonite folklife has become even more interesting. There are now Cajun Mennonites in Louisiana, Hispanic Mennonites in Colorado and African-American Mennonites in Philadelphia, to mention just a few. Thus, contemporary Mennonite folklore offers abundant material for researchers. MennoFolk2, compiled by Ervin Beck as a sequel to his MennoFolk, published in 2004, captures some of that material.
MennoFolk2 is a ?sampler? of Mennonite folklore, while its predecessor MennoFolk was an assessment of Mennonite folklore in general. As Beck acknowledges in his preface to MennoFolk2, the book looks at the microcosm, specific groups and specific expressions, rather than the macrocosm. It is a compilation of some of the best papers written by Beck’s folklore students at Goshen College between 1976 and 1995, and each paper constitutes a chapter of the book.
Being a participant-observer is critical to field study in folklore, and Beck’s students injected their own experiences into their fieldwork. Family members and acquaintances figure prominently in the students? papers, which deal with subjects such as nicknaming, Low German insults, auctioneering and courtship. This injection of the personal into the papers is one of the delightful qualities of MennoFolk2. Some of the stories invite me to take a walk down my own Mennonite memory lane, paved with experiences in both Kansas and Pennsylvania. Some subjects are distinctly Mennonite, such as footwashing, while others, such as horse trading, could have come from any rural people. While the book is not strictly about rural folklore, the rural roots of most American Mennonites are evident. As Mennonites struggle to retain some sort of separate identity in the midst of urbanization and the homogenization brought by television, cell phones and computers, this book and MennoFolk will be useful.
Another refreshing aspect of MennoFolk2 is clear in Beck’s preface, where he acknowledges his students as researchers and authors. Too often professors use and take credit for the work of their students, relegating the students to an acknowledgment at most. I tip my hat to Beck for deviating from this most unfortunate academic norm and allowing his students to have both their own voice and byline.
MennoFolk2 only lacks in scholarly analysis. Beck’s rather brief preface and the even briefer foreword by Catherine Hiebert Kerst offer the only overarching analysis of Mennonite folklore to be found in the book. Beck offers a short paragraph with some perspective at the beginning of each chapter but this is usually more introductory and less analytical. I kept hoping for deeper insight into Mennonite folklore. A concluding summary offering some of these insights would have been welcome. Without more analysis the book can feel like an entertaining collection of papers.
Similarly, while the different chapters offer good examples of folklore collected during fieldwork, they were uneven. Some students presented thoughtful analysis to conclude their study while others did not. Again, a summary at the end would have helped.
I also question just how ?folk? some of the situations were. Culture needs to have some traditional qualities to be declared folk. In other words, it needs to be passed on orally or by example. Some of the chapters (e.g., those dealing with the Goshen College student residence Howell House, or adoption stories) recounted interesting anecdotes, but there was no evidence that they had entered the realm of folk tradition.
Finally, I was disappointed to see no articles about material folk culture. There certainly is plenty of material folk culture remaining within both rural and urban Mennonite groups. Outside of occasional passing references, material folk culture was lacking from MennoFolk2.
Despite these criticisms, I found MennoFolk2 an interesting and entertaining book. While it may not offer the depth of analysis that is still needed for Mennonite folk culture, it can serve as a sourcebook for academics and a stimulus for interesting conversations by the general public. And who knows, if MennoFolk3, MennoFolk4 and others are published in the future, the series could become a Mennonite version of the acclaimed Foxfire series that has done so much to document Appalachian folklife.
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave STEVE FRIESEN
A Culture of Peace: God’s Vision for the Church. By Alan and Eleanor Kreider and Paulus Widjaja. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books. 2005. Pp. 208. $9.99.
Reading this book was like looking into a slowly turning kaleidoscope. From page to page I saw the reflected light of Christ colored by conflicted cultures overlapped by the witness of the church’each turned into illuminating patterns of transformed relationships named the culture of peace.
In the words of a commander of Muslim militants in Indonesia to a pastor and peacemaker, as quoted in the book:
If only I had known you four years ago, I would not have had to lose fifty of my children who died in Ambon and Poso [in a war between Christians and Muslims]. I used to think that spilling the blood of the Gentiles and the Chinese was halal (or permissible), but why is it different now? Is there something strange within me since I have learned to know you? (127).
Here ?the knowing? created a culture of peace where dividing walls of hostility were broken down. Here the named ?something strange within? is the holy space formed by a culture of peace that was created through faithful witness to another way even beyond the walls of the church and within the heart of a former enemy.
This book keeps turning such stories and scripture into ever illuminating images of transformation toward peaceable relationships. It is written for a general audience and will no doubt multiply its vision for a culture of peace among its readers in the church.
Beginning with a vision of the church as a culture of peace and a survey of peace in the New Testament, the authors show how the early church had a ?messianic culture of peace? by developing the themes of God’s impartiality (Acts 10:34), the description of Jesus ?coming evangelizing peace? (Acts 10:36) through eight facets of that culture of peace.
The authors help us see what is in Scripture in new ways, and then quickly move to the tough questions about peace in the third chapter entitled ?Does peace work’? The authors give their answer through a series of stories and reflections that further heighten the sense of the possibility of a culture of peace. The stories range across continents, and the reflections across centuries.
The fourth chapter is both a description of and a call for ?peace inside the church,? and lists some disciplines of peacemaking. Chapter 5 lists both attitudes and skills for peacemaking, not as techniques, but as expressions of faithfulness. Chapter 6 shows how worship is the place where the culture of peace is defined, refined and inspired. Chapter 7 shows how both work and home life can become cultures of peace through an intentional recasting of relationships. Very practical direction is given for how to see this work as our vocation.
The church is seen as a culture of peace creating cultures of peace within itself and beyond itself in the following chapters. Chapter 8 is a call for Christians to be creators of a culture of peace even in times of war. A significant role noted here is to sharpen the conscience of the broader church and society to both Christian teachings on war and the realities of war.
The most direct challenge to the broader church comes in chapter 9 where the culture of peace is revealed as a significant element of evangelism. Here we find the evangelical church’s concern for numbers and disregard for the scope of the conversion set against stories from Scripture, the early church and the contemporary church.
The authors themselves bring a multifaceted vision. The Kreiders have worked for decades with free churches in the majority state church context of England, while Widjaja is working with the Christian minority in the majority Muslim context of Indonesia. All three authors show how creating a culture of peace in those contexts is a challenge and a possibility. They combine imagination, direction and vision for transforming contexts of conflict into cultures of peace.
They argue that along the way the church lost a power to transform culture that was part of its original call. This book is about finding a culture of peace that was lost to the broader church and reads almost like a how-to manual for an ?upside down kingdom.?
The book is a summary of the vision of work carried out by other Mennonites who have been creating cultures of peace. These culture creators include the broad influence of John Howard Yoder’s book The Politics of Jesus; German Mennonite Fernando Enn’s work with the World Council of Churches to focus efforts in the new millennium around the ?Decade to Overcome Violence,? which is staffed by the Swiss Mennonite Hans Uli Gerber; and, the global impact of the work of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacemaking. Beyond the Mennonite Church there is Stanley Hawerwas, who names himself a closet Mennonite and whom Time magazine names America’s most influential ethicist. And there are the writings of the foremost emergent church writer, Brian McLaren, who describes himself as an Anabaptist-Anglican in his book A Generous Orthodoxy.
A Culture of Peace is both a restoration of the vision of the early church and a call for a renewal of the contemporary church through peacemaking. It presents a broader view of discipleship that shows how peacemaking is not just for activists, and it calls for an expanded vision of mission in a way that works the angles of conflicted cultures to convert them into cultures of peace through the ministry of the church.
This book is appropriate for nurture classes, discipleship classes and small group discussion. It would also make a good college introduction to the vision of peace in Christian tradition.
I would have found helpful a list of Web sites where the culture of peace noted in this book could be further explored. There could also be a study guide in the future and, hopefully, translations into other languages.
Charlottesville, Va. ROY HANGE
The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. By John Paul Lederach. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. Pp. 200. $30, U.S.; $52.50, Can.
In The Moral Imagination, John Paul Lederach expands on his previous works, Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (1995) and Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (1997), and like some of his former books, he writes conversationally, drawing extensively on his experience working ?in support of conciliation processes? (94). If he has been known for holistic models in the past, his approach in this book surpasses them as he turns inward to examine elusive potentials within peacebuilders that include intuition, imagination and creativity. The book does not offer systematic data or engage bodies of literature in depth, but the author, nonetheless, encourages us to think about peacebuilding sociologically, even as he uses artistic modes to do so.
Lederach rightly asserts, for example, that the central challenge for peacebuilding entails transcending violence from within conflict scenarios, and he focuses on people who are caught in the middle of conflicts’battle-hardened realists, in their own way’who are consequently best prepared to develop constructive responses. In each of four orienting stories from Ghana, Wajir, Colombia and Tajikistan, the author illustrates anecdotally how people living in ethnopolitical conflicts have broken cycles of violence through local empowerment or by artfully inducing opponents in ways that opened paths for constructive negotiation and the rebuilding of relationships. Lederach claims that, in each of the stories, people developed solutions that were imminently local and powerful, and that probably would not have been facilitated by conflict resolution experts, though I would add that some of the tactics featured in the stories would be quickly recognized by students of nonviolent action and third-party nonviolent intervention. Still, Lederach’s focus on local knowledge and empowerment is well-placed.
The remainder of the book focuses on ways in which conflict situations that demand urgent responses paradoxically require patient listening, careful examination and perhaps even song and dance that nurture creativity. Does this amount to fiddling while Rome burns? Perhaps, but Lederach takes the long view and asserts that otherwise well-intentioned local actors or intervention experts are less likely to perceive or imagine the right move at the right place and the right time that could support a constructive outcome.
For Lederach, ?imagination? means an ability to see beyond that which is immediately apparent. Introductory sociology texts almost inevitably refer to C. Wright Mills’s The Sociological Imagination (1959) and promise students that they can learn to see beyond their personal experience to a rich world of interdependent institutions, culture and power dynamics. (John Brewer’s recent book, C. Wright Mills and the Ending of Violence, complements Lederach’s on this and other counts.) Creativity and innovation, however, distinguish Lederach’s imagination, which he defines as ?the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist? (ix).
He believes this perception, the moral imagination, can be cultivated through personal development in a way that departs from traditional conflict resolution training and its focus on procedural technique, such as the proper implementation of shuttle diplomacy or interactive problem-solving workshops. As part of his call to the moral imagination, the author presents a friendly but firm challenge to conflict resolution practitioners and what he considers an overly-rationalized approach that focuses on short-term objectives and fails to address the deep emotional, psychological and relational chasms that must be crossed in order to slowly build a just peace. He calls on practitioners to embrace the unexpected or serendipitous, since many insights can only be stumbled upon accidentally or gleaned obliquely out of one’s peripheral vision. Thus, Lederach asks us to be ?smart flexible,? and open ourselves to unexpected opportunities (126).
The author uses much of the book to suggest ways peacebuilders can cultivate the moral imagination. He proposes that at least four disciplines hone the moral imagination: comprehending conflict as a web of relationships; embracing complexity over dualisms; creativity; and risk-taking. To address the complexity of social life, especially in the midst of pervasive conflict, he calls us to an aesthetic he compares to the Japanese form of poetry, haiku, which captures deep experience in few words. Peacemakers, he says, should similarly develop ?the ability to touch the heart and soul of the matter,? an appealing phrase that, like others in the book, will no doubt leave many craving such wisdom, but they may nonetheless feel it is an elusive talent described elusively (73).
Peacebuilders must also appreciate the importance of relationships and conceptualize them in terms of social space, the ?know who? that discerns an ?invisible web of social relationships? (75, 78). In one of his many metaphors from nature, Lederach celebrates the ability of spiders to create intricate webs tailored to be both strong and pliable within complex and changing spatial arrangements. Spiders, he argues, are able to identify the most secure anchor points and construct patterns that use strategic connections within the web to make the structure robust. Similarly, one who can perceive the daily flow of social action and the relationships that shape it can better envision flexible but sustainable social change processes that reflect and respond to local circumstances. Unfortunately, there is no reference to the proliferation of social networks research over the past decade that could empirically ground Lederach’s metaphor.
In one of the book’s most useful contributions, Lederach encourages his readers to adopt nonlinear approaches. He illustrates this early in the book by quoting Professor Abdul in Tajikistan, who was closely involved with negotiations during the Intertajik War: ?In this part of the world you have to circle into truth through stories? (18). Chapter 12, ?On Time,? explores various ways of comprehending time across cultures. Members of the Mohawk Nation, for example, believe the present comprises fourteen generations. A participant in a conference in Nairobi shared her tribe’s view that the past lies before us or that we essentially walk backwards into the future, looking to our past to navigate a future that is largely unknown. Of course, the construction of collective memory and identity is a widely recognized feature of many allegedly intractable conflicts, and Lederach believes transforming the future means renegotiating the past as well.
Anyone who feels the call of peacemaking should read this book and reflect deeply, but social scientists should not expect to find methodology or analysis. In fairness, Lederach does not pretend to offer systematic evidence. In fact, he flatly states that he tends to intuit and ?feel more than quantify,? and he anticipates the critique of those who would prefer reduction through empirical research, saying, ?I wish to hold myself close to the actual messiness of ideas, processes, and change. . .? (x, 76). Here lies a central dilemma: how to acknowledge the messiness of each and every conflict and yet be able to influence it. Lederach proposes to see each conflict more clearly to take advantage of critical moments and resources such as relationships and cultural norms; his peacebuilding is a reverent and active opportunism.
The Moral Imagination continues Lederach’s project of developing something like a grand theory for peacebuilding. He updates models for sustainable relationship-building that were developed in previous works, but in this book, Lederach incorporates life concepts and skills. The result is a book of sensitizing concepts that, like Building Peace, is bound to provoke discussion among practitioners, but The Moral Imagination leaves ample room for others to make connections with empirical research and social scientific theory.
Swarthmore College LEE SMITHEY
At Peace and Unafraid: Public Order, Security, and the Wisdom of the Cross. Duane K. Friesen and Gerald W. Schlabach, eds. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2005. Pp. 456. $19.95, U.S.; $24.99, Can.
At Peace and Unafraid, written largely by and for Mennonites and Brethren in Christ, engages a fresh, provocative question for historic peace church thinkers. Over and above the commitment to do and make peace at home and in the church, this volume asks what it means to live responsibly in one’s larger, mundane context. Affirming that One Divine God created, loves and supports all humankind (and creation) in all human situations, responsibility in the ?holy community? means engaging with the whole world God loves, not simply the community of nonviolent, peacemaking believers. The writers engage seriously their social, economic, ethical and political contexts, always with an eye to the fact that Mennonite World Conference constituents live in over sixty countries. Simply put, what is our responsibility in and for nurturing the whole human community in the places in which we live?
A Colombian Mennonite, Ricardo Esquivia, called peacemakers to work to build peace in the structures of shared public life because peace functions in institutions and nations much like water in a pitcher. That is, peace exists only in a containing structure. The structure’s shape is secondary. Even a ?bad? institutional structure allows for security and order to exist. Without it, a society descends into violence and chaos. By the same measure, when the social order is corrupt and oppressive, the need for good order is all the more urgent.
Serious, responsible engagement in social and political structures seems a revolutionary consideration for many European and North American Anabaptists. Writers speak of their efforts at social, practical, theological and ethical engagement. We hear of congregations that make an effort to minister to sex abusers. There are questions of whether policing could be a calling for a peacemaker. As members of a worldwide communion, Mennonites from first and third worlds (e.g., Colombia, Brazil, Indonesia and Paraguay) write from their experiences and involvements in the conviction that ?their beliefs have something to contribute to the ?real challenges? of the ?real world.??
Co-editor Gerald Schlabach summarizes the book’s theological perspective:
If God’s saving purpose is to heal estranged humanity so that all can live under their vine and fig tree at peace and unafraid of harm, and if the nonviolent ?wisdom of the cross? runs with ?the grain of the universe? even now, then as peacemakers committed to the way of Jesus Christ, Mennonites should be prepared to take up problems of security and participate in wider ecumenical, national, and international conversations about them. Are we? (21).
Three questions flow from the ?are we ready? question. Is security and the ordering of human society ?a legitimate theological concern for Mennonites’?; What theoretical resources are needed to engage the familiar but problematic meanings of ?security’?; What practical resources must be developed ?to work for true human security in nonviolent ways’? (21).
This volume begins to explore what it may mean to live as civic peace-builders in the complex, ambivalent neighborhoods, cities, states and nations in which peacemakers are at home. Its twenty-one essays are organized into two parts. Part I, ?In Search of Security: Wisdom and the Gospel of Peace,? includes biblical-theological themes. Part II, ?Seeking the Welfare of the City: Essays on Public Peace, Justice and Order,? addresses ways for making peace, and is subdivided into four sections: perspectives on, reflections about, paradigms for and engagements in public life. All essays speak to what actually works’that is, what relationships, actions, boundaries and distinctions help build and nurture more secure, flourishing communities and (inter)national systems.
These essays provide superb grist for academic (especially peace studies) arenas, and offer important considerations for religious staff and church members. For example, writers note the need for models and language that provide more options than the familiar either-or alternatives (e.g., either protect your people and self by fighting or be subjugated or withdraw to ?live in peace? somewhere else). Such considerations, Schlabach noted, may provoke new reflection on traditional assumptions. For example, ?Just as Mennonites must now contemplate a historic reversal to their rejection of governmental responsibilities, the just policing proposal would require Catholics to contemplate an equivalent transformation in political theology and pastoral practice? (414).
The volume makes a major contribution simply through the questions it raises. Why have Christians committed to nonviolence so seldom addressed broader issues of order and security? What are dynamics of social order and security that do not rely on violence, and how do we work to create them? Are believers in nonviolence willing to train and take similar risks for peacemaking as are participants in war? How may the notion that being a good citizen means being a soldier (called ?the idolatry of nationalism’) relate to responsible peacemakers? desire to serve the worldwide community that God loves, and for which Jesus lived and died? Can peacemakers distinguish between violence (as in war) and coercion (as in ?just? policing)? If so, might peacemakers be called to policing as a vocation? What guidelines for ?just policing? (and just just policing) might provide support for restorative rather than coercive justice and policing actions?
Since the heart of the cross is a relinquishment of revenge, and biblical ?hospitality? (?love’) is to be extended even to ?enemies,? then the ?world? is understood theologically, and all ethics is christological. That is, all human interaction means engaging siblings whom God loves just as one’s self. Is the challenge of lived faith less that of solving problems and more that of engaging in reality so as to draw forth life (much as God ?created? life from chaos in the Genesis story and then ?blessed? humankind made ?in God’s image? to [also] be a blessing)? Can we identify guidelines for ?just? peacemaking as clear as those identified for a ?just? war? What does ?seeking the city’s peace? call for beyond eliminating violence and war? As a transnational society, what is the relationship between Christian loyalty to nation or security and God? How do Christians distinguish between being in, but not of, the world?
An example of the way this volume stimulates theologians, ethicists and believers may be my own engagement around the distinction drawn here between coercion and violence. Family-relational questions immediately came to mind. When did I ?coerce? my children? What changes occurred as they grew? When was coercion no longer helpful, desirable (or, perhaps, possible)?
The book will appeal to readers interested in peacemaking and in peace theology. If there is a limitation it is that the authors? biblical, ethical and theological reflections often assume that readers are familiar with peace-church language and understanding. Also, since this is really a first exploration in this arena, the writers make little effort to explore the relation between Christian peacemakers and those of other faiths or no faith. Yet the presentation is coherent and the context global, based on the affirmation that God loves the whole world, not just some of it, and not just those who are like us. Inasmuch as the church is God’s people, God’s universal love makes the church responsible to the world. The book presents an incarnational theology in the sense that, while the context of being faithful is global, all essays and illustrations are embodied, specific, particular.
Bethany Theological Seminary/Colgate Rochester Crozer LAUREE HERSCH MEYER
Echoes of the Word: Theological Ethics as Rhetorical Practice. By Harry J. Huebner. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press. 2005. Pp. 264. $29, Can.; $25, U.S.
The image of an echo in the title of Harry Huebner’s book suggests that we can only hear reverberations of the ?Word made flesh? from a distance, since that transformation happened 2,000 years ago in Jesus Christ. Despite that difficulty, Huebner is convinced that a theological enterprise based on that Word is urgently needed today. If, according to the philosopher Wittgenstein, ?words construct the world,? then it is important for Christians to envision a world in which God is present as he was through Christ, sustaining, redeeming and transforming all things. This kind of imaginative theology implies that theologians must of necessity first of all listen to the Word of God in the Scriptures before they construct their own view of the world.
In Huebner’s evaluation, much of the theological language spoken today has lost its power to construct a meaningful world. The reason for this is the lack of connection between this language and any community committed to hearing the Word and embodying it in life. Therefore, Huebner insists that Christian theology must be understood as a crucial practice of a church community that reads and lives by a normative Scripture. He insists that this approach to theology will create a world of meaning different from that created by other languages.
These assumptions require Huebner to make several deliberate choices among the alternatives presented to him by present philosophical and theological scholarship. One of the first decisions he makes is to speak primarily in the voice of a teacher of the Mennonite Church, fulfilling the ?office? of Christian theologian, attempting to make sense of the grammar of faith of a particular faith community. He self-consciously challenges his own community to move toward the ?grammar? of God language that is exhibited within the Christian Scriptures. This voice of a teacher of the church is clearly evident in the first chapter, which takes the form of a sermon. Here he suggests that the Word can again be made flesh through the ?practices of piety? within the people of God’?reverence for the past and for God? that open us to rich wisdom and ?creative incarnational imaginings? (22).
This sermon also illustrates a second major choice that Huebner makes. Within this one chapter we note the wide variety of conversation partners that he includes: a Marxist atheist, several philosophers and theologians, a novelist, a sociologist, fellow Mennonite scholars and the books of Proverbs and Ephesians’rich theological fare indeed. He consciously initiates conversation with rival traditions and experiences that witness to truth from outside of the community, and tests them in light of his own tradition.
But to speak from within a tradition does not imply that one speaks only in the voice of a preacher or uses only language accessible to all church members. As illustrated in the second chapter Huebner switches very quickly to the voice of a scholar involved in ecumenical dialogue, wrestling with the philosophical and methodological options available to theologians and ethicists in a postmodern world. In this chapter he interacts with two philosophers, Gordon Kaufman and Alister McIntyre, who symbolize for him opposite threats to sound theological thinking. Huebner’s own proposal shows how he learns from both philosophers with a focus on an imagination that is ?produced by and mollified by a tradition at work that interprets a living text for a real community in search of truth and justice? (42). Thus tradition is needed to provide content, but imagination is needed to give theology a living and dynamic nature that can speak to the future of our world.
The decision to speak to issues that have practical implications for congregations is illustrated in the third chapter. Here he comments on the meaning and impact of the drafting of new confessions of faith in the present Mennonite Church. He reframes the question by focusing first of all on the usefulness of these confessions. He clearly rejects the epistemological focus and moves instead to showing how these confessions must overcome the word/deed dichotomy that is often embedded in such documents.
With this opening section of three chapters, Huebner has presented and embodied his basic methodological and theological choices in a unified focus on the alternative world of the Gospel with its authentic community, its canonical narrative tradition and its paradigmatic interpretations and practices.
In the next major section he wrestles with the duality of church/world that is inherent in the biblical notion that the church is ?in the world but not of it.? Here too he must make crucial choices. In light of the Mennonite tradition that includes a strong strain of ?separatism,? Huebner takes the next few chapters to unpack the choices that the larger theological tradition has set before him. He resists the temptation to choose between Ernst Troeltsch’s and H. Richard Niehbuhr’s ?church-sect? dichotomy, and instead argues that since the church is present in the world on God’s behalf, it acts morally by embodying love and justice in its very being. Nor will he embrace either a strict ?two kingdom? model or a unified ?one kingdom? model. Instead he acknowledges the intermingling of the two realms with their competing views of the world. For him the crucial task of the church is to ?speak its own language, re-narrate its own story, re-member its own saviour, and re-embody its own ontology of peace and justice? (101). This will simultaneously set the church apart from the nations since this is a ?strange making act’; yet the church will also embrace the nations by its participation in the healing of the nations. He concludes that for a church to live out its identity in the world it must practice a church discipline, or a training in the virtues needed to embody truth in both words and actions.
This move to the logic of virtues is a deliberate choice that governs the last four sections of the book. He chooses virtues that particularly pertain to scholarly activities. Patience is defined as not controlling or manipulating the way we go about our work, whether this is by ?violent? methods in scholarship, by revenge or fantasy spiritualities that reject the cross-resurrection logic or by assumptions that human agency will bring about God’s kingdom. Instead the church waits for God’s blessing as it concentrates on being faithful to a discipleship ethic.
The choice of hope as the second virtue arises out of his profound understanding of the sinful condition of humanity and the false hope that does not remember the many botched human efforts of the past. He directs the church to the Gospel message that can reorient memories, finding hope in God’s faithfulness and the participatory performance of the body of Christ in the cross-resurrection logic. This will mean that the church will be a people of lamentation because evil is still with us. But it will also be a people of reconciliation and joy because of the power of God’s victory even over death.
The book culminates in explaining the virtue of peacemaking as prophetic imagination and alternative wisdom, something that Huebner has tried to embody throughout the book. The church with its clear call to be a sign of the kingdom finds itself involved in many different practices that all witness to the love of God for the world. To be a disciple thus means to embody a stance of receptivity to God’s grace and wisdom and to embody that love in peacemaking that heals and seeks justice.
Huebner has made a compelling case for the connection between the language of theology and its embodiment in a faith community. Most often his approach in the book is to outline various common ways of thinking theologically and then offer an alternative based on his understandings of Scripture and the Christian faith. This approach is a great teaching device, though he risks failing to give enough credit to the nuances and assumptions in the writings of others. This approach also tends to underestimate philosophical assumptions that are not necessarily biblical but have influenced his own world and that of John Howard Yoder, on whom he relies for many of his primary convictions.
The major contribution that this book makes is to show that when the Gospel message is embodied in a church community’s view of the world, it is powerful theology indeed! Yet this book also shows the in-breaking of truth in conversations with ?outsiders? to the institutional church. Perhaps it is this recognition that is needed to keep a tradition dynamic and open to change. For God is a generous God who gives wisdom to all who seek truth and who rejoices in every embodiment of truth, even when institutions and wordsmiths have yet to acknowledge the Giver with concrete praise and thanksgiving.
Conrad Grebel University College LYDIA NEUFELD HARDER
Prof. Ervin Beck. Dept. of English, Goshen College, Goshen, Ind., 46526. E-mail: email@example.com.
Prof. Gerald Biesecker-Mast, Communication and Theater Dept., Bluffton University, 1 University Drive, Bluffton, Ohio, 45817-2104. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prof. Victor J. Hinojosa, Dept. of Political Science, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97276, Waco Texas, 76798-7276. E-mail: Victor_Hinojosa@baylor.edu.
Prof. Gayle Gerber Koontz, AMBS, 3003 Benham Avenue, Elkhart, Ind., 46517. E-mail: email@example.com.
Prof. Rhoda Janzen, Dept. Of English, Hope College, Holland, Mich., 49423. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Lapp, 13 Knollwood, Akron, PA 17501. E-mail: email@example.com.
Prof. Troy Osborne, 716 W. 38th St. #103, Minneapolis, Minn., 55409. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prof. Theron F. Schlabach, Dept. of History, Goshen College, Goshen, Ind., 46526. E-mail: email@example.com.
Janneken Smucker, 1121 E. Columbia Ave, Philadelphia, Pa., 19125. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
David R. Swartz, 805 Donmoyer Ave, South Bend, Ind.,46614-2034. E-mail: email@example.com
. John H. Yoder titled his final essay collection For the Nations (1995), in part as a critical response to Hauerwas’s earlier Against the Nations (1985). Yoder was at pains to communicate that he felt the Gospel was, in fact, for the good of the nations, and that he had spent too much of his life refuting the ?sectarian? label that Hauerwas sometimes wore as a badge of pride.
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
MQR 81 (Jan. 2007)