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Peace Behind Bars: A Peacemaking Priest's Journey from Jail

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1556127717
ISBN-10: 1556127715
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Sheed & Ward (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556127715
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556127717
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,562,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Dear, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, peace activist, organizer, lecturer, and retreat leader. He is also the author/editor of twenty books on peace and nonviolence. John was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. John lives in northern New Mexico. Visit his Web site at

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on March 25, 2002
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John Dear is a youngish Jesuit priest who's the clear successor to the Berrigan brothers when it comes to peace activism. Past director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, author, speaker, agitator, Dear is also a graceful and sensitive author. His *Peace Behind Bars*, the journal he kept in prison, is my favorite. It's an utterly honest, utterly human, document.
Dear spent 8 months in a North Carolina jail after his conviction for a Plowshare action. His journal is a record of the time there, which he shared with Phil Berrigan. The journal doesn't whitewash how trapped and hopeless Dear at times feels. He's honest enough with us and himself not to try to play the hero. Reading the book at times gives one an uncomfortable sense of sympathetic claustrophobia. But the journal also attests to Dear's discovery that the suffering God he serves is also found in prison--and, indeed, perhaps best found in prison. Here, for example, is what Dear writes on Christmas Day, 1993: "Being in jail on Christmas is not just counter-cultural, but anti-cultural. The culture has no sense of Christ's spirit. People spend billions of dollars in an orgy of consumerism, exchanging presents while ignoring the plight of the poor and the demands of discipleship." Imprisonment gives one the distance from that culture to remember that Christmas is about this: "God has become human, and it follows that all human life is sanctified." (p. 44)
I can think of few spiritual memoirs that are up to the high standard of stuff written by Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, or Henri Nouwen. This is one of them, even though it hasn't received the attention it deserves. Highly, enthusiastically, recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on January 8, 2009
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John Dear joined Phillip Berrigan and 2 other male Catholics, and one non-religious female, in an act of civil disobedience. They broke into an Air Force base and used hammers to symbolically beat on a jet fighter with nuclear capabilities, to turn it into plowshares. All four spent the next 7 months in several local jails waiting for trial and sentencing. The book is a journal of Dear's time in jail.

The book is fantastic. It is a day-by-day account of Dear's time in jail. Their days revolved around a daily "book club" study of the Bible the three male (the fourth was female, and thus housed separately) protesters engaged in-which was the key to maintaining their sanity. The bulk of their reading was working through the Gospel of Mark in a systemic, paragraph by paragraph manner, applying his writings to their situation and that of the world today.

While I am in NO sense a practicing Catholic, I found the discussion of the true meaning of Jesus' life and mission fascinating. Roughly akin to classic liberation theology, they made the Bible into a blueprint for resistance to injustice anywhere-and most particularly today, in the USA.

While I have no background in Christian theology, I have a deep background in the conditions which prevail in our prisons. Woven through Dear's story are extraordinarily accurate insights about what it means to be in prison. As Dear himself repeatedly notes, he had advantages which the typical prisoner does not. He had a steady stream of visitors, he was treated (relatively) decently by all guards, he was housed with close friends, who he could both rely on and with whom he was able to carry on an extended intellectual discussion.
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Although this courageous book was published in 1995, it tells us more now about truly Christian and courageous prophetic witness than anything which has happened since. Its courageous model is needed now more than ever, as we fail to perceive our mission to Christian witness in our current condition.

The Catholic Catechism carefully outlines the criteria for a just war, both in the elements of reasons for going to war and for conduct in time of war. In all of these criteria our current warmongering fails, as we cannot provide a consistent and true justification, and we cannot either defend our disproportionate and indiscriminate conduct of the war without end, under this administration's shock and awe strategy which the valid and reliable primary research by the John Hopkins Medical University reveals was slaughtered 2.5% of the civilian population between 2003 nd 2006, calling for someone to take a look at this. It falls upon our Church as a transnational prophet for morality and justice, for peace and nonviolent compassion, to speak courageously truth to power. We find winthin this present volume, and all of the Reverend Father John Dear, SJ,'s writings and work, a strong model for present prophetic and Christian action.

This book also prepares us in a small way for the Calvary and persecution which awaits those of us who truly follow our Lord Jesus Christ as we call the present Empire to conversion and repentence and to peace over material profit. But as Jesus preached, be glad when the world slanders and persecutes you for believing in Him and practicing His Justice, as you will be richly rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven.

We are truly fortunate and blessed to have still available to us this present prison journal by the holy and devoted priest and powerful prophet. Dare to read it prayerfully. We cannot afford not to.
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