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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 16, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Throughout Christian history there has been quite an interest in men and women who did great things, whether in this world or within their soul. These men and women weren't seeking self-satisfaction. Rather, they were truly seeking God and his work in them and in this world. The interest in such people often insisted they be viewed as saints, objects of devotion if not worship. Biographies written were often filled with stories of great victories, moral pronouncements, heroic stands. Little was said that would suggest these people had real personal histories or daily struggles or lived in complex times.

Glossing over the negatives, and thus the whole truth, these biographies were meant more as inspiration than history--inspiration for those already walking in their footsteps, devoted to the cause and method.

A Peristent Peace is such a book, though oddly enough not one written by a later disciple but rather written by the man himself, John Dear. This fact makes the book curious to review. I do not share his views on pacifism, yet I am sympathetic to them, and was very open to being convinced, enlightened and taught. I was curious how he formed his views, how he wrestled with the Catholic Church's official teaching, and in general the overall story of a man who has been on the frontlines of peace protests for the last thirty years.

I was disappointed, however. A Persistent Peace is a history of the icon, John Dear S.J, and even more the story of the names and places involved in the Peace movement since Reagan.

But we never really get to know the man, John Dear. The gift of an autobiography is that we can see not only the events, but also the internal perspective, wrestling, frustrations, development of the subject. John Dear seems to open up, but often only in ways that bolster the sense of his superiority. People around him don't understand him. They are bored or angry or confused. Dialogue is pontifications of his teaching to the ignorant, even hateful, opponents or less ignorant friends. This is coupled with a hero worship of sorts, in which Dear seems to reveal himself most by talking about the people he wants to be like. But, all throughout it seems a lot of the real John Dear remains hidden, hidden because it seems he is still unwilling to be truly transparent about who he is and where he came from.

In the foreword, Martin Sheen writes, "I suspect that much of John's character was formed, as it is for all of us, during adolescence, that critical period when every level of physical, emotional, physiological, sexual, and spiritual development begins to emerge."

I suspect this too. Only A Persistent Peace gives nothing of this. We begin with John in college at Duke. We are given only the barest glimpse of his family life, which is decidedly upper class and filled with powerful influences. Indeed, he mentions his father and mother only in passing again and again, often as sources of introductions for people he proceeded to lecture about peace issues.

So, we don't really ever get to see the man, only the image of the peace activist seeking the way of Jesus in this world as he sees it, fighting against the benighted masses who disagree, not only with the goal but also the method--public protest and nuisance. This is not a review to argue such tactics, however, I can't help but think that being empowered because of arrests for public behavior is entirely different than the martyrs arrested for their message. Speaking the message is perfectly fine and accepted, a fact I think grates against those who seek to find identity within a pampered martyrdom.

Because of this I was disappointed with the book. We are left with more of a polemic than a story, again and again told rather than shown. Which places me outside of the target audience, to be sure, which is almost certainly the choir of people who already celebrate the message, goals, and tactics of John Dear as being the true expression of a "faith that does justice".

Giving this a star rating was difficult even still, because I realize for many this is precisely what they want and need. Hagiographies were popular, and still are, because people need heroes presented in a certain light and need the empowerment that comes from seeing their causes as black and white, good versus evil. I give it three stars because I do not share the initial assumptions and was seeking a history of the man rather than a story of places, and celebrities, and events that make up the Peace movement. I wanted to learn about the man, not the symbol.

Here is a quote that I think would best help readers to determine the worth of this book. John Dear upon arriving at the Pentagon says, "it was the center of death for the whole planet, its prime purpose to organize the empire's killing sprees at the behest of the multinational corporations and their politicians."

If you agree with this, then you will see this as a five star book, speaking truth to power, and modeling heroic activism. If you disagree, you will find this book likely confirming what you like least about the Peace movement, even if you happen to agree with many of their ideals.

This is not particularly an interesting or insightful autobiography. It compares poorly as such to the recent works by Jurgen Moltmann about his life in theology, A Broad Place: An Autobiography, or Billy Graham about his life in evangelism Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham. Both were significantly more open and self-aware, maybe because both of these were written much later in their lives, after retirement and after perspective had given them added insights. Nor does this come near the masterpieces that are The Long Loneliness or The Seven Storey Mountain.

This is a book for the choir. If you're wearing the robes then have at it, enjoy it, for it is certainly written with passion. It is also a good history of the last decades of the Peace movement. In fact, I wish Dear had not styled this a story of one man's struggle and instead more honestly made this a book of many people's participation.

As such, I'm left thinking Dear is trying to impose himself as a major figure, seeking the identity of his heroes Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, but falling flat despite his many arrests and popularity within a certain segment of particular activists. He wants to be seen and applauded and affirmed.

Which makes me wonder what his life was like before Duke and with his family. Which makes me also wonder if maybe he really should have become a Franciscan after all.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2008
Folks are always going to have qualms about the actions of the John Dears, the Daniel and Phil Berrigans, of this world. If for no other reason, we see the cost to them of their convictions and we are compelled to weigh both the courage of our own convictions and their potential cost to us. It is the same cost Jesus spoke of to his disciples when he turned his face toward Jerusalem in the gospels and began to speak ominously of his coming crucifixion.

I definitely count myself among the choir to whom Dear is preaching. I hope it is a big one. It includes everyone who wants to see peace on earth, and is wondering what they might do to contribute to its realization. It includes everyone who seeks to follow Jesus and is open to the emphasis of John Dear (along with Gandhi, MLK, Tolstoy, the Berrigans, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, Rene Girard, Eileen Egan, John Howard Yoder, Walter Wink, Andre Trocme, and Jim and Shelley Douglass...for starters) on the nonviolence of Jesus. I hope it especially includes young people who are just beginning to think about such questions, and who want a sense of the past thirty or so years from a radical Christian perspective.

What I loved about this book, as one who is slightly older than John and has lived through the same history, is the combination of the reminder of what's gone on and John's intrepid consistency in seeking out the heart of the action, the crisis points where the peacemaking focus of the gospel needed to be manifest. He went to El Salvador in the mid-eighties, and met the Jesuit priests there who would be slaughtered several years later. He could thus have a visceral clarity about the wrongheadedness (and wrongsidedness) of the official U.S. position vis-a-vis the Salvadoran people. He could throw himself in with Father Roy Bourgeois from the early years of the School of the Americas Watch and its annual protest at Ft. Benning, the most spiritually profound rally of its kind, sprung from the blood of the martyrs of Central and South America. He directed the Fellowship of Reconciliation, visited Iraq in that capacity and saw the devastation caused by sanctions, and thus was prepared in advance to know that the Iraqis were not our enemies, even as the second Bush administration made its case for war on them. He volunteered to work with grieving families at Ground Zero in New York in the days and weeks after the towers fell.

John Dear has given his life wholeheartedly for the cause of peace. It is less truthful to say that he has grasped the Beatitudes and claimed them than to say that the Beatitudes, and the one who spoke them, have grasped and claimed John. Soren Kierkegaard famously said, "Purity of heart is to will one thing." John Dear has willed to be a peacemaker, convinced that is Jesus' call to him and to us all.

Here's the part that moved me most. John was working at a Salvadoran refugee camp in 1985 when he accidentally sustained a bad cut by a machete on his right hand. He was stitched up in the emergency room to which Archbishop Oscar Romero had been brought when he was assassinated. "Days later, I returned to the camp. The men rushed over to see my wound. 'Now you are one of us!' they exclaimed. They showed me their own collection of scars -- one or two on every limb of every man; some even had missing fingers. But unlike me, they never had access to an emergency room. They mended their bodies as best they could and bore ever after the marks of their wounds. An old man took my arm and said, 'Someday, when you raise your hands in the air with the bread and wine, you will look up and see El Salvador.'" (pp. 132-3)

Fr. John Dear, SJ, sees El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Los Alamos, from the perspective of those being crucified violently, and takes us there to see with him. He longs and works for the reign of a loving God, the beloved community. For his dedication and single-minded devotion, I am most grateful...and by his example and this book I am inspired and encouraged to play my part.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A non-religious and non-political review

After reading the A PERSISTENT PEACE: ONE MAN'S STRUGGLE FOR A NONVIOLENT WORLD, I am going to use a different angle for my review. I'm going to focus on this autobiography without involving any religious and political implications. This is one of the books where I feel that others `fail to see the forest for the trees'.

My disclaimer: This book is an autobiography. It's a memoir. It is ONE man's view of the world. It is ONE man's life journey. It is the interpretation of how ONE man defines living `Christlike'. It should be interpreted as just that. It's not a manual of how he believes all Christians should be. It is not out to disrespect the military, government and other religions as a whole. It is simply one man's journey in the world. Focusing on this premise alone, there is a great deal to be learned from John Dear.

The writing is riveting and fascinating. The version I read was one that had not been proofed yet. Even with the extra material included, the book never dragged on or was boring. The writing skill of John Dear moved his story along. It kept me engaged in what was going on. It made me want to find out what his next adventure was going to be.

It amazes me that such a small sequence of events in John's earlier years lead him to the path that he eventually followed. In a world that has seemed to turn so materialistic and violent, it brings hope to see that there is at least one individual out there who chose to live a life of nonviolence and peace. Regardless of whether or not a reader agrees with what John believes in or backs every single one of his protests and views, it is an admirable quality. It is a rare quality.

Personally, I do not agree with all of his protests, views and beliefs. However, I give him credit and respect for what he is trying to accomplish. I learned some details about history/current events and issues that occurred throughout the time-period that Dear covers in his book. There are some items the media does not report. There are some items that I don't pay attention to because they seem minor and not important in my day-to-day life. I was able to see the big picture for some of these events.

I am giving this book 5-stars and I would recommend that others read it. The content is fascinating. The writing is impeccable. The book is engaging. It is thought provoking without being too deep. In this diverse world, very few will agree 100% with what John Dear stands for and I am betting 98% can even relate to how he has lived his life. Yet, this book deserves a fair chance because there are smaller messages that it contains. Messages that are so simple that they can be incorporated into most lives. Just read it as a memoir and I don't think you will be disappointed because there is at least one thing for everyone to learn from this man's life.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I would suggest this book to people interested in the following: Christianity, Political Activism, Peace/Nonviolence activism, US political policy and foreign policy.

This book was a fascinating read. Not only is it about promoting peace and nonviolence, it's about finding inner peace as well. Dear started out as a hard-partying frat boy at Duke, but found his calling as a Jesuit and peace activist. He has most certainly led an amazing and admirable life.

The reason I gave it only 3 stars:
Dear gives very in depth explanations of what he has done for Peace over the years, but I would have liked to know more about the "why" than the "what" and "how." Dear has led an amazing life and met amazing and inspiring people, but at times I felt like he was "name-dropping" and felt some of the relationships/acquaintances were exaggerated or made to be more profound than they actually were. He doesn't give enough insight into the person that he is, instead he tells us who he would like to be like.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2008
People who spend time in Prison are violent criminals, not men of peace. "A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World" is the story John Dear, a man who converted to Christianity later in his life and decided to take up the call to spread Jesus's famous words - 'love thy neighbor as you love thyself.' The wisdom, while celebrated by many, isn't universally accepted, as his stands against several get him into trouble. A saddening and inspiring story at the same time where one can have such a positive message for it to be ignored, "A Persistent Peace" is a must for anyone seeking a biography of a different sort.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book by Father John Dear impressed and inspired me. His honesty about his personal life and the insight he gives us into the world of peace activists in this country and around the world is fascinating. We learn about the actions of the people that put their lives on the line every time they choose to protest nonviolently against nuclear weapons and wars. These people are protesting the work and policies of governments - they are bold and courageous. They do this because they want to make the world a safer place for all of us. Father Dear has been arrested and imprisoned many times for his beliefs and activities and I believe he is to be admired.

Father Dear is also very candid about the successes and failures in his spiritual life and his work as a priest He is a person who has definitely followed his conscience knowing that he would have to face extremely unpleasant consequences. You do not have to agree with his politics, choices or religious beliefs to find this book fascinating
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
While reading `A Persistent Peace' by John Dear, SJ thoughts of the Thomas Merton classic from 1941`The Seven Storey Mountain' frequently came to mind. Not that the subject matter of Dear's work is the same by any means, it was more the tone and intent of the material and the personal glimpse provided by each author of the generation in which they lived.

Both Catholic men chose radically different paths in life, Merton the interior silence of a Trappist monastery, Dear the media frontlines as a social/political activist. However while their methods differed their goal was the same, to live the teachings of Christ and bring hope, justice and equity to a world in turmoil.

As mentioned by several reviewers Father Dear at times comes across as rather self-absorbed, brandishing a distinct air of superiority. However I'll give the man the benefit of a doubt, after all who am I to judge an individuals passion and commitment, especially when that person possesses such an altruistic vision.

Well worth a read no matter what side of the fence you reside.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 17, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let me start this review by stating the following in clear and unequivocal terms:

I have no problem whatsoever with people who protest and demonstrate for the things they believe in, especially those who do it like Rev. John Dear, who proceeds with the understanding that there is a possibility of arrest and detention.

The positives of the book:

It is written in an engaging style, most of it can be easily grasped, even by those who are uninitiated in Christian theology. His story of how he struggled with the choice of whether or not to enter the priesthood is quite well told and interesting.

The chapters are organized by both time frames and theme so it is fairly easy to go back and find comments and stories.

The negatives:

That being said, I do have a problem with a priest that re-interprets the Gospels (he calls his re-interpretation the "Gospel of peace") and devotes himself to the peace movement to the exclusion of all else. I am concerned with an autobiography that written by a Jesuit that uses mentions nuclear weapons, Dr. King and Gandhi more than Jesus Christ. On page 80, Mr. Dear comments that Gandhi is in heaven for being a non-violent protester (where is the Church's teaching about being at least a Christian, if not a Catholic? How about Jesus' comments about his being 'the way'? Throw them out, I suppose. In a similar vein he tells that president of Georgetown University, "I ask you in the name of end the ROTC program and close all research into nuclear weapons. If you do, I'm sure you'll get into the kingdom of heaven."(p. 109)

His comments point to Jesus as being some sort of anti-Roman protester that was eventually killed for his protests (p. 79). Considering that Jesus was part of the largest empire on the planet at the time and considering how truly miserable the Jews were under Roman rule, Jesus says surprisingly little about the Romans.

Dear refers to what he calls Jesus's words of invitation: "You are my beloved. I am with you. Don't be afraid. I want you to be my disciple. Follow me on the road to peace and justice to my reign. Advocate nonviolence like me, and carry on my work for me." I searched these words on the internet and the only place I can find them is on web pages featuring articles by Rev. Dear. This is troubling. It is most inappropriate to make up quotes for Jesus. It is Even more so to refer to those words as if they are authoritative and to use them to teach others without noting that they are not Biblical text.

Rev. Dear's protests seem spectacular (they once tried to disarm a nuclear device, for example) but they are merely glitz. In one protest they block a busy intersection during George H.W. Bush's inauguration to protest families being evicted from their apartments for not being able to pay their rent. No doubt, the eviction of families is a bad thing. This protest drew attention to the problem, but it sure didn't help anyone pay their rent, or get additional training to get a better job so that they would be able to pay their rent easier, did it?

One of the common terms for a reverend is "pastor" - a term that means shepherd. Dear's superiors continually try to move him towards the role of being a shepherd that takes care of the flock - teaches, comforts, teaches the faith, consoles. Dear does precious little of that for any extended period of time (although he seems to have done an exceptional job in New York City of 9/11 and its immediate aftermath - but his lack of pastoring experience shows when he is shocked at someone asking him how to pray), except when directly ordered to by his superiors. He starts to help with some worthy projects and then, soon enough, he wanders off to go protest somewhere.

Dear complains about the Jesuit leadership throughout, claiming they are blind to the true vision. It seems to me that he is being re-directed by everyone because he is the one that is wayward. Ironically, the book is published by Loyola Press, part of the very Jesuit bureaucracy he is so disappointed in.

He correctly chastises the Church for its cover-up in the sexual abuse scandal. But, his answer to the problem is odd - denounce the Catholic doctrine of the Just War. (p. 372) Rev. Dear, you are missing the point by focusing on the same issue all of the time.

This book should have included an index. I am looking at an "uncorrected proof" so perhaps the final edition will include one.

Factual errors:

In his introduction, Martin Sheen claimed the prophet Isaiah commanded us to "beat swords into plowshares and make war no more." This is not a command, but part of a larger prophecy about Judgment Day.

Sheen also claimed that the so-called Star Wars defense plan proposed by Reagan included putting nuclear weapons in space. This is not true - it was proposed and still remains a plan for developing an anti-ballistic missle shield with lasers and interceprtor missles. We used that technology to destroy a dangerous failing satellite earlier this year.

Dear claimed he witnessed an anti-Star Wars demonstration in New York City in 1981. That would have been amazing since it was not proposed until March of 1983.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 17, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm neither religious nor very political, but this book had a lot of meaning to me. One man's journey over 30 years to change the world for the better. From what he witnessed in Iraq to how he has helped the victims of 9/11. His history is fascinating. There were arrests, there were things I didn't agree with of course, but I don't think many could deny how strongly he stands behind his beliefs. I would give it a try. One complaint is this book will do nothing to change the minds of anyone who doesn't already agree with him.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 21, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
John Dear, a Jesuit Priest in the Berrigan Boys mold, has been a strident peace activist for several decades. Beginning with his great epiphany in college, through his formation as a reluctant Jesuit to his controversial "ministry" as a master of mischief in the world of so-called non-violent confrontation, the Reverend Dear offers a well-written memoir. The lengthy tome recounts his days as a leader of the Kumbaya Crowd, traveling across the land, hammering on nuclear warheads, blocking traffic at various and sundry points of interest, being arrested and incarcerated where, with spirits high, they tell stories of their great adventures. One can almost smell the bacon frying and the campfire glowing amidst the enlightened souls seeking to save the world from itself.

How the author and the book is considered depends upon one's point of view. Most readers will love either the book or hate it, depending upon their opinion of the author. However, I found the book to be fast-paced and generally well-written, regardless of the points of view expressed.

Unfortunately, the book suffers from an over-abundance of egotism (even for a memoir). The author paints himself as the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, fighting against the forces of Pharisaical hypocrisy and blind ignorance. Anyone (and that includes his religious superiors) who disagrees with him, not just on substantive matters, but also on the means to peace, is characterized either as misguided, deluded, ignorant, warmongering, or evil. Peace is not the goal; only peace according to the Dear formula is the goal.

Quite honestly, the message of peace that should predominate is sadly obscured in the emerging personality of the author who discusses his religious vows and pastoral duties not as obligations, but rather as burdens to be tolerated. This becomes apparent in the chapters devoted to his pastorate. The humility of Christ, if it resides in the author - and there is no reason to believe that it does not - is buried far below a healthy dose of hubris and sanctimony. The author cannot allow for the honor of those who serve to protect and defend this country from enemies who would sooner destroy us not for anything we have done (which admittedly has not always been right), but for the ideals of freedom and liberty that we profess.

Fortunately, the message of peace transcends personality and the underlying theme of violence is a powerful reminder of the radical nature of the Gospel. One wishes that humility would shine forth. It would surely amplify the message of peace that the author seeks to convey, a message that is obvious in the courage of his convictions.
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