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What about Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Christian Practice of Everyday Life, The) Paperback – October 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587430657
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587430657
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,028,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Those who critique pacifism usually ask one simple question: what about Hitler? Brimlow, an associate professor of philosophy at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., grapples with that question as he reviews the philosophy and implementation of just war theories. The major difficulty, he argues, is that just war theory can be used to justify any war, including the ones against Hitler and Osama bin Laden. To those who argue that pacifism isn't effective in combating evil, Brimlow counters that by secular definitions, Jesus' nonviolence wasn't successful either. Brimlow argues that the Gospels are very clear: what Christians are called to do is to repay evil with good, even when doing so leads to death. A life of prayer and attention to God's presence in everyday life, as well as practicing peacemaking daily, are the spiritual practices that prepare Christians to turn the other cheek, and even die, when the time comes. Brimlow's treatise is carefully argued in academic fashion, even as he admits to personal difficulties living out the gospel as he understands it. The result is a lucid and thoughtful analysis that doesn't gloss over or minimize the outrageous demands of the Gospels. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Back Cover

What about Hitler? is part of the The Christian Practice of Everyday Life series, dedicated to theological consideration of the concerns for everyday life. Series editors are David S. Cunningham and William T. Cavanaugh.

"With clarity and respect for the best arguments justifying violence, from Augustine and Bonhoeffer to Michael Walzer and Jean Bethke Elshtain, Robert Brimlow responds to the challenges of radical evil. Brimlow provocatively engages the reader on three levels: a philosophical analysis and critique of just war reasoning; meditations on the gospel and Jesus that support willingness to die rather than participating in violence as the 'answer' to Hitler; and the spiritual practices of prayer and daily acts of mercy that habituate persons to being the people of God."--Duane K. Friesen, coeditor of At Peace and Unafraid

"A searching examination of just war and pacifist approaches to war and violence that leads to advice on discipleship. It is a book I would make required reading for a course on the morality of war, even though I don't always agree."--Arthur F. Holmes, editor of War and Christian Ethics

"This is not an easy book to read, which is why Brimlow's book is so important. The hard clarity of his prose witnesses his refusal to report any easy answer to the question posed in the title. As a result, however, he has answered that question in the only honest way it can be answered."--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School

"This book is an honest examination of the most important challenge to pacifism: Would it not be right to use violence to stop great evil, such as that unleashed on the world by Hitler? Brimlow's honesty in dealing with the commands of Jesus is refreshing, and he does not shrink from confronting the dilemma of being a pacifist in a 'supreme emergency' of demonic evil unleashed on society. His answers are profound in their simplicity and honesty."--Craig A. Carter, author of The Politics of the Cross

"I expected, in this book, to see challenges issued to the just war theory. I was also not surprised to see probing questions--drawn creatively from Bonhoeffer and Orwell--posed to pacifists. However, I was not prepared to be so powerfully challenged by the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a wonderfully challenging book!"--Mark Thiessen Nation, author of John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions

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Customer Reviews

The chapters that directly reason on the topic of pacifism are great.
Timothy B. Miller
This might not be a negative, it could be that the answer to this question just isn't going to be satisfying.
Andrew Chandler
It's not that it's hard to read so much as that it covers a lot of territory very quickly.
B. Tweed DeLions

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Melissa McCarthy VINE VOICE on November 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
When one reads "What About Hitler?: Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World" one is immediately struck by the amount of things going on at one time in this short book. The first thing that is important to note is the sheer honesty of this work. Not a conventional "academic" book, "What About Hitler" is revelatory in nature and takes the form of several "meditations" which usually contain a quotation of a Bible passage, Brimlow's prayer on that Bible verse and an anecdote from Brimlow's life (which are not usually flattering to him). All of this reveals Brimlow's inner struggle with the broader question posed by the book's title, "What About Hitler?"

The question posed by the title is meant to confront the Christian with the ultimate test of the call to nonviolence, namely, nonviolence in the face of ultimate evil - Hitler. On his way to answering to answering this question, Brimlow tackles the doctrine of "just war." In his analysis, Brimlow finds the criteria set forth to justify a "just war" to be too flaccid and easily malleable to justify even the most immoral "unjust" war. Brimlow also finds the theologicial justifications set forth by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and other theologians as consequentialist which do nothing more than weigh the costs and benefits and advocate an "ends over means" mentality.

Brimlow also addresses Michael Walzer's contribution of the supreme emergency" as a refinement of the "just war" theory. According to Walzer, "supreme emergency" is defined by two criteria: "the imminence of the danger and the second with its nature." For a "supreme emergency" to arise, the danger of the threat must be imminent and the nature of the threat must be "immeasurably awful.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JR. Forasteros on March 18, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brimlow offers an honest, insightful and challenging look at Jesus' call to Christian pacifism. He begins each chapter with a prayerful reflection on a difficult passage of scripture, and then with a personal story that highlights a specific theme he then develops in the chapter. Brimlow writes with a transparency and honesty uncommon for many writers handling this topic.

I don't want to ruin too much of this book, but allow me to say that Brimlow tackles Just War theory before moving to terrorism and, of course, World War II and "the Hitler Question". Brimlow challenges our assumptions of what counts as successful and the ways in which we're called to holiness.

All in all, this is a fantastic book. I *highly* recommend it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Glenn M. Harden on October 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
What Brimlow does well is demonstrate the raw honesty in the struggle to be a Christian pacifist. Reading the book left me asking, what is it that I want to believe? How do my own desires influence my position? Brimlow has the courage to say that a consistent pacifist will let the Hitlers win, and leave it to God.

We have an example of an activist Christian pacifism that worked during World War II: the village of Le Chambon, in Vichy France. (See Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed.) Yet, even it worked under the shelter of a war against Nazi Germany. Nonetheless, I don't want to deny the courage or power of a community that takes Jesus' words to turn the other cheek seriously.

The difficulty I have with Brimlow's book is that it doesn't really address the best argument for the "just war": love. I imagine a Rwandan Tutsi asking me, why did we not come and help? How can I respond with "turn the other cheek"? Does not our love for our neighbor demand that we do something about their peril? Though he only hints at it, Brimlow also undermines the use of a state's police powers to restrain evil. Yet, Paul seems to suggest that the state is ordained by God to do just that. If a non-Christian governor is allowed to restrain evil through his/her police powers, can a Christian do any less? Similarly, if a non-Christian is allowed to defend his/her people, should not a Christian do so as well? I feel as if I'm willing to be persuaded to Christian pacifism, but I still need to hear answers to these questions.

I also would quibble with Brimlow's characterization of Augustine, whose experience of evil (the fall of Rome, the seige of Hippo) was far from academic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By B. Tweed DeLions on December 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was hoping for an easier read. But I must say that I got more than I expected. In other words, this book is a thorough philosophical discussion of the subject, leaving no stone unturned. I was hoping for something more brief, but how can I complain just because my expectations were unrealistic?

Brimlow is a professor of philosophy, and it sure shows. I mean that in a good way. At first I thought the book was overly academic. But then I realized that my problem was that I was trying to remember everything I read. There are just too many arguments to remember them all.

In other words, he deals with each argument one at a time, and he doesn't mince words. There's no fluff. It would be impossible to condense this book without leaving huge gaps in the discussion of nonviolence. But the plus side is that because he's a philosophy professor, he anticipates every possible argument and counter argument and deals with all of them, very methodically.

For the general reader this book might be a little challenging. But please don't let that deter you. Just take your time and enjoy it. It's not that it's hard to read so much as that it covers a lot of territory very quickly. It's not too jargon heavy, it's just thorough and concise, and, for that reason, difficult to condense, perhaps, but not difficult to read.

THE STRENGTH OF THIS BOOK IS: That if you wanted to debate the philosophy of nonviolence with an atheist, a philosophy professor, a theologian, or a mystic, this is the only book you would have to read in advance, because it gives a point-by-point analysis of all related arguments.

An incredible book.
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