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Broken We Kneel: Reflections on Faith and Citizenship Hardcover – April 30, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, American cars, homes and churches were suddenly covered with flags and the phrase "United We Stand." Bass (Strength for the Journey) gives eloquent expression to the discomfort such patriotism caused among Christians who, like her, find themselves "resident aliens" in an America once again steeped in civil religion. The book's title is Bass's faith-based answer to "United We Stand," and she weaves a series of reflections around her conflicted reactions to the patriotism of her parish at the time: Christ Church of Alexandria, Va., four miles from the Pentagon, heir to a long military tradition and dominated by memorials to both George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Drawing on Augustine, Bass argues that American Christians have become so enamored of "the City of Man" that they have forgotten their true citizenship in the "City of God." She deftly explores the history of "God Bless America" and "Amazing Grace," the two songs that defined post-September 11 religiosity, contending that neither provides adequate guidance for Christian citizenship. Bass's prose is often lyrical, and readers troubled by America's combination of military might and professed faith will find this book refreshing. But Bass displays so little sympathy for her former fellow worshippers at Christ Church, and delves so little into the rich variety of Christian reflection on civic responsibility, that others will be frustrated by her seemingly impermeable idealism.
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In this timely and quite personal book, Bass explores post-9/11 America and, in particular, the often volatile, confusing relationship between Christian belief and U.S. citizenship. Unlike many in and out of government, she doesn't see good and evil in stark black and white, and she has no patience for the simplistic, with-us-or-against-us stance that disguises itself as public policy. She makes an anguished appeal for self-reflection, sprung from an ecumenical approach, and a spiritual lament of sorts acknowledging that, in a world of increasingly righteous patriotism, some use religion for their own agendas. Looking for the revival of civic religion in the public sphere, she notes that Americans are once again talking, and often passionately arguing, about the role of faith in national life. Thoughtful readers are sure to be moved by the tension Bass descries and personally feels between loyalty to the nation and loyalty to the teachings of the Gospels. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Indeed, though Butler Bass bills her book as a lament, it is equally a gentle reminder that Christians are aliens in the City of Man, and that bombs falling on Iraq and Afghanistan can neither return our missing loved ones nor answer our own prayers for healing. She also offers hope that through renewed commitment to hospitality in the tradition of Jesus, we may strengthen our citizenship in the City of God.
God is speaking to us, even now whispering good news of comfort and hope. If September 11 challenged you as a Christian, Diana Butler Bass will help you to listen to God again. Buy this book now.
A meditation framed on the experience of conflict with the Washington D.C. congregation on whose pastoral staff she was serving at the time, the chapters will call to mind the works which indelibly marked the path of Christianity in the 20th century, whether theatrical, like 'Murder in the Cathedral' or 'A Man for All Seasons', confessional like Merton's letters and meditations on the American war against Vietnam; but the language is not the language of the polemic or the theatre or even autobiography, but the language of lament, of exile, even of excommunication. There is no ease in such language, and there are no simplifications in the book, which opens with the author's confession to her (Episcopal) priest that she had removed the United We Stand sign from the church entryway, because it was a call to vengeance and to a national crusade. When the priest informs her that the church belongs to the congregation, she responds that it's God's church, and from there, travels from the powerful political congregation which dedicates its faith to nation to the celebration of Easter some 20 months later in an inner city church three blocks from the White House.
Those who seek the company of the suffering servant of which the gospels speak, rather than the Nordic warrior messiah that stands at the center of the American war cult as much as he did at the heart of the German Church of the Third Reich, will find a familiar voice & a kindred heart in 'Broken We Kneel'.