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Evangelical Peacemakers: Gospel Engagement in a War-Torn World Paperback – October 9, 2013
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''An important contribution to an increasingly vigorous dialogue on the implications for Christians of Jesus' command to love our enemies. Rigorous theology and powerful personal stories combine to create a substantial addition to evangelical peacemaking.''
--Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
''EVANGELICAL PEACEMAKERS educates and equips followers of Jesus about what it means to walk in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace in a war-torn world. With diverse perspectives from leading evangelicals, the book provides critical analysis and discussion that help direct Christian understanding and action in pursuit of global peace and justice. May this resource serve as a rallying cry for evangelicals to be increasingly engaged with peace-building efforts around the world!''
--Mae Elise Cannon, Author, Social Justice Handbook
''I have seen the principles of just peacemaking (outlined in this book) transform communities, and I have become convinced that peacemaking is the cutting edge of Christian discipleship for the twenty-first century. This book offers a thoughtful starting point for anyone willing to follow Jesus on the path of peacemaking.''
--Lynne Hybels, Advocate for Global Engagement, Willow Creek Community Church, Barrington, Illinois --Wipf and Stock Publishers
About the Author
David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, and the author/editor of fifteen books in Christian ethics. He is widely considered one of the leading moral thinkers in evangelical Christianity.
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Evangelical Peacemakers is a new volume that is representative of recent activities in this area. It came together as a result of papers presented at the Evangelicals for Peace Summit on Christian Morality and Responsibility in the Twenty-first century, which was held at Georgetown University in September of 2012. Rick Love of Peace Catalyst International was the primary moving force behind the formation of this conference. At the conclusion of the event, Love gathered the resulting collection of papers and asked David Gushee of Mercer University to edit the material into a volume. The result provides an introduction to and overview of varying approaches to peacemaking among Evangelicals, inclusive not only of center-left positions within Evangelicalism, but also those from more conservative views on the right.
Each of the chapters in this volume is brief, reflecting the origins of the material in summit presentations rather than extended written chapters originally intended for publication. The book begins with a Preface and Acknowledgements by Gushee who provides an initial context and orientation for what the reader will encounter in successive chapters.
The first four chapters address issues related to a Christian ethic and theology related to war, particularly Just War Theory and pacifist perspectives. Gushee begins this first section in Chapter 1 with a consideration of the U.S. as “a warfare state with a bloated national security apparatus and a pattern of excessive military engagements” (xi). His chapter concludes with a consideration of Evangelical involvement in foreign and military policy discussions in this context. In the second chapter Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners looks at Christ’s example and teachings in the New Testament to argue for a pacifist position brought into engagement with U.S. foreign policy. Eric Patterson of Regent University takes up the third chapter with a consideration of Just War Theory where he provides an exposition and defense of this view and then reflects on how this might be connected to contemporary events in foreign policy and international conflict. Chapter 4 concludes this first section with an offering by Glen Stassen of Fuller Seminary who introduces a just peacemaking concept as an alternative to pacifism and Just War approaches.
In the second half of this volume, eleven chapters discuss peacemaking efforts undertaken by individuals as well as organizations. In Chapter 5 Geoff Tunnicliffe describes the peacemaking work of his World Evangelical Alliance. Similarly, in Chapter 6 Mark Johnson discusses the peacemaking work of his organization, the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The seventh chapter is by Joseph Cumming of Yale University who explores his peacemaking as well as mission work with Muslims. In Chapter 8 Doug Johnston of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy argues that U.S. foreign policy must take religion seriously, particularly in the most pressing international context with Islam. David Shenk provides a discussion in Chapter 9 of the peacemaking in his Christian tradition of the Mennonites who serve in dangerous areas of conflict around the world. In Chapter 10, Lisa Gibson of the Peace and Prosperity Alliance provides an inspiring discussion of her journey of forgiveness and its relationship to peacemaking as a result of the loss of her brother in the Lockerbie terrorist bombing in 1988. Sami Awad shares his thoughts on peace and justice in the Middle East through his Holy Land Trust organization. Pastor Bob Roberts of Northwood Church describes his personal and congregational work with service, missions, and peacemaking in Asia and the Middle East. In Chapter 13 David Beasley speaks as the former governor of South Carolina about loving witness in connection with the National Prayer Breakfast. Jim Wallis of Sojourners shares examples of peacemaking around the world, and how personal relationships and networking have been helpful to this process in Chapter 14. Rick Love helps Evangelicals who emphasize evangelism consider a typology for peacemaking in Chapter 15. Finally, David Gushee completes the volume in Chapter 16 by way of critical interaction with the perspectives provided by the other contributors.
Three areas stand out as especially significant in this volume. First is the recognition of new ways of interreligious engagement among Evangelicals. In the Preface Gushee refers to this as “an emerging new approach to Christian missions and interfaith encounter” (xiii). This is echoed in Love’s perspective where he reminds us that Evangelicals have tended to emphasize evangelism at the expense of peace, and in his view “we are pioneering what it means to be evangelical peacemakers” (107). Cumming also touches on this when he says that people tend to ”think that one either works for peace or bears witness for Christ, but not both” (49). But this dichotomy may become a major problem. Cumming shares his fear that “there is a split developing between two camps” (49) of Evangelicals around the world. Although the challenge of a split exists, a more holistic approach holds great promise as peacemaking is seen as an important part of the Gospel, as well as an essential part of Christian praxis and identity.
The second area of note relates to the tension that arises in sharing differences and disagreements among competing religious traditions. Shenk discusses Christian and Muslim interactions where when evangelism backfires, “the inclination is often to simply avoid the call to witness” (61). He points to a “trust-building friendship” approach of a pastor and imam in Nigeria who feel they must “avoid theological discussions, for that would put a wedge between them” (61). Although they leave space for mutual witness, they avoid discussion of theological differences. Shenk then goes on to contrast this “gingerly approach” (62) with other forms of dialogue and peacemaking where theology and differences are more prominent. Roberts brings the much-needed stance to this context that avoids the elephant in the room and which permits for deep relationships of trust. In his chapter he argues that we must be willing to recognize that “[m]ulti-faith engagement says we have fundamental if not irreconcilable differences between our faiths…So let’s be honest, not compromise what we believe, but treat one another with respect” (89). While dialogue has tended to avoid areas of conflict in seeking common ground, the more promising way forward is found in peacemaking and religious diplomacy approaches wherein irreconcilable differences are acknowledged and discussed, but done so with civility so that authenticity and transparency provides for a transformation of religious enemies into trusted rivals.
Roberts also articulates the third area of significance in this volume in the shift in forms of interreligious engagement. He argues that there needs to be a shift “from dialogue among clerics to engagement between congregations” (90). In his view as a church leader, [t]he greatest power of a pastor is to connect and release his people to engage with people of other faiths” (90). For some time now interreligious dialogue has been pursued by way of religious adherents taking a more passive role as they watch their leaders or religious professionals engage in sophisticated forms of theological exchange. Roberts states that [t]he real power is the people” (90), and there is great untapped potential for grassroots movements if clerics and professionals empower their people to take the lead in peacemaking at congregational, mosque, temple, synagogue, and ward levels with their interreligious counterparts in their communities.
The individuals, organizations, and fledgling movement of Evangelical peacemakers/peacemaking described in this book hold great promise for Evangelicalism and the world in which they live and serve. If these activities continue we agree with Gushee that “it is fascinating to contemplate a future for evangelical Christian leaders as global diplomats (a role long played by Catholic popes), and to see the gradual institutionalization of a vision for Christian engagement that includes grassroots peacemaking and conflict resolution” (126-7). Surely this is something Christ’s disciples should work toward as they seek to be obedient not only to the Great Commission, but also to receive the blessing Christ promised to the peacemakers (Mat. 5:9).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9)
Jesus half brother, James, wrote that “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). Clearly the practice of peacemaking is an important characteristic of following Jesus. Evangelicals are committed to following Jesus’ words and actions and have historically been involved in a variety peacemaking activities.
"Evangelical Peacemakers," edited by David P. GusheeOn September 14, 2012, Georgetown University hosted the Evangelicals for Peace Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility in the Twenty-first Century. Organized by Rick Love, president of the Peace Catalyst International, the conference featured a variety of perspectives on peacemaking and we’re indebted to Cascade Books for pulling all of the essays together in Evangelical Peacemakers.
Edited by David P. Gushee, Evangelical Peacemakers features fifteen essays from a variety of perspectives from fifteen different authors. At the end of the book, the editor, Gushee, provides a critical assessment of the different essays and also summarizes well the direction that conversations about “evangelical peacemaking” should go.
Evangelical Peacemakers is a quick read (135 pages) packed with not only informative essays but with significantly different perspectives in relation to how evangelicals should think about peacemaking (or just war) as well as examples of how evangelicals are involved in the practice of peacemaking.
The book starts with four essays addressing theories related to war and peace. The first, by Gushee, starts by examining U.S. policies and, in his own words, suggests that “the U.S. has become a warfare state with a bloated national security apparatus and a pattern of excessive military engagements.” This has caused “the Christian, and not just evangelical, voice in U.S. foreign policy debates seems entirely marginalized.”
Second, Lisa Sharon Harper provides criticism on U.S. foreign policy in a post-9/11 world after a very interesting suggestion that the way of Jesus as a peacemaker during his life was via Imago Dei. Harper suggests that what caused Jesus not to retaliate was that he saw before him those who were created in the image of God. This is a fascinating essay, regardless of whether or not one holds to pacifism or just war theory.
The third essay, by Eric Patterson, makes a case for just war theory. Though there are a variety of theories related to just war, Patterson’s is attached to Augustine and Aquinas. For Patterson, justice and security issues demand some sort of acknowledgment that God uses governments to prevent and respond to injustice. Not only does Patterson draw from Augustine and Aquinas, he also points us to C.S. Lewis.
The fourth essay addressing war and peace is by Glen Stassen. The editor summarizes his essay as “an exposition of just peacemaking and describes its ten practices as both faithful to Christ’s teaching and effective in the real world.” His ten practices fall under the categories of initiatives, justice, and love. Stassen’s essay is a good reminder that peacemaking isn’t just an idealistic hope but has been a reality in Christian history. This is an excellent transition towards the rest of Evangelical Peacemaking.
The next eleven short essays are written from the perspective of organization leaders, professors, peacemakers, pastors, etc. As I stated before, the first four essays lay out theory and the next eleven chapters give those theories traction. Stand out essays, for me, were by Joseph Cumming’s on peacemaking between Christians and Muslims, Lisa Gibson’s on her journey to forgiveness and peacemaking after her family and friends were murdered in the Lockerbie bombing, and Rick Love’s six point model for evangelical peacemaking. [Full disclosure, I love what Rick Love has consistently been saying and I'm thankful for his participation in the past Society of Vineyard Scholars' meetings that I've attended. I even had a chance to sit down and talk to him for awhile at the previous conference... super cool guy.]
None of the other essays are uninteresting or extreme. In fact, upon reflection, I think all of them were interesting and thoughtful reflections for the author’s perspective on how peacemaking is possible and to be pursued.
Finally, the editor closes with the aforementioned evaluation of the previous essays. This evaluation also serves as somewhat of a summary of the enclosed essays, though there is certainly some critical assessment involved. I’m glad that this was included in Evangelical Peacemakers because it provides the needed pushback on the other three essayists in the first four chapters (excluding, of course, Gushee’s own!). To be fair, the essays written by Harper, Patterson, and Stassen were talks and not scholarly defenses of their views, Gushee raises significant issues overlooked by each. While Gushee has constructive push back on each theorist, but it’s safe to say that he proverbially “goes to war” with Patterson’s essay on just war theory. I wonder if it would have been helpful to allow Patterson, who clearly has a different perspective than the other contributors, a chance to respond to Gushee’s criticism. Some form of a rejoinder would have been interesting to this reader, that’s for sure. While Gushee raises some seriously good questions about just war theory, in my limited exposure, just war theory advocates have answers. Whether they are convincing is another issue altogether. This, of course, is a minor criticism.
Overall, Evangelical Peacemakers is an excellent introduction to peacemaking, conflict resolution, Christian and Muslim interaction, etc. The essays are written well and though they are certainly intellectual, they are not extremely technical. Therefore, I would recommend Evangelical Peacemakers to anyone interested in these subjects. It would make a great addition to discussions in theology pubs, reflective small groups, or in the libraries of anyone who is involved in peacemaking. In other words, I’d recommend Evangelical Peacemakers to everyone! It’s a great introductory resource to applying peacemaking principles.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*