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Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Resources for Reconciliation) Paperback – October 28, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The questions raised and the reflections offered on those questions are indispensible for anyone living with, working with, or reflecting on those with mental disabilities." (David C. Cramer, Ethics & Medicine, Summer 2010)

"This collection of essays offers a compelling and much-needed challenge to the Church and its members to be a counter-cultural community of people who embrace one another as gifts from God that must be cared for with patience, hospitality, and joy." (Anna Katherine Shurley, Koinonia,)

Like the L'Arche communities, this book calls us to a humanism that is tender, patient and present. Its humanism is rooted in the incarnation, for "the Word became flesh to bring people together" (Vanier), and is lived in the church, which proclaims a "politics of gentleness" (Hauerwas). (The Christian Century, December 15, 2009)

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas and L'Arche founder Jean Vanier discuss how these caring communities for persons with disabilities can teach the churcha bout peace and acceptance. Full of personal experiences, this easy read makes profound observations about acceptance of suffering and disability, the important of relationship over power, and the slow daily work of creating peace in everyday life. (KB, Mennonite Brethren Herald, October 2009)

The world couls use some more dialogue on peace, and these two are happy to lead the way. (Jacob Sahms, The Journal of Student Ministries, May/June 2009)

"This little book did not disappoint, offering a brief but compelling argument for the place of weakness in the life of the Church. An important book for our churches to read and reflect upon." (Chris Smith, The Englewood Review of Books (erb.kingdomnow.org), 2, no. 1)

"Agree or disagree, almost every page of this little book is beautifully and thrillingly provocative." (Eric, Between the Trees (wordsfromtheway.com), December 15, 2008)

"Hauerwas and Vanier insist on the holiness of people with disabilities. . . . the political implications of gentleness in the last chapter is worth the entire book." (Publishers Weekly starred review, October 13, 2008)

"Church takes time, patience, gentleness, vulnerability, friendship, hospitality, mutuality and peaceableness. In other words, church takes practice--this is the prophetic witness of the L'Arche communities not to the world, but to the church! And this prophetic witness is carried in this book by the gentle voice of Jean Vanier, the polemical one of Stanley Hauerwas, and the wise introduction and conclusion from John Swinton. Here is the prophetic edge that is even at the vanguard of the emerging church!" (Amos Yong, professor of systematic theology, Regent University School of Divinity, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and author of Theology and Down Syndrome)

From the Publisher

For more information, visit Duke Divinity School's Center for Reconciliation.

To learn more about Jean Vanier's work with the disabled community, visit L'Arche.

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Product Details

  • Series: Resources for Reconciliation
  • Paperback: 117 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830834524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830834525
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric N. Tonjes on December 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I was intrigued when I got a copy of Living Genly in a Violent World. I had heard of Jean Vanier's work in founding the L'Arche communities, in which individuals with mental disabilities live together in community with those who don't have such challenges. Stanley Hauerwas, meanwhile, has long been a literary and theological conversation partner for me, and while there are many areas about which I would disagree with him, he is reliable in his ability to challenge the way I think. This book, part of the Resources for Reconciliation series put out by InterVarsity Press and Duke Divinity School's Center for Reconciliation, was an intriguing read.

The book is formatted as a set of four essays, two by Jean Vanier and two by Stanley Hauerwas. In some ways, it almost feels like two books with a shared theme: Vanier spends his chapters reflecting upon life among the mentally disabled and how it should shape us, while Hauerwas uses the example of L'Arche as a launching pad for a larger argument about rest, servant-leadership, gentleness and peace theology.

The essays are all relatively short, with the book weighing in at around 100 pages. Those looking for a systematic argument for the views it espouses will be disappointed. Indeed, there were many times when I found both authors making side comments and following rabbit trails which seemed to have little bearing on the overall discussion. Add to this the fact that I'm sure many (including myself) will find ample cause for theological disagreement with some of the authors' underlying ideas, and many would probably dismiss the work as rubbish.

However, I cannot do so because of one simple fact: agree or disagree, almost every page of this little book is beautifully and thrillingly provocative.
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I originally bought this book thinking it would be simply a Hauerwas book. I was surprised to see that it was more of an exchange or conversation between Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche Communities. The book is brief, easy to read, and compelling in multiple ways.

I actually found Vanier's sections more compelling and moving spiritually than Hauerwas' - though I appreciated what Hauerwas had to say. Vanier's communities emphasize great humility and gentleness of a sort that is unique in the world - a humility that comes from weakness. He seeks to treat those who we see as "handicapped" as equals. His is not a condescending love; but it is a love that says, "you are as important as I am and I have weaknesses just as you do." It is a radical departure from the conservative who tends to ignore the downtrodden and the liberal who tends to condescend toward others in telling them what's good for them.

This kind of love is actually very much in tune with the love of Christ and his disciples in the NT. Hauerwas sees lessons to be learned by "the church" from Vanier and vice-versa. Vanier's communities are a great model for the way churches should be - and this is a vital point. He gives great emphasis to weakness and humility as well as to the critical import of shared meals and laughter - without pretense (all central NT concepts that are often missing in churches). One gets a sense that though there are great struggles and often a lot of pain in his communities, there is also great love, family acceptance and joy - isn't that a great model for a congregation?
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Format: Paperback
The four essays in this gem of a little book originated at a conference sponsored by the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability at the University of Aberdeen in 2006. The book's publication represents a collaboration between InterVarsity Press and the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School that pairs leading thinkers with practitioners to explore what hope means in a world of brokenness. Hauerwas (b. 1940) is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School with a joint appointment at the Duke University School of Law. Vanier (b. 1928) is the founder of L'Arche, "an international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities experience life together as fellow human beings who share a mutuality of care and need. Today over 130 L'Arche communities exist in 34 countries on six continents."

Vanier and Hauerwas take turns writing the alternate chapters of the book. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that "those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (1 Corinthians 12:22). That sort of thinking subverts what society considers "normal" and challenges the labels, stereotypes, caricatures and false assumptions that we make about people who are weak in body, mind, or spirit. Vanier's stories relate how L'Arche emphasizes "living with" instead of "doing for" or trying to "fix" the disabled. The goal is not a solution to a problem but a sign of hope, of the possibility to love each other. Care, not a cure, is the invitation that the weak offer us. To live and think this way signals the end of all social meritocracy, and the upending of the "pyramid of hierarchy" that so many of us seek to climb. And so, Vanier says, "I'm not interested in doing a good job. I am interested in an ecclesial vision for community. We are brothers and sisters, and Jesus is calling us from the pyramid to become a body."
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