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A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World Hardcover – August 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
One of 197 nominees for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, Dear recounts his nearly 30 years of waging peace through speaking, networking, writing (25 books so far) and spearheading nonviolent demonstrations. While studying at Duke University, he decided to forsake his frat-boy ways for life as a Jesuit priest. His resolution took further shape after graduation during a transformative pilgrimage to Israel: I would go forth from the Sea of Galilee forever opposing injustice, poverty, and war. From then on, Dear was in trouble most of the time. Repeatedly jailed and often rebuked by religious superiors as he doggedly criticized U.S. policies, violated state property and told influential people how to behave, he accepted suffering as the necessary cost of following Jesus. Though his account could use more introspection, he writes moving descriptions of atrocities he personally witnessed in Iraqi and in Central American war zones, and his humane concerns are evident in his work with 9/11 survivors. Unfortunately, his righteousness will alienate readers who do not already share his beliefs. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dear is a Jesuit priest who knows the inside of a prison cell all too well, having been arrested more than 75 times—at first blush, a shocking figure for a man of peace. His remarkable memoir, however, makes sense of it all. He takes the teachings of Jesus seriously and tries to live according to Jesus’ nonviolent ideals. This has made him unpopular with the military, the police, and members of his church. Once a fraternity guy at Duke University with visions of becoming a Jackson Browne/James Taylor–like singer-songwriter, Dear changed course after reading a memoir by Robert F. Kennedy about his pursuit of justice, and meeting a devout Catholic sophomore in a seminar on the art of biography. Dear vowed to reject violence as best I might and become a Jesuit priest, thereby embarking on a journey around the world, from the Holy Land to El Salvador, from New York City to Washington, D.C., from Northern Ireland to Palestine, and finally, to New Mexico. Dear’s account of it is inspiring, moving, and thoughtful. --June Sawyers
Top customer reviews
A book to get you off your fanny and believe, "you can do it'.
It juxtaposes a dramatic, impetuous, idealistic young Jesuit priest, called to justice and peacemaking, with government officials and local Church superiors who restrain him quite unsympathetically, as he challenges the world's injustice, corruption, oppression, and cruelty.
Of daring and risk, there are plenty. Of a large canvas and dramatic encounters--with Teresa of Calcutta and Desmond Tutu; with a high Pentagon official and Federal judges; with Salvadoran Jesuit academics and Irish Mairead Corrigan; with the living God, on the edge of the Sea of Galilee as Israeli jets streak toward and over him on their way to bomb Lebanon.
He moves among prominent players on a political stage, befriending icons of media, government, and church as matter-of-factly as he befriends the poor and oppressed. He visits a Smithsonian curator who assembled an exhibit on the B-29 "Enola Gay" that bombed Hiroshima. "You have no idea," the curator says, furtively and in a whisper, "of the forces within the government opposing this exhibit, not in your wildest dreams."
A man of extraordinary strength and power, he plows through collected works of Mohandas Gandhi in half a year while organizing peace demonstrations. He is affected when homeless advocate and recovering drug addict Mitch Snyder is driven by demons of loneliness to suicide.
With candor, he writes of uncomfortable truths, violating the greatest taboo for a priest--against writing openly of life behind the black code of silence. He writes of stinging abuse by his Jesuit superior and, the night before ordination, by the bishop who ordained him; about staunch rejection by a prosperous New Mexico parish and, cruelly, by the bishop who sent him there. He writes as well of blessings and approval given him by the Jesuit Superior General and the Pope. He emerges not as a hothead, but as a man struggling to discipline himself--a Jesuit, a writer, an impulsive lover of God and the poor.
He struggles against temptations to badger opponents. He plunges into the peace movement of his time, supporting the in-your-face blood-pouring, plane-hammering "Plowshares" actions. Accepting secrecy as a tactic, he creeps with a raiding band through the forest surrounding Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina in order to damage a jet fighter. In justification he refers to Jesus's expulsion of money changers from the temple, allowing for no distinction between a temple and a Roman garrison.
I could encourage the author to engage the internal dialogues within the peace movement about ends and means, strategy and tactics. I could encourage him to give us more personal context. We know virtually nothing of his relationships with family or friends or of any exclusive affections such as those that humanize Thomas Merton and Karol Wojtyla. Yet he is by no means bloodless--deeply experiencing playfulness, pain, rejection, loneliness, and white hot anger.
These are small reservations. The book is a classic of contemporary Catholic peace and justice activism. One day I hope to read the rest of the story.
John Dear currently lives in the solitude and loneliness of the high New Mexican desert, a hermit like Thomas Merton. His renunciation and isolation stand in mysterious relief all the more stark against the context of a life of action, its perigee yet undetermined.
This book will comfort no one. It will challenge us to make the journey of "a persistent peace" our own.
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The author gives great insights into how he feels we, as Christians, should...Read more