by E. Morris Sider and Luke Keefer, eds.
Christians who are involved in the cross-cultural communication of the faith to nonbelievers have a particular problem with war.
Evangel Publishing House, P.O. Box 189, Nappanee, IN 46550-0189, 2002, 279 pages, $14.95.
— Reviewed by Richard V. Pierard, Gordon College, Wenham, Mass.
Christians who are involved in the cross-cultural communication of the faith to nonbelievers have a particular problem with war. We are trying to save lives—that is, lead people to the redemption and hope of eternal life through faith in Christ—and because of this, war flies in the face of everything we stand for. It destroys lives and deprives people of the opportunity for redemption. Although we as evangelicals have largely accepted the view of Western culture that war is a necessary evil and the positive outcome of a “just war” against evildoers in the long run outweighs the immediate destruction of lives and damage to property that is inherent in warfare, this is not the only alternative open to us. Peace is a central theme of the New Testament and the followers of Christ are commanded to be peacemakers, not warmongers. Thus, A Peace Reader provides many useful resources to assist in carrying out the vital task of being apostles of peace and shalom.
It contains thirty-two essays and documents, most of which have been published elsewhere but often in places not easy for the average reader to locate. The readings discuss peace on a variety of levels—relations between nations and within nations, tensions within families and congregations, and the treatment of criminals, the poor, racial minorities, immigrants and other marginalized people. The discussions draw upon themes from the Scriptures, Christian theology and church history, and many suggest practical applications for peacemaking. Although a majority of the contributors are identified with historic peace churches, many are not. But all the essays are from individuals who pursue peace from a Christian perspective. The book also includes a number of first-person stories of peacemaking and some Christian reflections on the tragic events of September 11, 2001. At the end is a helpful fifteen-page bibliography on peace and peacemaking that parallels the structure of the book itself.
Particularly noteworthy are the essays by Howard Loewen and Duane Friesen that question just war theory, John Zercher’s explanation of why the American (or any other national) flag does not belong in the church sanctuary, Robert Clouse’s concise account of the peace tradition in the history of the church, and the reflections on September 11 that suggest a different response than the President’s declaration of a “war” on terror. Also included is the hard-to-find satirical essay by Mark Twain entitled “The War Prayer.”
The book can be quite useful as a resource for church study groups on contemporary issues, but individual readers will profit from it as well. It raises issues that threaten our comfort zones, but it forces us to reconsider the demands which God makes on us as believers in Christ.
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