Alain Epp Weaver, Sonia K. Weaver, Salt & Sign: Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine, 1949-1999. Akron, Winnipeg: Mennonite Central Committee, 1999. Pp. 150. ISBN 0-9683080-4-X Reviewed by Kathleen Kern.
John M. Janzen and Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen, Do I Still Have a Life? Voices from the Aftermath of War in Rwanda and Burundi. (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, 2000). Pp. 234. ISBN 0-938332-20-1. Publications in Anthropology, 20. Reviewed by Julie Hart.
Jeff Gundy. Rhapsody with Dark Matter. Huron, OH: Bottom Dog Press, 2000. Pp. 88. ($9.95--paperback) Reviewed by Keith Ratzlaff.
Willard M. Swartley, ed., Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies, and Peacemaking. Telford, PA: Pandora Press, 2000. Pp. 343. ($23.95 -- paperback) ISBN 0-9665021-5-9 Reviewed by John K. Sheriff.
Alain Epp Weaver, Sonia K. Weaver, Salt & Sign: Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine, 1949-1999. Akron, Winnipeg: Mennonite Central Committee, 1999. Pp. 150. ISBN 0-9683080-4-X
In 1995, I listened to a merchant in the West Bank City of Hebron rail against Christians for their heretical beliefs and their
persecution of Muslims. When he found out I was Mennonite, he immediately stopped his diatribe and said, "Ah, the
Mennonites. They are a humanity people."
This man's reaction was in a large part due to Mennonite Central Committee's work with Palestinians since 1949. Particularly in the Jerusalem area, many Palestinians who have never heard of Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists know who the Mennonites are: the Christians who helped the refugees in Jericho, the people who provide a market for Palestinian embroidery in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, who ran the schools in Beit Jala and Hebron, who helped Palestinians farmers hold on to their land and who publicized the confiscation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements.
In their book, Salt & Sign: Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine, 1949-1999, Alain Epp-Weaver and Sonia K. Weaver, currently MCC country directors in Jerusalem, describe the beginnings of MCC's involvement with Palestinian refugees who fled the fighting in 1947-48. They then chart the organization's subsequent transformation over the last 50 years into an agency that has 1) sought creative ways of doing relief and development work under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and that 2) has become an important educational source for people wishing to understand the peace and justice issues inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The major portion of the book covers MCC's work with refugees, women, students, farmers, children, the disabled and entrepreneurs. The Weavers include helpful context for their overview, by providing a historical summary of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the first chapter and how MCC's foci adapted to political changes. In the back, they provide appendices that include maps, a bibliography and a listing all the MCC volunteers since 1949.
The Weavers do a particularly good job of analyzing peace and justice issues that have forced MCC workers to re-evaluate their programs, e.g., they explore the tensions between neutrality vs. solidarity, between confronting the Israeli Occupation or working at reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
"For volunteers, the temptation always existed to succumb to the arrogant belief that they, as expatriates in the West Bank, held the key to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Epp Weavers write. "The title, 'peace development worker,' itself could be read encoding just such arrogance, giving priority in the work of peacemaking to the role of an expatriate volunteer." (p. 97) However, one comes away with the impression that the dedicated MCC volunteers of the last fifty years by and large entered their work with a humility that allowed them to adapt to changing situations and a willingness to dispose of their western pre-conceptions of "the problem."
My one minor disappointment with the book is that I had some questions about conflicts within MCC-Jerusalem that remained unanswered after I read it. There are still stories floating around within Mennonite circles and Jerusalem-area aid and development organizations about conflicts within MCC-Jerusalem that happened in the 1980's. I had hoped finally to understand what had caused the lasting feelings of bitterness I had encountered, but read instead the same vague allusions that I had already heard. MCC has demonstrated that it is able to survive even major breakdowns within teams, that in the end its goal of supporting the afflicted will survive the brokenness that volunteers bring with them when they enter MCC's service. That such people have still contributed to building God's reign in Palestine and Israel is a story of great power that all of us would benefit from hearing.
However, I also understand that MCC probably wished to spare the feelings of the people involved, and perhaps such disclosures may have detracted from the main aim of the book. Overall, Salt & Sign is an engaging summary of work that has left a positive mark in a region still suffering, after 50 years, from ongoing violence and contempt for human dignity.
Christian Peacemaker Teams
At the request of MCC, John and Reinhild Janzen traveled in 1994 to post-genocide Rwanda and Burundi. They sought to give voice to victims and perpetrators of the recent conflict. In the gathering of ethnographic accounts, they wanted to create a larger context to make sense of the deaths of nearly one million people. In addition, they hoped to analyze the fate of social institutions, ethnic polarization and the nature of post war healing. A large agenda for a four-month encounter, but one they were able to accomplish.
To understand their work, it is helpful to review the area's recent history. Although colonized by Germany, Rwanda came under the control of Belgium from 1917-1960. Belgium ruled through Tutsi kings who created repressive institutions guided by the Belgian agenda. Belgium had used the Bible to make Tutsi groups superior to Hutu groups. The Tutsi designation was applied to all with ten or more cattle; the Hutu designation to those who had less. This policy polarized preexisting social distinctions among groups who had been living as neighbors.
In 1960, Belgium decided to tilt power to the Hutu majority causing thousands of frightened Tutsis to flee the country, awaiting a safe time to return. The 1990 Arusha Accords sought to solve escalating tensions between the groups by providing dual power for Hutus and Tutsis. But in 1990, the Rwandan president, who supported the accords, was killed when his plane was shot down. Within an hour, pre-planned Tutsi mass killings began. As the killing escalated and the United Nations troops withdrew, millions of Tutsis and Hutus fled to neighboring nations, primarily Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The chaos spread quickly to Burundi with similar tensions between Hutu and Tutsi. In the years following, massacres occurred on all sides with minority Tutsis eventually winning control of Rwanda and Zaire.
The opening narrative of Bugingo, a Hutu refugee in Zaire, demonstrates common issues for many refugees. Wanting to return to family, land and work, Bugingo is certain of arrest and detention upon return to Rwanda due to his prior work in the military. Frequent letters exchanged between Bugingo and the Janzens through 1996 offer a rich personal account of the war and its aftermath on the emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being of refugees. The authors show great sensitivity to the cultural and religious traditions of those with whom they interact. They walk with Bugingo as he attempts to make sense of the history of his homeland as well as his own personal history. Through Bugingo's story, one is able to sense more deeply the genocide and refugee experience.
As the narratives continue inside Rwanda, the Janzens document stories of Hutus who protected Tutsis and Tutsis who protected Hutus as well as Hutus who killed their own people during the genocide. These important stories, left out of the news, help to shatter dangerous stereotypes of savage Africans involved in race warfare. It is clear that there were two phases to the conflict. The first involved the genocide of Tutsis following the downing of the presidential plane and the second involved the genocide of Hutu perpetrators as the Tutsi rebel army advanced from its posts outside Rwanda and eventually took over the country. The authors are careful to listen to all sides.
Further shattering common perceptions of the genocide, the authors relate the story of two Rwandan villages. In the first, the Hutu mayor had supported the genocide and led the way by publicly shooting his Tutsi neighbors. In the second, the Hutu mayor had resisted instructions to kill and calmed the people instead, going door-to-door and building on a broader historical identity that encompassed both Hutu and Tutsi.
One of the consequences of war and genocide that often goes unrecognized is the fate of social institutions. Interviews with surviving church leaders make real the destruction of the hierarchy. Often, during genocide, political, religious, academic and business elites are targeted leaving a vacuum in leadership as the society begins the process of healing. The Catholic Church lost half of its leaders to genocide. Along with this, the church lost much of its legitimacy as some priests had willingly participated in the killing.
Using drawings created by the child survivors of the war, the Janzens explore the impact of war on these young lives. The war left millions of orphans or unaccompanied children. These children must come to terms with images of their helpless parents and relatives being hacked to death before their eyes. The authors note the vital work of non-governmental organizations in providing protection for these children until relatives are located.
Following the narratives, the authors seek to understand why and how such a mass killing could occur. They share diverse voices in an attempt to understand the complexity of the situation. An important contribution comes from understanding ethnicization, a process that has occurred in many modern societies whereby all relationships come to be subsumed in an ethnic rubric. Ethnicity is often a symbol used by leaders when all other forms of legitimacy erode. In order to grab or maintain power, a leader might claim that all who are not with him are against him. A useful dividing line in this process is ethnicity and while this is often associated with race, the authors wisely make clear that the concept of "race" is no longer helpful in understanding difference due to the extensive crossbreeding of humanity.
Ethnicization is a modern phenomenon. There is a correlation between the process of ethnicization in a society and the fragility of the particular nation-state, but on a wider scale with the introduction of international human rights values since World War II and the hopes for democratic representation around the world. The formation of nation-states introduces a valuable new prize over which leaders will fight. Human rights and democracy have given self determination a new legitimacy. The Theory of Signs has given scholars a new tool for understanding how societies move from ethnic categories to heightened emotional states where groups are willing to kill neighbors and even members of their own family (where inter-marriage has occurred). Elites play the ethnic card when they wish to grab or hang onto power. They simply label a citizen with a weapon "a Hutu militiaman" and thereby justify an attack on an entire community. Elites build on historical myths that are highly self serving as they attempt to ignite old fears and divisions.
Although the Janzens offer many important elements that help the reader to understand the roots of this genocide, one coherent model would be helpful. I have found this in the work of Ervin Staub (The Roots of Evil) as he examines multiple and diverse cases of genocide over the past 50 years. He describes the first level of societal vulnerability to genocide as difficult life conditions. This might be experienced as economic recession, high levels of discrimination and crime, or as rapid social change. Staub further describes a condition of cultural conduciveness whereby societal norms permit violence to be perpetrated on the vulnerable. This often includes an authoritarian family and societal structure, little tolerance for difference and an acceptance of violent behaviors toward those perceived as enemies. Third, Staub's model describes the additional role of perception of direct threat from "the other" as instrumental in mobilizing large groups of people to a defensive posture that in the case of genocide becomes offensive. Finally, he points out that for people to kill their neighbors, they require a process of desensitization. This involves time to distance oneself from "the other", to internalize images of "the other" as less than human plus the authority and tools to carry out the killing. Many of the Janzens explanations fit well in this developmental model. Neither explanation, though, includes the role of absence of social control to discourage the massacre. It is important to note that the United Nations ordered their troops to vacate the region as conditions of genocide were escalating thus leaving thousands of unarmed civilians open to attack.
As the Janzens have experienced, genocide leaves a tangled legacy of trauma, denial, thirst for revenge, and the danger of continuing cycles of violence. Healing and justice must occur at two levels, the individual and the collective. Each requires different approaches. At the individual level, divination as a primary African mode to explain misfortune might be useful in the attempt to understand. And yet, interestingly, in the personal narratives gathered, divination was nowhere to be found. The atrocities seemed to defy this traditional interpretation. Thus, the authors conclude, people must discover how to live with the images of what has happened and to answer the question, why me? Before healing can occur, both victims and perpetrators must tell their stories, have God's presence affirmed and move toward a stronger reading of current history and God's word to confront the facts of evil in the world. The Janzens' Christian faith and understanding of context offer rich insights in this area.
At the communal level, they suggest that communities need to hold memorial services for the dead. Due to the importance of ancestors in African cultures, part of the healing from war is to reestablish memory of prewar ancestors and to put in place those who died a violent death with a proper burial. The church and other non-governmental organizations must help to maintain the political middle ground until the most traumatized can find a place for reconciliation.
Just as the church suffered major casualties during the war, so did the judiciary. A functioning and legitimate judiciary is a precondition to peace. To this end, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established by the UN in 1994 to hear cases. In addition to hearing individual cases, the Janzens emphasize that the Tribunal must convince people that impunity is not possible. The authors suggest that national reconciliation will only be possible when justice is perceived to be accomplished. It is important to note that some nations, such as South Africa, have designed a system of reconciliation that emphasizes amnesty or forgiveness following admission of guilt versus "justice" in the sense of punishment. Perhaps the authors could explore further this avenue for healing. To use "justice" as punishment to the thousands behind bars could paralyze the healing process for decades to come. Whatever the approach, the task of reconciliation is daunting.
The Janzens' task in this book is also daunting. And yet they combine the tools of good social scientists with the sensitivity of people of faith to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Rwandan and Burundian genocides, their causes, their consequences and their prospects for healing.
Jeff Gundy's beautiful and intelligent new book of poems and prose poems is first a meditation on opposites and our attempts to reconcile them: men and women, heaven and earth, yearning and consummation, red meat and veggie lasagna, road and home. The overarching tension in the book, though, is between temptation and duty, Robert Frost's dark and lovely woods and his promises to keep. "How many times," Gundy asks rhetorically late in the book, "have I made that old round through desire/and propriety" (63).
The images of desire in the first section of the book are women: strangers, friends, waitresses, young girls screaming on a playground. Even the speaker's wife in "Day with Ducks, Sun, Eyes" surprises him as an exotic other when their eyes meet unexpectedly one morning in bed. In "Rain" Gundy argues that "it's not beauty or nostalgia or even lust/that's got me, I don't know what it is,"(7) and he's right. Lust is only a side issue, not really the major theme. The women in the poems are good, natural figures--dazzling, smiling, powerful--but mostly physically removed in distance or time, more beings on which to meditate than temptresses. The real siren here is one familiar to Mennonites: the world itself. The desire of the speaker in "Smile" is "how to make the world love me" even though he knows "It will never be enough" (17).
In "Old Water" this temptation takes a feminine voice, that of the "intimate water" in a lake where the speaker is swimming alone:
You could be so free, it whispered.
Duty wins here, but it's a closely fought thing. This may not be a uniquely Mennonite struggle, but it is one that speaks clearly to us. We live in the world, these poems say, there's no going back. How, then, should we live there? The book's first, tentative answer in section one is a typically Anabaptist one. In "The Sadness of Water and Women" the answer to "what to do" is
declare survive suppose
In other words, lay low.
Half of the poems in this book are written "out there" in the world, literally on the road. The speaker is nearly always driving alone, crossing and re-crossing rivers and borders. And it's dangerous out there, too. One of the book's recurring images is the head-on collision that is "Not even temptation, just a chance/I know is there" (12). Other times the danger is something not so violent, but darker in spirit. In the book's title poem, the speaker is on the road where
A man pours beer and brags
of the tank he drove into the desert. Two million bucks.
a marriage, a country, a small town forty miles
that's loose, gliding from scenery to disaster,
It's not just me. Say what you will about the dark--
at its own pace down the long bluff, up the streets
[stanza break in the poem]
to remember where the keys are, which road I'll take
The boys are fine. Call Tuesday. Bring yourself home.(26)
One answer to the dangers of the road, then, is simply (or not so simply) to go home--to kids, wife, town, burgers on the grill. But just getting home isn't all these poems want to do. There's beauty on the road that has to be accounted for, the Kentucky hills where "desire is the woven body of the world, there in every tree, every blade of grass, every wildflower and crushed armadillo" (33). Even Fort Wayne, Indiana on a rainy night can shimmer:
And what could be a light or a whole new space blossoms out between the ground and the clouds ahead, a wide orange glow and of course it's the lights of Fort Wayne and a hundred thousand of us swirling all around on the surface of the earth, nothing so special, unless it's you.
And was I just awe-struck, was I just frozen, was I just taken, was I just awakened. Was I just heading steady, steady, steady down the road.
When the rain stops it's as though the world makes sense. When the rain stops I'm ready to quit worrying that these cars are filled with drunks and dopers, splashing through the dark.... (44)
Later in the book Gundy asks--again rhetorically--"Can you live in two worlds if you're not ashamed of either?" (77) The ultimate answer to that question, to the problem of road and home and the problem of all the poles and opposites of the book--is finally to accept that they aren't opposites, but more like rivers and roads that merge together. In "Gravity," a poem exactly in the center of this collection, the world is a grand equilibrium. Gravity, the "beautiful necessity, everything I hate and need desperately," holds the world's "radiance and grief," its darkness and dazzle, its words and flesh, its paradoxes:
What do we have but the suck of the world? Sunlight and words and the muscles and tubes of these fleshy hunks we ride like angry ghosts. Words are no more free than golden birds. The emperor is dead, and eternal. Long live gravity. Long live the whirring world. (47)
What we can do, finally, is claim the paradox and go steady, steady, steady down the road with as much joy and grace as we can muster. The questions don't go away; desire is never vanquished in these poems, but subsumed, encircled, accepted.
If the book's initial questions seem to echo those of Robert Frost, Rhapsody with Dark Matter's answers are closer to those of another poet of rural life, William Stafford. Gundy quotes Stafford in an epigraph to the book's final poem, "Landscape with Daily Life." "God is not big, he is right," says Stafford as if some imaginary questioner had phrased the question about God's power in the wrong terms. That seems the right stance toward questions and definitions for ending of this book. The world isn't evil or good, just big and tragic and beautiful all at once. Nobody writes about the Midwest and small town life with such hard-won satisfaction and lyricism as Jeff Gundy, and the final poem is one of the most beautiful in the book. This is the last half of the poem:
I'm not milkweed
The issue of Mennonites' own problems with polarity and unity, desire and duty, isn't the main thrust of Rhapsody with Dark Matter, but it's impossible in a review for a Mennonite publication to ignore one last poem--Gundy's wonderful, only half-sarcastic anthem, "The Cookie Poem" where every time the poem says "cookies," we're obviously meant to read "Mennonites." Here are the poem's first and third stanzas:
The sad cookies. The once and future cookies.
The faithful cookie of Rotterdam. the wild-eyed
This goes on for forty more lines through cookies "with issues" to "single cookies, queer cookies, cookies of color" until finally all are
God's cookies, strange sweet hapless cookies
What is there to say to that but Amen?
Violence Renounced is a collection of fourteen essays, most of which were presented at a conference on René Girard and Biblical Peace Theology held at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in June of 1994. It is the fourth volume in the Studies in Peace and Scripture Series sponsored by the Institute of Mennonite Studies, Elkhart, Indiana. According to Willard M. Swartley, the book's editor, the purpose of the essays is to ask, "Does Girard help us to understand better the role of violence in biblical literature; God's wrath; Jesus' death, sacrifice, and atonement? By engaging Girard's thought in critical dialogue with biblical texts, each of these Christian beliefs is explicated in fresh and provocative perspectives."
Swartley's introduction indicates that the first seven essays "lay a foundation for the reader to understand Girard's theories and how they interact with biblical study and basic theological doctrines, especially the atonement." The next six essays "show exegetical payoff, go beneath and beyond Girard, and elucidate, probe, and challenge various aspects of Girard's assumptions and theses." The fourteenth essay is a response to the collection contributed by René Girard. As a response, it has to come last, but it should be read first, for it is by far the most jargon-free presentation of Girardian concepts given in the collection. The assumed authority with which Swartley pronounces which essays or essayists surpass others in nearness to truth may cause one to wonder what kind of hermeneutics will inform the essays, but every essay is intriguing and eye-opening, at least for this reader. If my own experience is representative, the reading of these essays will give new understanding to such books as Deuteronomy, Joshua, Hebrews, and many of the most familiar passages in Isaiah and the Gospels.
Each essay looks at biblical texts in the context of René Girard's penetrating analysis of how human acquisitive desire leads to violence and the scapegoating of others in human culture. Girard's analysis of biblical texts is particularly attractive to those who work for justice and peace and see peacemaking as central to Jesus's teaching. I am not in a position to evaluate to what extent this collection is a contribution to knowledge or to cite its strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps the best service I can give to a potential reader of this work is to share some of the understanding I gleaned from the work, an understanding that draws freely from essays throughout the collection.
According to Girard, conflict and violence have their root in what he calls mimetic desire. That is, we imitate each other in our desires, we want what our neighbors and friends want. As soon as we pattern our desires on our neighbor's desires, we become entangled in rivalries. We want to have the best, to be the best friend, the most popular, the top of the class; we want the choice position in the company or in the church, or maybe just in the car on the way to church. Acquisitive desire caused Esau to trick his father into giving him the blessing that was rightfully his brother Jacob's. King David caused the death of Uriah the Hittite because he desired his wife Bathsheba. A few years ago we heard of the mother who tired to kill a young girl who was competing with her daughter for a position on the cheerleading squad so that she and her daughter might fulfill their desires. According to Girard, our desires are often thwarted by the very persons who are the models we imitate, for we want to replace them. Hence they become objectified as obstacles. This explains the addictive nature of the imitation of selfish desire and its potential for leading to conflict, violence, and destruction. Conflicts among individuals spread to whole communities and nations.
Comically or tragically we turn each other into obstacles, into objects that block our fulfillment of the very passions we keep inspiring in each other by imitation. "Something there is about the misfortunes of even our best friends that is not altogether displeasing" (LaRocheFoucalt). Acquisitive desire, the desire to have what selected others have or to be like them leads to a phenomenon that is as old as human civilization: scapegoating.
Girard believes that violence is a universal human characteristic and that in earlier times it was regulated by ritual sacrifices. A carefully regulated practice of ritual sacrifice is central to religions in primitive cultures. One needs only think of the sacrificial rules in the Old Testament. These ritual sacrifices played the role that governments and legal institutions play in modern society-that of preventing violence from destroying a society and restoring order in times of crisis. Girard posits that the way to resolve a mounting crisis is to arbitrarily select a victim onto whom the violence of the entire community can be projected. Of course, no one in the community sees the selection as arbitrary. This victim is the scapegoat. After the victim-seen as a threat by the entire community-has been killed, peace comes to the group. Then a surprising thing happens: the group begins to see the victim as the one who brought salvation from the crisis and saved the society from possible destruction. This has been in some cultures the way in which idolatry arises, a society first arbitrarily selects a victim to sacrifice and then they come to worship the victim of their violence. Thus they begin to see the projection of violence and its catharsis as holy or sacred and legitimate, and the institutionalization of such violent sacrifice becomes a basis for human culture.
By selecting a scapegoat, perhaps a person who is offensive to us in some physical, or social, or mental way, we transfer our hostility onto "it" and with the sacrifice or ostracism of the victim peace is restored. In any institution or government where there is a monarch, or chief administrator, or pastor, or leader, it is that person's role to manage the conflicts in the group he or she leads, to keep acquisitive desire managed by rules or procedures. If the leader can manage the conflicts that arise in the group, he or she is loved and revered. If the leader fails to solve the problems, then he or she, perhaps a pastor or academic dean, becomes the scapegoat and is sacrificed, and that restores order to the community, at least for a time.
Scapegoating is not only delusional, but contagious. All of us, at one time or another, have been scapegoaters, victimizers. Perhaps it is only when we talk to a third person or many persons about someone we are angry with or disappointed in instead of going to the person with whom we have a problem. Most scapegoaters never see through their own scapegoating. They interpret it as legitimate critique or punishment for a bona fide culprit. That is why the worst scapegoaters are oblivious to their own scapegoating.
Girard believes that what is unique about the life of Jesus and the Gospels is that Jesus revealed the scapegoating mechanism for what it is-that it is an arbitrary selection of a victim to solve conflicts that grow out of our own acquisitive desires, our desires for what others want because they want it. By being innocent, Jesus showed that the victim or scapegoat is innocent, and at the very least no different from others in guilt. The Bible and the gospels portray scapegoating in such a way that we cannot fail to see this. The writers of the gospels dramatize the scapegoating contagion that overwhelms the entire crowd at Jesus crucifixion, including even Peter who after years of close association with Jesus denies that he even knows him. They make us see the reality of this practice and its injustice.
In its essence, scapegoating is turning other persons into objects, or types or even the negation of types-jocks, homosexuals, non-Mennonites, instead of relating to them as particular subjects. My treating another as an object becomes a part of my relationship with them. I have, in such a case and by such analysis, removed myself from them and alienated them.
A Christianity that merely teaches that our natural desires are selfish and that we must adopt a selfless attitude in relation to others does not have much attraction to those who are in positions of relative power in any culture, and may not put an end to our scapegoating, may not transform the status or self conceptions of those who are real victims-in fact may lead to scapegoating ourselves. Christ modeled loving mimesis in contrast to selfish mimetic desire. Loving imitation is to desire the other's subjectivity; loving mimesis is the desire to relate to the other person simply in his or her own character as a person, not on the basis of church membership, color of skin, personal attractiveness, income, grade point average, academic degrees, or past experiences; it is to embrace and love others and the world simply because of the wonder and mystery of their existence.
If I imitate this kind of action I end up desiring not only myself, but others and potentially everything around me as a subject, as having its own irreducible being, yet in dynamic interrelation to me. This experience is to be united with others in feeling. Entering into and maintaining this dynamic relation is adopting the same unconditional love that Christ exemplified.
Any conception of the imitation of Christ or Christian love as mere self sacrifice or service to others misses out on the joy of being united with others in feeling, in intersubjective relationships. Peace as the will to love is an active, powerful concept that is able to confront injustice and to create new realities for those who are real victims in our culture. This is the lesson that Paul tries to teach in II Corinthians: "For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone: a new order has already begun. All this has been the work of God. He has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has enlisted us in this ministry of reconciliation: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer holding people's misdeeds against them, and has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation" (vs. 17- 19).
Contributors to this volume represent Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Anabaptist-Mennonite theological traditions, and they write for a broad scholarly audience with interests in biblical scholarship and theological reflection. However, as I have tried to demonstrate, the essays are accessible at some level for anyone interested in biblical studies.
John K. Sheriff