Seeking Cultures of Peace
ed. Fernando Enns, et al.. Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2004. 260 pages.
This compilation of essays, presented at The International Historic Peace Church (HPC) Consultation at Bienenberg Theological Seminary in June 2001, is the HPC’s contribution to the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) theological dialogue on how to build peace in its “Decade to Overcome Violence.”
The essays fall into four sections. Two essays discuss the WCC’s relation to the HPC and to questions of violence. Conrad Raiser, General Secretary of the WCC, traces the development of the WCC’s thought around peacemaking. Fernando Enns invites the WCC and the HPC to dialogue on ecclesiology and ethics, and on trinitarian approaches to Koinonia.
Three essays discuss power, peacemaking, and globalization. Neal Blough argues that the Bible’s salvation narrative is “a response to the first story of globalization” (45), the Tower of Babel. Peter Dula invites Christians to counter global capitalism by affirming the victory of Christ and inviting all into vulnerable community. Alfred Neufeld calls Christians to replace histories that “nurture a culture of violence” (80) with histories that highlight Christ’s nonviolent way.
Five essays focus on the context of reflection on the gospel of peace. Ann Riggs explicates the Quaker John Woolman’s analysis of culture, violence, and godly living. Alongside the Nicaean and Chalcedonian formulas accepted by churches that had abandoned pacifism, Denny Weaver sketches a nonviolent Christology and atonement theology. Patrick Bugu outlines how Church of the Brethren missionaries in Nigeria communicated pacifism via biblical teaching and their peaceable life. Scott Holland, reflecting on the communal violence of Kaduna, Nigeria, suggests that because “Yahweh is a warrior” (144), we might be people of peace. Alix Lozano, in war-torn Colombia, argues that the church must stand in solidarity, enliven hope, offer healing, and educate for peace.
Six essays constitute the final section, “Building Cultures of Just Peace.” Daniel Ulrich argues that since love entails reproof, Jesus’ teaching to love enemies and his confrontational actions are compatible. Moises Mayordomo shows that when Paul mediates conflicts, he cares most about right relationships, love, gratitude, and the cross. Debbie Roberts counters Eurocentric, male conflict resolution methods with Sallie McFague’s metaphoric hermeneutic that stresses relationship, inclusion, and God’s permanent presence. Elaine Bishop finds hope that fruitful, mutual understanding may emerge in the clash between Canadian aboriginal spiritual notions and western, commodity-based notions of land. Sang Gyoo Lee argues that rather than support anticommunist politics, South Korean churches must “become agents of peace and intercession” (211) for reconciliation with North Korea. Alastair McIntosh argues that community, not war, “is the soil in which peace unfolds” (215). Three appendices conclude the book.
Seeking Cultures of Peace is a first rate anthology. Unevenness appears in style and method, but every essay enriches the discussion. Some are largely anecdotal (Bugu, Holland, Lee, Lozano), while others blaze scholarly trails (Enns, Dula, Weaver, Bishop, McIntosh). Raiser’s masterful historical survey also names important issues and sets an agenda for the future. By placing Nicaea and Chalcedon in cultural context, Weaver’s hard-hitting essay challenges mainline Christianity at its foundations. McIntosh’s insight that war begins with unresolved inner conflict, and that poverty, chastity, and obedience manifest community with nature, one another, and God, respectively, is highly suggestive. Theologians, peace workers, church workers, and thoughtful laypersons will appreciate this contribution to the WCC’s quest to overcome violence.