Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
Politics and Prose
By Byron Borger
December 20, 2013
Evangelical Peacemakers: Gospel Engagement in a War-Torn World edited by David P. Gushee (Wipf & Stock; 2013) $19.00.
On a crisp autumn morning in September 2012, a fascinating group of diplomats and citizen activists, missionaries and experts in interfaith dialogue, just war theorists and advocates of nonviolence, gathered for the Evangelicals for Peace Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility. As booksellers, we were thrilled to see this diverse crowd and to be a part of the event.
The short version of the longer story behind this gathering is that Rick Love, a missionary in mostly Muslim countries who learned to deeply love and desire to understand Muslims, slowly developed a great passion for peacemaking. He started Peace Catalyst International, a multidimensional organization that trains people to be Holy Spirit-driven, Biblically based agents of reconciliation.
The Summit was a long day of papers and dialogue, with sometimes dramatic interaction between those espousing a fairly hawkish global worldview based on conventional application of the just war theory, and those whose commitment to the limits and criteria of the just war theory led them to the “just peacemaking” perspective. And, of course, there were those who were principled pacifists, advocates of Biblical nonviolence.
Alongside these ethicists and politicos were great storytellers. David Shenk, a renowned Mennonite evangelist, described faith conversations with imams and even members of radical terrorist groups throughout the Muslim world. Lisa Gibson, a Christian lawyer, told of the Holy Spirit leading her to forgive the terrorists who killed her brother and hundreds of others in the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing. She spoke of a journey that led to Libya where she conversed with gathered crowds and had private meetings with imams, political leaders, and eventually got to talk to Muammar Gaddafi about Jesus. In a very moving closing address, Jim Wallis told of many times and places people of faith influenced policy and contributed to just social change.
The gathering also included professors like David Gushee, fiery activist/teachers like Lisa Sharon Harper, think tank scholars and international diplomats like Douglas M. Johnston (of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy), and peace-making preachers like Rev. Bob Roberts, who told stories of his outreach and networking among countries not likely to be open to traditional missionary work.
The papers and presentations from this Summit became the book, Evangelicals for Peace: Gospel Engagement in a War-Torn World, as beautiful and optimistic as that glorious fall day. It includes Geoff Tunnicliffe’s chapter “World Evangelical Alliance and Christ’s Call to Peacemaking,” chapters by Mark Johnson (Fellowship of Reconciliation), David Shenk (consultant with Eastern Mennonite Missions), and Douglas Johnston about how a peace witness is drawing Muslims to new considerations. Sami Awad of Holy Land Trust writes of his experience as a young peacemaker in the Middle East, while David Beasley, former Republican Governor of South Carolina and now global gadfly for the gospel, reminds us to “love people as Jesus did.”
This uncommon book combines serious scholarship and lively testimony, and under its evangelical banner are those from other faith traditions (including Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and Anabaptist) whose social ethics are rooted in the ways and teachings of Jesus Christ. Not everyone agreed with all that was said or proposed at this conference, and not everyone will agree with everything in this book. The book represents a variety of perspectives, concerns, and insights, and it captures some of the hopes of Rick Love’s Peace Catalyst.
As I commend this wonderful anthology, I’d like to suggest two quick proposals: In the first and final chapters, editor David Gushee asks “Where do we go from here” sorts of questions. I believe these questions are crucial, and we need to continue the rapprochement between just war theorists, just peacemakers, and pacifists, and to continue to bring together seasoned peace and justice activists with more traditional evangelical leadership. This book, like the conference from which it emerged, take steps to build bridges and draw upon the strengths of these different constituencies. I think CPJ readers especially will find these unique voices and dramatic chapters both informative and generative.
Secondly, the book raises the larger issue of the appropriate task of the state. Sophisticated Christian perspectives on foreign policy proposals ought to be influenced by the sort of foundational theories of statecraft and sturdy frameworks about public justice developed by the Center for Public Justice. Evangelical Peacemaking is a strong, balanced book with some expert, creative chapters. A chapter or two by CPJ partners such as Nicholas Wolterstorff, James Skillen, or Stephen Monsma, who can illuminate the neo-Calvinist perspective on the nature of the state and the rule of law within the globalized public square, would make it that much stronger.
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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”