Recent Reading: Onward, Christian Soldiers Edition
By Art Carden
Stanley Hauerwas, War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity. This wasn’t really “recent” as it was several months ago, but Hauerwas spoke at Samford last semester. Hauerwas discusses war–a key sacrament of civic religion–from a liturgical perspective and offers a bracing claim: “the church is the end of war.” His book brings into high relief the tragedy of the many instances in which the church has been the beginning of war.
Brian Zahnd, A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. There is much to like here. Zahnd chronicles his journey out of his previous life as a pastor praying war prayers in the smite-our-enemies tradition to a rejection of Christian militarism. He offers an easy-to-read, brief, and powerful plea for the church to give up its role as chaplain to the state. Here’s my main takeaway in one sentence: if we serve the Prince of Peace, why then do we make so many sacrifices to the god of war?
Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So…: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. Enns asks us to read the Bible in context: in this case, in its context as a collection of ancient documents telling the story of a people surrounded by rival gods and traditions. He argues that since a lot of modern interpreters do not recognize the context in which the Bible was written, we bring incorrect expectations to the text. I read this because of Doug Stuart’s excellent review on LibertarianChristians.com, which you should check out.
Walter Brueggeman, sabbath as resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now. Brueggeman makes a lot of very important points about rest as wise stewardship. Unfortunately, he does so badly as he spends a lot of time entertaining the incorrect “rich people are rich because they exploited poor people” theory of history.
Gregory Clark, The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility. Clark is a model scholar, and in The Son Also Rises he uses a clever empirical technique to look at the persistence of surnames at different social strata across a number of societies. He arrives at an interesting conclusion: what he calls “the law of social mobility” holds across a variety of different institutional and cultural contexts. A longer and more detailed review will appear in Regulation.