Fighting for Peace: Your Role in a Culture Too Comfortable with Violence by Carol Howard Merritt and Tyler Wigg-Stevenson.
What is this book about?
47% of adults say that they are less comfortable with violence than 10 years ago. In this FRAMES, the authors take a look at some very surprising research as it relates to American culture, violence, and Jesus. The first author takes a good hard look at what violence actually is (“force that hurts, damages”), how we each have a responsibility to own the violence problem (wowza, this part was good), and then explores the two myths of violence. He also provides a suggestion of overcoming violence, and (spoiler alert) it starts with us. According to the author, we have 3 options as to how to respond to violence in the world (p. 49):
- We can enjoy it, maybe even perpetrate it, letting it feed the myths of a world without God and a God without a cross and cultivating hard-heartedness at the suffering of others.
- We can turn away from it, trying to carve out a censored, perfectly safe life- ignoring the violence done on our behalf, or the subtle ways we’re complicit in it.
- We can let our hearts be broken, over and over again, wherever we find the world breaking people.
Those options might sound like our decision is a no-brainer. But when we are faced with real-life opportunities to choose a response, I think many of us may not realize what choice we’re actually making.
The second author, Carol Howard Merritt, tackles the tough topics of war, drones, gangs, segregation, guns, and domestic violence. She provides ways that we as Christ-followers can respond to these issues of violence in helpful, restorative ways. She leaves us with the idea of pursuing shalom, because we will never be able to fight for peace in our culture and our world until we fight for peace within ourselves (p. 77). Again, she gives us resources to do just that- practices of peace that will help transform our hearts.
This book does a great job of avoiding the arguments that typically comes up when we talk about violence: gun control, just war, etc. Instead, it focuses on the real, the practical, our everyday lives.
Why did I choose to review this?:
I desire to be a woman who is a peacemaker. While I used to think that meant protesting war, encouraging creative nonviolence, and not yelling at people when they cut in front of me in traffic, I now realize there is much more to it. It’s about how I speak to my children, how I parent, how I approach disagreement, what I take pleasure in. I hoped that this book would give me insight into that, as well as help me to understand American’s attitude towards violence in general.
This is the fourth FRAMES book that I have reviewed, and this is by far the most thought-provoking and surprising of what I have read. A haunting statistic has stuck with me after finishing this book:
60% of Americans (and 57% of practicing Christians) would say they have a right to defend themselves with violence, but only 11% think Jesus would agree with them.
This isn’t the only question that Christians answered this way…
44% of Americans and 47% of practicing Christians agree that acts of violence are sometimes necessary to defend freedom. only 10% of the same people said that Jesus would probably agree with them.
I’m shocked. Why is that number so low? And why are so many in our churches openly admitting that they believe something that they think that Jesus didn’t? What does that say about our cultures attitude (or understanding) of the necessity of violence? And our brother and sister’s understanding of what it means to be a Christ-follower?
Questions I’m now asking:
Okay, well, I guess I answered some of that above. But on a more personal level, I’m asking myself:
How can I cultivate shalom in my life? What areas need work? What steps can I take to be at peace (reading psalms, intentional thinking, capturing thoughts of unkindness/division, etc.)?
Where you can go to find more:
You can find more about the Barna frames here, as well as the authors, Carol Howard Merritt & Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. If you are interesting in pursuing this topic more, here are some books that I recommend:
- Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing by Emmanuel Katonglole and Chris Rice.
- Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier
- Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald Mcneill and Douglas Morrison.
Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for providing this mini book in exchange for an honest review.
**Some of the above links are affiliate links.**