On May 14, the day the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem and congratulated itself for advancing the peace process, the U.S.-supported Israeli military […]
Summer is coming, and for some that is atime for more relaxation, vacation trips perhaps. If it is also a time for extra reading, here are some books to consider.
Hutterites: Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of Hutterites During the Great War by Duane C.S. Stoltzfus (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, $29.95) documents the disturbing history of four pacifists imprisoned for their refusal to serve in World War I.
Stoltzfus, who is communication department chair at Goshen (Ind.) College, has done extensive research to unveil the antipacifist climate when the United States entered World War I and drafted men for the army.
While noting the courage of the Hutterite men and their suffering, he refuses to romanticize them. Among the nuggets from his research, we learn that James Madison wanted to include in the Second Amendment a provision for conscientious objection to military service.
Constantine: In Constantine Revisited: Leithart, Yoder and the Constantinian Debate, edited by John D. Roth (Pickwick Publications, 2013, $24), 11 scholars, some of them Anabaptist, respond to Peter Leithart’s book Defending Constantine (2010). The essays are gracious yet clear in countering Leithart’s arguments, point by point. The book helps us learn more about the early church and the clear change that occurred with the rule of Constantine in the fourth century A.D.
Sexuality: An important resource in the ongoing discussion of same-sex relationships is Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James V. Brownson (Eerdmans, 2013, $29).
Brownson critiques both traditionalist and revisionist readings and asks, “What is the moral vision regarding gender and sexuality that Scripture commends?”
He carefully considers the biblical understanding of patriarchy, “one flesh,” procreation and celibacy. Then he explores the “boundary language” of Romans 1:24-27, looking at the meanings of lust and desire, purity and impurity, honor and shame, and nature.
Brownson makes the point that “what is normal in Scripture is not necessarily normative.” For example, the sun going around the earth and slavery are normal in Scripture.
He uses the concept of “moral logic,” which asks not only what is commanded and prohibited in Scripture but why. This helps us translate such commands across cultures.
Finally, Brownson looks at the “seven passages” commonly understood to refer explicitly to same-sex erotic relationships.
Disabilities: Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion by Mark I. Pinsky (Alban Institute, 2012, $18) collects 64 stories of people with disabilities, their family members and their congregations.
Pinsky points out that the 2000 U.S. Census counted 54 million people with disabilities—one in six Americans—and that number has only grown since with many wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans swelling the population.
“Faith is a powerful thing,” writes Pinsky, “and children and adults with disabilities … benefit from expressing it and being part of a community of family, friends and fellow believers who share it in worship.”
The stories reveal three main barriers to full participation of people with disabilities: architecture, communication and attitude.
This is a helpful and needed resource that will help us all be more welcoming.
Gordon Houser is associate editor of The Mennonite.
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