Evangelical Peacemakers: Gospel engagement in a war-torn world. Gushee, D. (ed). Eugene, OR. Wipf & Stock. 2013. 150pp. £12. Pb[/vc_column_text] [tt_space height=”8px” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”] [vc_separator width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”] [vc_column_text width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]
This volume, edited by Dr David Gushee, Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Mercer University in Georgia, USA, is a collection of papers presented at the ‘Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility in the Twenty-first Century’ sponsored by Evangelicals for Peace and held at Georgetown University on September 14, 2012. It is indicative of a renewed interest in peacemaking amongst evangelical Christians especially in the USA and has particular relevance to Christian-Muslim relations.
Dr Richard McCallum
Fellow, Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies
Pacifism and peacemaking have historically been associated with ‘peace churches’ such as the Quakers, Mennonites and Christian Brethren. The engagement of large numbers of evangelicals in ‘just peacemaking’ – especially in the Muslim context – is a relatively new phenomenon in the post-9/11 period. This volume provides an excellent introduction to some of the important voices and initiatives which are emerging. However, it also highlights a general lack of thoughtful political theology on the part of many evangelical churches and Christians. How should the church and individual Christians relate to the state? How should a political leader who is a practising Christian behave in office? What is a proper response to violence particularly in the form of religious terrorism? These are questions which the whole church needs to wrestle with afresh.
There are an increasing number of books on such topics written from many different perspectives. One recent book from a Christian scholar defending the just war tradition is Nigel Biggar’s In defence of War.
Evangelical Peacemakers would benefit from hearing other evangelical voices. How would those who tend to demonise Islam and see it as a significant threat respond to the authors? Perhaps such a dialogue needs to take place at a future summit with serious theological and academic reflection on both sides. It would also be interesting to hear the responses of Muslims to such evangelical initiatives, outside of the heartening anecdotes recounted. Recent books on Islam and nonviolence by Muslim authors include Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam, Islam and Non-violence (x2) and Unity in Diversity.
Whilst there is much to learn from these mainly American contributions, if there is to be a widespread engagement of evangelicals in peacemaking with Muslims, then other voices need to be heard…
Furthermore it would be good to see the discussion extend outside of the American context. The USA has a particular religious makeup and evangelicalism there has tended to be extremely patriotic and supportive of government foreign policy. Whilst there is much to learn from these mainly American contributions, if there is to be a widespread engagement of evangelicals in peacemaking with Muslims, then other voices need to be heard – especially from the non-western world (with Sami Awad’s paper being an excellent example) where such initiatives often carry a higher price tag and have greater consequences as the sobering story of Shabhaz Bhatti demonstrates.
For most readers, however, the challenge of this book will be ‘what does the Lord require of me?’ If we are to ‘act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly’with our God (Micah 6:8), then what role does ‘just peacemaking’ play both for Christians approaching Muslims and for Muslims approaching Christians? How should we as individuals, churches, mosques and organizations respond?