Talking, but no Walking

Peace Be With You by David Carlson

David Carlson conducted more than 30 interviews with monks, nuns and other members of monastic communities around the United States, recording their thoughts and prayers in dealing with modern day terrorism. His search for answers in how they responded to 9/11 and its aftermath is the basis for his personal journey and struggle to find true peace in our time.

This book was not an easy read. I wrote more notes and scrawled more questions in the margins (well, the digital equivalent) as I read than any other book I have consumed since college. I found myself arguing on one page and on the next agreeing, which I am sure will make the author happy. I was both inspired and annoyed which makes this a tough review.

First, the inspiration. It was good to be reminded that all of humanity is loved equally by God and that, as Christians, we are commanded to love them as Christ loves them, regardless if they are terrorists or second cousins. I was also touched by the genuine love the monastic community shows in their circle of influence—whether selling jam, selling dogs or engaging visitors on their home turf. If we would all concentrate on our circle, Christ’s love would spread rapidly. Love God, love people on wheels is a grand concept.

My frustrations with the book were many but the main issue I had was the lack of instruction and real world examples of loving our enemies in a practical way. The monasteries and their occupants, much like the professor author, came across as cogs in spiritual think tanks where folks espouse the virtues of grand ideas but don’t quite get to the hard part of actually doing anything about it. I would love to have read about one of the monks who was heartbroken at the United State’s response to 9/11 and, because of this pain, was moved to action. Not dialoguing with a friendly Muslim or protesting the war (regardless of what they say, those are easy responses), but maybe moving to a Middle Eastern country, integrating themselves in the community and sitting down with the terrorists and practically working out the ideas they talked about. What does this love leading to peace look like when it is lived out on a daily basis? Alas, there was not one example of this and it would have given the book a lot more credibility if it had been included.

I, personally, do not know any Christian who hates the Muslim community (and, shockingly, I would be considered an evangelical). I do know people who live with Muslims in the Middle East (Israel, to be exact) and know first hand that Jesus is moving in their midst and changing hearts. I read about Palestinians who are Christians and know that Jesus is alive and gaining ground there as well. I also know Christians, home and abroad, who are concerned about terrorism and how to deal with it and are conflicted on how to love people who hate you and want you dead for no other reason than you don’t believe like they do. A book showing how to do that would be very helpful. A book using a giant brush to paint American Christians as blood thirsty maniacs who don’t spend any time thinking and reflecting about serious things and want all our enemies dead? Not so much.

I am glad I read this book but I am also glad to be finished with it.

BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

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