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Peace Be with You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World
Thomas Nelson / 2011 / Paperback
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In the wake of the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, as tension between Christians and Muslims rises, author David Carlson seeks guidance in the modern-day deserts of monastic communities across America. Are Christianity and Islam destined to confront one other as clashing civilizations? Peace Be with You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World clearly answers "No."
Peace Be with You is the result of more than thirty interviews conducted with abbots, nuns, monks, and even a Mennonite pastor who works at a Franciscan retreat center. Hear the wisdom of these men and women in their own words as they speak with hope to a suffering world. Follow Carlson's moving and at times difficult journey to discover a new, yet ancient basis for genuine peace between Christianity and other religions, especially Islam.
"Sadly," he says, "Jesus has been drafted into this war. But Jesus as the banner-carrier of Christendom or Christian culture has, from the beginning, been unacceptable to me. Also unacceptable is the belief that Jesus gives the Coalition Forces some advantage. Jesus would neither be dressed in military khaki nor would He carry a weapon. This image, to others as well as me, is that of a false Christ."
If revenge and retaliation are the best responses that our nation could muster after 9/11, then Jesus did not have to come, live among us, and preach a radical understanding of neighbor that includes the enemy.
In the wake of the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, as tensions rise between Christians and Muslims, author and religious studies professor David Carlson seeks guidance in the modern-day deserts of monastic communities across America. Are Christianity and Islam destined to confront one other as clashing civilizations? Peace Be with You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World clearly answers No.
Peace Be With You is the result of more than thirty interviews with abbots, nuns, monks, and other seekers at monasteries and retreat centers. Carlson reveals the untapped wisdom of these men and women in their own words as they speak with hope to a suffering world. Follow the author on this personal, moving, and at times difficult journey, and discover a new yet ancient basis for genuine peace between Christianity and other religionsespecially Islam.
It is time for Christians to use their power to change the conversation, Carlson says, to ponder Jesus command to treat the stranger as our neighbor and to treat our neighbor not only as ourselves, but as God in our midst.
"As Carlson reminds us, there is another thing stirring around the world. There is a movement of extremists for love and for grace that have been singing a different song.
One of the richest, most insightful, and most instructive books I have ever read on the business of living the Christian life fully, biblically, faithfully, and non-dogmatizedly.
"A probing view of our nation's response to 9/11. This book left me convicted and informed." - Max Lucado, pastor and best-selling author
Religious studies professor Carlson investigates varieties of monastic response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and their aftermath. Looking for "A Word of Life" from religious communities devoted to prayerful reflection, he finds these communities, even if physically isolated, intensely connected to the world's troubles. Over several years, Carlson visits numerous monasteries and abbeys, interviewing monks, nuns, a Mennonite pastor, and a community's potter, who share their immediate personal reactions to the attack and their communities' response. His timely exploration, coming on the tragedy's 10th anniversary, reveals his own spiritual journey throughout this research. He uncovers a range of thoughtful, challenging perspectives relating to sectarianism, suffering, incarnation, prayer, and the relationship between Christianity, Islam, and other world religions. Thomas Merton's writings are woven into the book's conversations and reflections, especially Merton's views on the mystical Christ, which lead Carlson to reflect: "the one God is a humanity-permeated God." A powerful, insightful guide addressing highly sensitive theological issues, this book may prove accessible and helpful to many who seek to counter terrorism with faith. (Aug.) Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.
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Author: David Carlson
Located in: Franklin, Indiana
Submitted: March 29, 2011
Tell us a little about yourself. I am an Orthodox Christian who remains grateful for his evangelical upbringing. I am also a professor of religious studies at Franklin College, a liberal arts college in Indiana, where among other fields I teach Biblical studies.
What was your motivation behind this project? By 2006, I had been teaching a course on religion and violence for several years. Each year, I was adding countries to the list of those facing this problem, and, unfortunately, not removing even one country from the list. This book grew out of a need to find a spiritually hopeful way forward in this age of terror and intolerance. A second motivation was provided by three "knocks on the door," three seemingly random comments by two monks and a retreatant who all shared how 9/11 affected them and their monastic communities. It dawned on me that I was certainly not the only person who was curious about how monks and nuns view and deal with our age of terror and intolerance.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? It has not been easy for Christians in this age of terror and intolerance to make sense of Jesus' command to forgive our enemies. Forgiveness was truly the forbidden "f-word" after 9/11, and, if forgiveness is mistakenly equated with condoning or forgetting, then that concept is unacceptable. These interviews with monks and nuns, both Catholic and Orthodox, offer a new understanding of forgiveness and how its transformative power can address this age of terror and intolerance.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? The interviews making up this book changed my life and my theology. Over the course of the year when I conducted these interviews, I gained a deeper understanding of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus--and the ongoing meaning of these concepts in a time of terror and intolerance.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? Everyone wanted to talk with someone on 9/11. I wanted to talk with Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer. Despite the fact that Merton had died in 1968, I "interviewed" him by returning to his writings. I was especially inspired by his 1958 epiphany at the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets in Louisville, Kentucky. In that illuminating experience, Merton realized his deep love through Christ for all those he was passing on those busy streets. Merton's life was forever changed in those moments, and his experience of finding Christ in the strangers he was passing became the cornerstone of my own new understanding of Christ in our post-9/11 world. I would also say that all those whom I interviewed for this book inspired me. I am convinced that I was meant to listen to each of them.
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: I did not take this journey as an academic, but as a pilgrim. Christians in the early Church would go into the desert to seek a "word of life" from the Desert Fathers and Mothers. After 9/11, and as someone troubled by the rise of religiously-inspired violence, I too was looking for a "word of life." I am grateful to God that this is what I found through these interviews. I admit that it took me a bit by surprise when I learned that Muslims familiar with the book found my journey a blessing to them. But, then again, God is in the business of surprising us with His love.
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