Editor’s Introduction: Book Review Issue June/July 2020

[1] We begin with a book that, though 30 years old, speaks to our current situation as if it was written yesterday.  Reviewing Parker Palmer’s, The Company of Strangers: Christians and the Renewal of America’s Public Life, Stewart Herman discovers wisdom for navigating the social isolation of our pandemic era.  More broadly, he finds fruitful insights for Lutheran civic engagement in Palmer’s understanding of “public life.” This review thus introduces what will be a series of book reviews addressing the role of the church in public life and government. The ELCA is in the process of developing a social message on government and civic engagement and while that process unfolds, this Journal will publish a series of  reviews reflecting a variety of perspectives on these themes. In addition to the Quaker lens of the Palmer text, the current journal issue reviews Anna Madsen’s I Can Do No Other: The Church’s New Here We Stand Moment.  Reviewed by Mindy Makant, this book examines Luther’s Two Kingdoms in the context of justification, envisioning an “anticipatory church” that seeks to fulfill God’s vision, injecting it into the present. Future Journal issues will review additional books on the topic.

[2] Broadening the lens, Andrew Ronnevik reviews An Ecological Theology of Liberation: Salvation and Political Ecology by Daniel Castillo.  Castillo’s synthetic vision draws on Catholic theologians to creatively integrate Scripture, salvation, and liberation with political economy, creation care and spiritual practice for our current global context.

[3] Jennifer Hockenbery reviews The Alternative Luther: Lutheran Theology from the Subaltern, a collection of essays approaching Luther through the voices of those who are seldom heard.  These voices reveal Luther as a “subaltern former monk fighting to decolonize Christianity from the Roman Catholic Church” and they link his insights to the ethical imperatives of our own day. Uniquely, this collection is user-friendly even for those unfamiliar with post-colonial studies or the academic language of “subaltern,” “Anthropocene,” “heterotopia,” etc.

[4] Global and cross-cultural voices also need to be heard in the field of spirituality. They provide the foundation of Kaleidoscope: Broadening the Palette in the Art of Spiritual Direction reviewed by Bonnie Morris. While the practice of spiritual direction crosses the globe, its literature has been much narrower.  To remedy this lacuna, these essays provide history, foundations and practical guidance, all centered in the contemplative spirituality of persons of color.

Nancy Arnison

Nancy Arnison is a lawyer, theologian and nonprofit executive and serves as the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics.