Themes of theology and culture run throughout this issue, intersecting specifically in treatments of war, moral injury, climate justice, and faith/life formation for adults and children.
This issue begins with a focus on war. Ted Peters offers an essay inspired by Kelly Denton-Borhaug’s War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation. The ethos and institutions of war have penetrated everyday life in the United States, taking the symbols of Christianity and repurposing them for nationalistic ends. In the process, what Americans consider holy has migrated from the sacred to the secular, from the church to the state. Peters challenges public theology with the task of discerning U.S. war-culture and constructing a prophetic response. This is a wake up call.
 Is the constitution to be read narrowly, focusing on the intent of the framers, or is to be read more liberally, and if more liberally, why? Is religious freedom still worthy of special constitutional protection? When is it proper for an individual to disobey a law? If water flows through your property, do you […]
U.S. War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation by Kelly Denton-Borhaug || I have been stunned by the careful discernment offered by Kelly Denton-Borhaug in her book of 2011, U.S. War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation. When it comes to the service of the Christian church to the wider culture, this kind of theological and social analysis functions as a prophetic witness that reveals to ourselves just who we are as a people and as a nation. In what follows, I’d like to respond to Denton-Borhaug’s prophetic prompt within the framework of public theology in the United States.
Review: Care for the Sorrowing Soul: Healing Moral Injuries from Military Service and Implications for the Rest of Us
Care for the Sorrowing Soul: Healing Moral Injuries from Military Service and Implications for the Rest of Us by Duane Larson and Jeff Zust || Our longest military conflict in U.S. history is still underway. Since 9-11 more than 4 million new veterans join the ranks of millions more who have preceded them. Veterans, families and professionals increasingly recognize that some veterans return with a variety of stress-related difficulties, including symptoms of depression, insomnia, withdrawal, isolation, chronic pain, marital strife or substance abuse. Unexpected sleep disorders, sense of regret, sadness, loss of purpose and direction become confusing for the veteran, their family, and friends. Some hurting veterans hesitate to share information, and through a sense of shame or guilt, hold these memories deeply hidden. Veterans silently and secretly carry this unexplained, unremitting, increasing pain and suffering.
Review: Becoming a Christian In Christendom: Radical Discipleship and the Way of the Cross in America’s “Christian” Culture
Jason Mahn places Luther’s theology of the cross, and accounts of discipleship in writings of Lutheran theologians Soren Kierkegaard and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in dialogue with what he calls the “Anti-Constantinian” writers John Howard Yoder, and Stanley Hauerwas. In doing so he wants to help American Christians think carefully about what it means to intentionally be a Christian in what some (but not Mahn) would call a “post-Christendom” culture.
The Marvelous Mustard Seed by Amy-Jill Levine, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, and Margauz Meganck || As a parish pastor I am constantly on the lookout for resources to support faith formation for the children in my congregation. Among my favorite resources is children’s literature. Children’s literature, good children’s literature, is a powerful way to engage children. Through literature, children are able to enter into realities far different from their own, contemplate ideas they have never before considered, or sometimes see their own lives from a different point of view. Just as Jesus’ parables lingered in the ears of his listeners, children can take ideas from books and live with them for a time. The challenge is finding the right books; books that demonstrate theological integrity and biblical accuracy with a developmental sensitivity. This is a tall order so I was delighted to discover The Marvelous Mustard Seed.
The Violence of Climate Change: Lessons of Resistance from Non-Violent Activists by Kevin J. O’Brien || Kevin O’Brien’s rich and stimulating new book The Violence of Climate Change: Lessons of Resistance from Non-Violent Activists evokes the North-American Christian tradition of non-violent activism as a resource for resisting the destruction and suffering brought about by climate change. How might the commitment, courage and ingenuity of iconic non-violent activists such as John Woolman, Jane Adams, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and Cesar Chavez help us achieve climate justice? Writing in a lucid, compelling style, O’Brien directs his book mainly at concerned people of relative privilege who feel defeated by the complexity of climate change, yet realize that they are contributing to destruction and suffering by simply living their day to day lives.