A debut religion book calls for modern peace through a reflection of Scriptures and Christian traditions.
Reimer, the co-founder and former director of Fresno Pacific University’s Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies, analyzes the major stories found in Genesis and the New Testament Gospels through the lens of violence and peacemaking. According to the author, shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, is at the center of Abrahamic religions, even while many Jews, Christians, and Muslims since Cain’s murder of Abel have failed to live up to that guiding principle. Reimer sees aggression, including domestic abuse and genocide, as a central aspect of the human experience from Genesis through the 21st century. Most chapters begin with the juxtaposition of biblical stories of brutality with contemporary news headlines that demonstrate humanity’s embrace of bloodshed to solve disputes. While emphasizing this savage history, the book’s focus lies not on the depravity of humanity, but rather on finding guidance in Scriptures to discover pathways to peace in modern times. Though Cain killed Abel, another figure in Genesis, Jacob, eventually reconciled with his twin brother, Esau. Similarly, Joseph also made peace with his brothers, who sold him into slavery. This theme of reconciliation, even in situations where human nature would justify fierce, retributive justice, extends through the Gospels and Jesus’ blessing of the peacemakers. In this cogent book, Reimer’s tone is both scholarly and accessible. While he approaches the topic as a Christian, he respectfully includes complementary Jewish and Muslim perspectives on hostility and tranquility. As someone who grew up in the pacifist tradition of Mennonites and is affiliated with a Mennonite university, Reimer is distinctly steeped in that religion’s support of nonviolence and skepticism of organized government. In a work centered on cruelty and conflicts, there is a notable omission of a meaningful discussion, even a refutation, of the alternate Christian tradition of a “just war.” This would have led to an examination of Christians from other backgrounds who traditionally defend the use of force in certain situations.
A thoughtful, well-argued defense of the central role of peacemaking in the lives of Christians.