PEACE IS POSSIBLE: The Politics of the Sermon on the Mount by Franz Alt

PEACE IS POSSIBLE: The Politics of the Sermon on the Mount

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An impassioned, disjointed, occasionally powerful plea for Christians to take the Gospel literally and end the arms race. Alt is a German TV reporter-editor, a former Cold Warrior turned pacifist (or close to it). His argument is simplicity itself: ""Human beings should do only one thing: preserve themselves in all modesty. If we fall to carry out this task, we shall have only everlasting darkness."" His statistics are few but telling: East and West together now have enough bombs to annihilate Hiroshima 1.6 million times over; there are 60 tons of explosives for every person in the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries; the USA and USSR have at least 2,000 percent of the firepower needed to wipe each other out, etc. A familiar picture, of course; but Alt's German perspective--the Bundes-republick as a sitting duck for Pershing IIs and SS-20s--gives a special urgency to his case. Beyond that, Germany is a much more explicitly Christian country than America (e.g., religious instruction is state-supported), and so Alt's attempt to shame churchgoing politicians into examening their pro-nuke positions is slightly more plausible than it would be in the US, where religion is more privatized and pluralized. Finally, Alt can make effective use of the Nazi years to raise an issue that cuts very little ice in America: national guilt. The key to Alt's program is a unilateral nuclear freeze (not unilateral disarmament), which he, no doubt naively, thinks most Americans would back. As far as the Sermon on the Mount goes, Alt's direct, artless exposition is fair enough. But he nearly ignores the gulf that has always separated idealistic Christians from their pragmatic (hypocritical?) fellow-believers, in and out of office, for whom Matthew 5-7 is just a lofty utopian fantasy. Still, Alt may change a few minds, and American peace movement supporters will find him an encouraging fraternal voice.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1985
Publisher: Schocken