Archives For Violence


Hunting the Scriptures
for the Language of Peace

A Review of

Roots of Violence: Creating Peace through Spiritual Reconciliation
Krister Stendahl

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by Sara Olson Dean
I first encountered Krister Stendahl’s work as a seminary student about fifteen years ago. He was a theologian, a biblical scholar, and a church member; for a time, he served as the Bishop of the Church of Sweden. Stendahl is probably best known for rethinking the traditional Lutheran (and Augustinian) reading of Paul, which assumed that Paul was primarily concerned with alleviating individual guilt with the good news of justification by faith. Stendahl was confident that while this was Martin Luther’s concern, it wasn’t Paul’s. He saw something very different in Paul’s writings: a concern for how both Jews and Gentiles might be brought together into the Body of Christ. All along, his scholarship has yielded rich insight for how people of different faiths might relate to one another. I was delighted, then, to learn that a new Stendahl work was being published: Roots of Violence: Creating Peace through Spiritual Reconciliation. I anticipated that it would contain Stendahl’s trademark wit, creativity, and theological acumen. I was not disappointed.

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Can a Murderer Change His Ways?

A Feature Review of 

Writing My Wrongs:
Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison

Shaka Senghor

Hardcover: Convergent, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle  ]


Reviewed by Deborah Bloom


Is it possible for a violent murderer to change their ways and become a productive member of society? That is the question at the heart of Shaka Senghor’s engrossing New York Times bestselling memoir.

We first meet Shaka (birth name Jay) as he is growing up in an middle -class neighborhood on Detroit’s East side in the 1980s. At first Shaka is a happy child, an honor-roll student who dreams of becoming a doctor. But his life quickly unravels when Shaka runs away from home after his mother becomes more abusive after his parents’ divorce.

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This week marked the death of one of the most important social and theological thinkers of the last century, Rene Girard.

Receiving his PhD in history, Girard began his academic career by teaching French literature, and it was his work in literary theory that would guide him into the study of scripture, theology and society.

At the core of Girard’s work is the concept of mimetic theory, i.e., that our human desires take shape by imitation, by desiring things that others desire. But these desires lead us into conflict and violence because there is a scarcity of the thing desired.

In remembrance of Girard, we offer the following introductory guide to his work (which focuses particularly on his theological work).


Introduction to Mimetic Theory:

This is a great, half-hour video in which Girard lays out the basic components of his mimetic theory. It is a good place to start engaging Girard’s work, as it is clear and relatively concise…

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Video of a talk that Gary Haugen gave about his excellent new book:

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence
Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros

Hardback:  Oxford UP, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
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James Atwood - America and Its GunsClamoring for Safety and Security

A Feature Review of

America And Its Guns: A Theological Expose

James Atwood.

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Todd Edmondson.

Late last month, when reports broke of a gunman opening fire outside the Empire State Building, the news should have been more shocking. Public violence of this sort should have stunned those who heard about it on TV, the internet, or the radio. But instead, there was a normalcy to the event, an inevitability, even. It didn’t seem particularly earth-shattering or even extraordinary that someone might inflict this kind of violence on his neighbors. This was merely the latest in a series of fatal shootings that had dominated the headlines on a regular basis throughout the summer of 2012. The Dark Knight Rises. The Sikh Temple. Texas A & M. Add to this list the Virginia Tech and Fort Hood massacres and Jared Lee Loughner’s Tuscon killing spree, and it appears that in recent years, the kind of violence that shocked us when it unfolded at Columbine High School in 1999 has grown so prevalent as to seem commonplace. Mass shootings are neither a new phenomenon (according to Mother Jones, there have been 60 such incidents in the U.S. in the last thirty years) nor a wholly American one (Anders Breivik’s rampage in Norway last year was one of the deadliest such attacks ever carried out). Nevertheless, the recent spate of these killings on American soil should provoke serious reflection, beyond the normal political grandstanding and news-cycle hand-wringing that constitute the usual response. Continue Reading…


“Religious Violence
and Social Order”

A Review of
Princeton Readings in
Religion and Violence

by Mark Juergensmeyer
and Margo Kitts
Paperback: Princeton UP, 2011.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Adam Ericksen.

In their introduction to Princeton Readings in Religion and Violence, Mark Juergensmyer and Margo Kitts claim that “Violence in the name of religion, plentiful in our time, is an enduring feature of religion.” The fact that religion and violence mingle in a sacred nightmare plagues our modern mind. We are left asking: what is the relationship between religion and violence?

That’s the critical question this book brilliantly explores. The question has perplexed modern anthropologists and philosophers for the last 200 years. The answer has proved elusive as theory after theory has been promoted. Scholars continue to debate and explore that question. This relatively short (222 pages) book is a great introduction to anyone who is interested in the debate and exploration.

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“Not to Keep”
Robert Frost

They sent him back to her. The letter came
Saying… And she could have him. And before
She could be sure there was no hidden ill
Under the formal writing, he was in her sight,
Living. They gave him back to her alive—
How else? They are not known to send the dead—
And not disfigured visibly. His face?
His hands? She had to look, and ask,
“What was it, dear?” And she had given all
And still she had all—they had—they the lucky!
Wasn’t she glad now? Everything seemed won,
And all the rest for them permissible ease.
She had to ask, “What was it, dear?”

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Whose Justice, Which Radicalism?

A Brief Review of

Woody Guthrie, American Radical.
Will Kaufman.
Hardback: U. of Illinois Press, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

I’ve long been a fan of folk music, in its literal sense of being the music of the people, and in this regard, Woody Guthrie was the quintessential folk singer.  In some ways, simply being a folk musician is itself a radical act, but the new book Woody Guthrie, American Radical by Will Kaufman explores in great detail the radical aspects of Woody Guthrie’s life and songwriting. I’ve read other biographies of Guthrie, but probably still harbored some false conceptions about him that were deflated over the course of reading Kaufman’s book.  It’s easy, I suppose, to misconstrue the folk singer who is renowned for writing such songs as “This land is your land,” as the peace-loving hippy sort of radical who wants little more than for everyone to get along and to live in harmony with each other and with nature.  Granted, many of the next generation of folk singers after Guthrie, who interpreted and popularized many of his songs were indeed this kind of radical.

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“Probing the Depths of Our Cruelty

A review of
Less than Human:

Why we Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others.
by David Livingstone Smith.

Review by Eric Judge.

LESS THAN HUMAN - David Livingstone SmithLess than Human:
Why we Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others.
David Livingstone Smith.
Hardback: St. Martins, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Have you ever wondered if you could kill another person? In the right circumstances I always thought that I probably could. I assumed that my act of violence would be in defense of the life of someone that I loved, something heroic. However, David Livingston Smith’s new book Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others invites readers to look inside their own minds to examine the ways in which humans think their way into violence that is much less than heroic.  Once on a high school sports trip, I overheard my coach and another adult discussing child molesters. One of them suggested that someone who sexually abuses a child should be taken out back and shot in the head. I felt he suggested this solution not only because of the heinous nature of the crime but because of the perverted nature of the offender.  It was assumed that a child molester is a different kind of person than the rest of us and therefore needed to be put down, as you would a rabid dog.  I can not remember what, if any, names were used to describe this hypothetical child molester, but it left me with the distinct impression this person was an animal. This memory connects quite vividly to the concept of dehumanization that Smith seeks to understand and elucidate in this well written, challenging, and accessible book.

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Forging Communities of Virtue

A review of
The Amish Project.
A Play By Jessica Dickey.

Reviewed by
Chris Smith.

The Amish Project.
A Play By Jessica Dickey.
Paperback: Samuel French, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

[ Watch an interview with the playwright about this play… ]

The Amish Project - Jessica DickeyI was born with a little bit of Amish blood in my ancestry and over the years, I have been fortunate to have had interactions with Amish communities in five different states. Although I have some significant theological differences with the Amish, I deeply respect their communities and think that modern Western culture can learn much from their way of life.  I was intrigued therefore to hear that Jessica Dickey had penned a new play – her debut as a playwright – that reflects on Amish culture and specifically the tragedy of the Nickel Mines shooting.  We typically don’t review plays here in The Englewood Review of Books, as plays are best reviewed in their performance, not simply in the reading of the text, but I did want to draw attention to this new work, The Amish Project.  Dickey’s play, a one-woman show that debuted off-Broadway in New York at the Rattlestick Theatre with Dickey herself in the acting role, offers a poignant exploration of the Nickel Mines shooting – through the eyes and ears of a cast of seven fictional characters.  Dickey’s writing has rich, poetic qualities throughout, spare and exquisite *. Continue Reading…