A Brief Review of
Resist! Christian Dissent for the 21st Century
Michael G Long, ed.
Paperback: Orbis Books, 2008.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
Reviewed by R. Dean Hudgens.
Michael G Long, professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, is the author and editor respectively of two excellent recent books on the social thought of Billy Graham: Billy Graham and the Beloved Community (2006) and The Legacy of Billy Graham (2008). Resist! begins with a 1965 quote from Graham that “Christianity breeds patriotism.” This collection of essays, sermons, and prayers is a critical response to that statement. Long presents his opposing thesis clearly: “Christianity is resistance.” The purpose of Long’s collection is to “help ordinary US Christians reflect on the importance of developing and practicing an ethic of resistance for the twenty-first century.” The book is arranged in nineteen chapters arranged in three parts. Part One contains three opening essays which present develop the basic thesis. Long opens the book with a reflection on the means and goals of Christian resistance. Paula Cooey’s presentation “Finding Jesus in Today’s Horror” is especially significant as she argues that Jesus’ face is “other shaped” (think Levinas) and that the starting place for a contemporary Christian ethic is not the intentions of the self but the situation of the other. This is a fascinating article that merits further reflection. Jeff Bach then concludes this section with a brief history of Christian resistance in US history, which focuses on resisting violence, racism, individualism, and consumerism. Part Two (thirteen brief chapters) alternates prayers from contributors such as Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells with brief reflective essays by contributors such as Bill McKibben and Larry Rasmussen. These essays and prayers address the four foci of Bach’s essay. Part Three concludes the book with a sermon by Christine Smith sandwiched between two prayers (the benediction by Dwight Hopkins). The book as a whole argues that Christianity is not only resistance, but also the creation of the “beloved community.” This would be a fine book for devotional and retreat reading. The essay by Paula Cooey and the Christology she only briefly unfolds there, merits much further reflection and development.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com