A Review of
Love Anyway: An Invitation Beyond a World that’s Scary as Hell
Reviewed by Fred Redekop
In a world with much polarization, people do not often go over to the other side of the political divide. Jeremy Courtney and his wife Jessica were transformed in their theology and politics in exactly this way. And, as I read this new book that tells of their conversion, I do not hear animosity toward other side. They get angry at the situation and some of the players, but they are interested in helping the people affected by the Iraq War. They decide to love anyway, everybody and anybody.
Jeremy and Jessica decide that they have been called to be missionaries to Turkey. They are supported by the people of their church and community in Texas. They move to Turkey, and are just there, to be. Jeremy does not look for work, but tries to engage people in conversation, with the purpose to convert them to Christianity. These efforts are not successful, and both of them get frustrated.
They attend a seminar in western Turkey, and they are transformed or converted. They heard a message of inclusion, and that they must work to help people, and not worry about conversion of people’s souls. Courtney writes, “For the first time, I realized I was aggressive and angry, conquering and defensive, armored in self-righteousness. I was orthodox, armed to the teeth, and utterly void of what mattered most. … And then in an instant, the whole world changed.”
Soon afterward, the Courtneys moved to Iraq, a crazy part of their story. They are just going to love people. They go into one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, Fallujah, and bring in doctors to serve the children who are most at risk. It is extraordinary that they are able to make connections in the middle of a war zone between Iraqis and Americans, and anyone else who can be helped. They do this work for years, and they form an NGO to get donations and followers all over the world.
There were a few rough spots in the book, including too little chronological, geographical, and political contexts. The book does not do a good job of explaining the places that Jeremy’s group is working in, or the time frames that they were working, during the Iraq war. And, the book does not get into much of the politics either, but that perhaps is by design, because it should not matter when you are helping people.
There are two key concepts that Courtney uses in the book explain the world and his work within it. The first is: “The Way Things Are.” Before his transformation, he talked about politics and religion in America as normal. He accepted American political interventions as the right thing. He and his wife were accepting the world of war, poverty and destruction. They are transformed in their thinking what he calls a “More Beautiful World.” The Courtneys have decided to work for a better world. Theirs is a very inspiring story of faith and hope.
Fred Redekop is a storyteller for Mennonite Central Committee, a pastor at Poole Mennonite in Ontario, and a local municipal politician.
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