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A Review of
Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities
Paperback: IVP Books, 2014.
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Reviewed by James Stambaugh
I speak two dialects of Christianese. I know Episcopalian: “the priest, wearing a chasuble over his alb, is in the narthex with the thurifer and crucifer.” I also know evangelical. I once had an evangelical college professor who was famous for his two points of contact handshakes (hand and elbow) coupled with the question: “How have you made Jesus real in your life today, brother?” Another professor would preface every topic with, “The Lord has really been dealing with me today about…”
Rick Love is a rhetorical master of the evangelical dialect. As a result, his latest book, Peace Catalysts, is a superb resource for convincing evangelical Christians of the importance of peacemaking both on an interpersonal and societal level. It is a practical guide for peacemaking that is accessible to the average American churchgoer.
The things that annoy me about the book do so because I am biased as a former evangelical. His writing style is much like a mega-church sermon, with alliterating bullet points, numerous illustrations—some of them heart wrenching and transformative, others quite mundane—and an impressive amount of proof texting from testaments Old and New. But like I said, I am biased, and in all likelihood the things I think are corny are actually effective communicating tools for the audience.
The message is essential: that peacemaking is a vital practice for Christians; that God’s desires all creation to be reconciled; that Christ’s teaching and actions exemplify peacemaking and enemy-love. Love contends that “through the gospel, the church becomes an alternative society, a community where humanity’s divisions have been overcome—a foretaste of heaven’s harmony. Anything less would be a denial of the gospel and nature of the church.” (32)
Love begins with the Hebrew concept of Shalom, which he notes is “turbo-charged peace, full spectrum peace…it involves the transformation of the personal, social and structural dimensions of life. Shalom includes human flourishing in all dimensions of life.” (24) He uses this conception of Shalom to argue that Christians must pursue peace in all areas of life; that peace should be the goal in all relationships and contexts, and not merely confined to “peace with God.”
As a result of this holistic approach, Love does not shy away from “social peacemaking.” He boldly rebukes American Christians for their bigotry toward Muslims, the LGBT community, and undocumented immigrants. He proclaims the scriptural primacy of reconciliation and peacemaking as end in itself and not merely as a means for proselytizing, and he lays out practical ways to be a peacemaker in a variety of contexts and situations.
In addition to his abundant use of Scripture, he quotes Christian thinkers from a variety of traditions. It is the only book I know of that quotes both John Piper and Walter Wink, each in positive terms. He draws on the progressive exegete and theologian Walter Brueggemann, and the Reformed heavy-hitter and Gospel Coalition founder D.A. Carson. Pope Paul VI, Desmond Tutu, Brian Zahnd, and Miroslav Volf all make appearances. Employing voices from different segments of Christianity is no doubt an implicit peacemaking effort.