Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review: Sider's Nonviolent Action

Another Brazos Bloggers review: Ronald J. Sider, Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands But Most Christians Have Never Really Tried (Brazos, 2015).

Seldom has the case for nonviolent action -- which Ronald Sider defines in his new book as "an activist confrontation with evil that respects the personhood even of the 'enemy' and therefore seeks both to end the oppression and to reconcile the oppressor through nonviolent methods" (xv) -- been made so readable. For those only vaguely aware of the victories that nonviolent actions have won, this is an excellent primer: the book's first three parts detail some of the most memorable of those victories (e.g., Gandhi vs. the British Empire; Martin Luther King, Jr., in the fight for civil rights in the US; struggles against Communist control in Poland and Germany; and the "Arab Spring"). Its last section reminds us why the word action appears so prominently in the title, for this is not only a history but a call to engagement. Sider isn't shy about noting the problems and inconsistencies that have arisen in some of the struggles above, but he is clearly and justifiably proud of the campaigns in which he himself has played a role. (Indeed, these emerge as some of the book's best chapters, from his admission of fearing for his life while intervening with Witness for Peace in Nicaragua in 1985 [47] to his involvement in the formation of Christian Peacemaker Teams [147].) His challenge to readers comes through clearly in this last section, when he calls "just- war" and pacifist Christians alike to be more consistent and courageous in their actions, not just in their beliefs. The book would have been improved by adding a concise chapter on the theology of nonviolent action (hinted at but underdeveloped on 173, 177), but even as it stands, it's a volume that cannot and must not be ignored.

No comments:

Post a Comment