[A little late -- I finally finished this book, which I read for my month of peace. Which was...June.]
A Persistent Peace by John Dear, S.J.
Source: Sacramento Library
Rating: 6 out of 10
Publisher: Loyola Press
Challenges: [CULTIVATE] PEACE
Synopsis (from the book description): All of us say we want peace, but only a few are willing to prove it. John Dear, SJ, has been arrested more than seventy-five times. He has spent more than a year of his life in jail. He has been mocked by an armed and angry U.S. National Guard battalion standing outside the doors to his New Mexico parish. All this because he so fervently believes in peace. A Persistent Peace, John Dear’s autobiography, invites readers to follow the decades-long journey and spiritual growth of this nationally known peace activist, and to witness his bold, decisive, often unpopular actions before government officials, military higher-ups, and even representatives of the Church.
Overall Impression: I was really into this book in the beginning — the social justice books I read have never really focused on war or pacifism, so the territory was new to me. In the last few years, I’ve had a very, very difficult time reconciling the idea of war with Jesus. There are so many nuances to the way the world works when it comes to war and peace, and we paint everything with such broad brushstrokes (how many Christians are pro-military, anti-Palestine, pro-war, anti-peace talks, etc.). And it bothers me that more Christians don’t seem to struggle with the idea of blowing the smithereens out of other people. We call it freedom or patriotism or whatever — but we’re still killing people God loves. And a lot of times, it’s not in the name of freedom — it’s in the name of oil reserves, natural resources, political alliances, money, or power. Doesn’t this bother people?
About 2/3 of my way through the book, however, I started skimming. I am not a skimmer at all, but his story began to feel repetitive as it went along. His story and his work is consistent and highly focused in one area (peace and activism), which means that 456 pages of the same thing just wears on you unless you’re 100% interested in the man himself. I wish I’d read some of his other work because I didn’t feel like it delved deeply into the why of Dear’s beliefs. I wanted him to talk more about Jesus and the reasons to choose peace activism over war. The book sort of assume you’ve read his other books, which I have not. So I would recommend reading another before tackling this one. One thing this book did do, however, is make me very interested in reading the works of other peace-makers — Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, etc.
Positives: Really got me thinking about peace and the way the US is seen around the world — and how Christians might want to think more carefully about how they perceive war.
Negatives: Repetitive and a little dry.
Other books I’ve read by John Dear, S.J.: none
Other blogger opinions:
DWD’s Reviews: “I am concerned with an autobiography that written by a Jesuit that uses mentions nuclear weapons, Dr. King and Gandhi more than Jesus Christ.”
Sister Ruth: “The book is inspiring and has a powerful message.”
Rick Malloy, S.J.: “Dear’s autobiography is a testament to what can happen when a person plunges into the fascinating challenge the gospels place before us.”