Michael G. LONG, editor Christian Dissent for the 21st Century. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008, pp. 160. $18.00 pb. ISBN978-1-57075-800-3.
Reviewed by Nathan R. KOLLAR, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY 14618

"Resist" is a powerful word. As an interpretation of "dissent," especially with an exclamation point, it urges us to do something, to counteract and defeat some thing, person or idea. Here, the resistor's life and action can be envisioned as pushing back against the evils of our age. Indeed most of those who have contributed to Michael Long's book urge us to resist either religion, violence, consumerism, borders, eco-injustice, individualism, governing authorities, or all the powers of death. These, and anything else that undermines God's will expressed in the biblical values of peace and liberation, must be resisted! Indeed, "Christianity is resistance."

To speak with a common voice and say "no" to a specific evil is easy when compared to arriving at a communal agreement as to what is to take its place. Long, and the other contributors, are clear that theirs is not merely a collection of loud "no's" to the evils we find in U.S. society. They provide us with a "yes." They envision a "beloved community...the flourishing of peace and justice on earth, and the very presence of the ever-reconciling Spirit of Jesus." Douglas Sturm, Professor Emeritus of Religion and Political Science at Bucknell, particularizes this "yes" of community by calling it "solidarity." The essential values for solidarity are "peace, justice, loyalty." He also offers a short description of how the individualism that developed after the Middle Ages has been co-opted and restricted by corporate capitalism such that we have limited freedom and choices in employment, housing, and nourishment. He demonstrates how what we must resist are those things that are destroying our freedom. Long's quote of Martin Luther King's "beloved community" becomes Sturm's solidarity. This sense of community is the "yes" to those evils of individualism, injustice, consumerism, and other "-isms" that must be resisted. From the solidarity resultant from central values comes the ability to resist and say "no" to what destroys community both for those living in the very reconciling spirit of Jesus and those who do not recognize Jesus as Lord and servant of all.

And, perhaps, it is this sense of both the community of "yes" and the community of "no" that is the greatest challenge in a pluralistic and global society. For both the "yes" and the "no" create boundaries which are inherent to individual and communal living. It is so easy to allow resistance to become not reconciling solidarity but a narrow win-lose of ideological conflict. Some authors suggest the necessity that resistance can only be found in a reconciling community. Indeed this must be a necessary element in all resistance, for too easily my view of the evil becomes the only view and my choice of what is to replace it divisive of a common resistance movement. Many times we may forget that good and evil are found in each of us and each of our communities. Resistance, certainly, always begins at home.

Michael Long is associate professor of religious studies and peace and conflict studies at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania - founded by the Church of the Brethren, a pacifist Christian movement. He has gathered together the thoughts, prayers, and sermons of nineteen contributors to offer encouragement for engaging in dissent in today's United States. The shortest contribution is two pages; the longest, forty two. The common theme is resistance to evil. But there is such a diversity of treatment of that theme that the entire text leaves one with a sense of superficiality, quick condensation of thoughts, and dependence upon rhetorical devices to demonstrate the multifaceted dimensions of the theme. Yet that is the nature of compilations. For someone just becoming aware of the necessity of actively dissenting against the evils mentioned above this is a good, quick engagement with how to feel about resistance. For someone already engaged in the struggle it may encourage you to keep resisting.


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