Reviews - What do customers think about Making All Things Human: A Church in East Harlem?
a good prophetic book Jun 5, 2007
"Making all Things Human is the narration of the experiences of a new pastor, in an old church, among ancient problems. The author is a writer, social activist, educator, administrator and minister of the gospel. Matt Schudel says about him, "of all the sermons Mel Schoonover has preached, none is more inspiring than the story of his own life". The book's theme could be expressed as: "The role of Chambers Church in the East Harlem's social crisis during the leadership of the Reverend Melvin E. Schoonover". In general words, I can say that it deals with two main dilemmas: First, the social troubles in the East Harlem neighborhood and the efforts of a specific Christian congregation to help the people resolve them in a human manner. The author gives several names like Alice Kornegay, David Spencer and Ivy ("Doon") Cockerham, among others. So the work, even involving Schoonover's actions, is the story of a team.
The second is the problem of white Christianity pertaining to the first situations. In the preface's word, William Stringfellow declares about the problem that the author will confront: the pathological condition of the white Christendom. Dr. Schoonover in chapter seven says, "`Reverend Anybody,' especially if he is white, gets far more attention than `Mr. Nobody'". In some ways he criticized the condition of the "white Church" and in other ways, he uses his racial and clerical status for a better advance in the negotiation between the Triangle and Social Institutions. So, as a minister, one of his biggest jobs was to use his professional standing to open doors for the community.
As a critical point of view from my perspective, I perceive only one observation. The Church seems to not be attending the eternal need of the community as a priority. Perhaps because of the silence of the book about more "spiritual" care of the people in East Harlem, I'm not sure if the Chambers Church had attended priorities like salvation of the lost. On more than one occasion, Dr. Schoonover alluded that some person solicited the membership with their Church, but really there wasn't a strong focus on these needs (maybe because this is not the book's focus). Social issues is one of the needs to reach for the Church, but it is not and should not be "The Job" of a Christian Church.
On the other hand, from a practical theological perspective, I can observe some position of the author in several sentences. For instance, he believed in a socially active Church, saying that "a responsible church cannot cry `peace, peace' when, by all the weight of evidence, there is `no peace'." To the ministerial practice "Making all Things Human" is a relevant source of inspiration. It shows how to apply pacific strategies of resistance confronting the social injustice. Even more important, how could the Christian Church participate in the human misery around its four walls. The Reverend Schoonover's recounting reminds me of biblical prophets like Isaiah or Micah when they were denouncing social injustices in the political, judicial, and clerical groups. Even though this work is not the unique way of achieving social justice, from the Church perspective, it is an alternative. Schoonover jumped from the theoretical field of the thinkers to the ministerial practice among the thirty, hungry and forgotten (or intentionally ignored) people of East Harlem. From this perspective, his writings are more than just grammar; it is the author's life. For the Reverend Schoonover, helping those in unjustified social conditions was not only an alternative but the unique way of being a human and a Christian servant.
Men do not by nature enjoy the life of sonship. The church, by all means, must be free of racism and be a harmonious model among the races, fulfilling the multiracial dream. The racial issue is throughout the whole book and specifically in the final chapter when the author confesses openly several ideas and feelings about it. Respecting the racism in the church he says, "... I feel that racial exclusivism in the church, whether that church is black or white, is apostasy." Near the end of his ministry in East Harlem his morale was lower and he admitted, "My illusions are fewer than eight years ago...". I think that especially these word are challenging, in the sense that there are brutally realistic and at the same time encouraging. Realistic because maybe the final "product" of the ministry will be not what a person was expecting when he or she started serving the Lord, but encouraging because even when a life couldn't change the world, it could help the lives of some neighbors to be better citizens, friends, parents, relatives, believers and human beings. If the ministry is hard, the isolation, egoism and human indifference are worse. Are there dissatisfactions in the ministry? Yes. Even though, the occasional frustrations of the ministry are eclipsed by the continual blessings of God in serving Him. When you do your job, God does His. A person can help to humanize humankind". (Book Review by Sergio A. Ramos)