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Religion and Violence [Paperback]

By Robert McAfee Brown (Author), Kaethe Kollwitz (Illustrator) & Robert McAfee Brown (Introduction by)
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Item description for Religion and Violence by Robert McAfee Brown & Kaethe Kollwitz...

Robert McAfee Brown's Religion and Violence is a comprehensive introduction to the ethical and moral questions that abound at the intersection of violence and religion. Brown discusses such important issues as nuclear war, terrorism, capital punishment, and revolution.

Publishers Description

Robert McAfee Brown's "Religion and Violence" is a comprehensive introduction to the ethical and moral questions that abound at the intersection of violence and religion. Brown discusses such important issues as nuclear war, terrorism, capital punishment, and revolution.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   148
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.08" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.39"
Weight:   0.53 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 19, 1987
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  066424078X  
ISBN13  9780664240783  

Availability  80 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 25, 2016 11:44.
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More About Robert McAfee Brown & Kaethe Kollwitz

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert McAfee Brown was a well-known theologian, writer, teacher, and social activist. He authored many books, including "The Bible Speaks to You"; "Liberation Theology: An Introductory Guide"; "Reclaiming the Bible"; "Religion and Violence"; "Theology in a New Key"; and, a novel, "Dark the Night, Wild the Sea", all published by Westminster John Knox Press.

Robert McAfee Brown lived in the state of California. Robert McAfee Brown was born in 1920 and died in 2001.

Robert McAfee Brown has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Spiritual Masters

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1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > Social Theory

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > Contemporary Issues

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Reviews - What do customers think about Religion and Violence?

Powerful reflections on pertinent topic.  Apr 3, 2006
This book, by Presbyterian theologian Robert McAfee Brown, is the result of careful listening to the voices of those who suffer from the various legacies of colonialism and imperialism. He "broadens the view" to account for how extreme poverty is itself a form of violence and notes the various paths, some violent, some non-violent, Christians take to address that form of violence. His autobiographical reflections at the outset of the book, in which he chronicles his movement back and forth between pacifist and non-pacifist views, might strike some as "flip-flopping," but I believe they point to a mind deeply attuned to the ambiguities and difficulties inherent in the subject.
General overview  Sep 9, 2005
Written during the early 1970's, Robert McAfee Brown attempts to understand structural violence and religion's role to combat such injustice. Writing to white Americans, Brown, also white, believes this population is responsible for much of the violence in the world. The author hopes to sensitize his audience to the real and hidden violence in both American and Third-World societies in order to combat complacency and establish justice.

Brown begins by clarifying and defining terms. Within the twentieth century, the usefulness and appropriateness of the word `religion' was disputed by theologians. Brown finds usefulness in this word and defines religion as "making a lasting commitment, choosing between a number of possible ultimate loyalties in a way that affects all that we are and do," (5). He suggests that traditional definitions of violence have been too restricted to physical destruction and defines violence as a "violation of personhood." With this definition, there are four ways in which violence can manifest itself: a personal overt physical assault, an institutionalized overt physical assault, personal covert violence, and institutionalized covert violence. Brown chooses to focus on the last manifestation discussing the others briefly. Indebted to Dom Helder Camara, Brown believes that violence begins with social injustice. When injustice becomes too oppressive revolt occurs, and injustice and revolt then lead to further repression. These three stages flow from each other producing a downward spiral of violence.

In order to detect violence in its most subtle forms, Brown explores the most blatant form of violence: warfare. The relationship between religion and violence can be understood by investigating the various attitudes towards warfare. The Old and New Testaments contain passages that endorse and justify warfare, and historically, Christian attitudes towards warfare have moved from pacifism to just war to holy war. Brown examines the criteria for a just war and then applies the criteria to the Vietnam War, ultimately concluding its injustice. To offer a balanced perspective on the just war theory, Brown critiques its limitations, and theorizes that, with the possibility of nuclear warfare, pacifism is the most realistic attitude towards warfare.

Turning from the most obvious example of violence, Brown next examines the reality of violence in our society. He does this through four interconnected propositions. First, because of the economic disparity between rich and poor, we live in a revolutionary situation. Those without power are unwilling to accept inequity and will not tolerate this deprivation indefinitely. Second, people can respond to this power inequity either violently or nonviolently. Violence and nonviolence then are means of response to unjust power distribution. Third, structural violence - when the structures of society itself both cause and perpetuate the violation of personhood - is at the very heart of the problem of suffering. Fourth and last, those structures that benefit our society, particularly white Americans, are generally the ones that work violence against the rest of the world. Those who enjoy the benefit of social structures are implicated in the violation of personhood of others in the world. These beneficiaries must be held accountable.

Next Brown examines the situation in the "third world," to see how their voices can contribute to a discussion on religion and violence. White Americans are involved in the misery and oppression that occurs in third world nations, and for this reason we must pay attention to their situation. In 1968, the Latin American Episcopate held a conference in Medellin, Columbia, in which the Catholic Church switched allegiance from the rich landowners to the poor and oppressed. This conference concluded that there can only be peace in Latin American countries if structures of society are truly dedicated to justice and consciously root out any forms of structural violence. Colonialism, a pervasive example of structural violence, has held Latin America in captivity to this point. Internal colonialism, power held by a tiny group of people within the nation, mixed with external neocolonialism, political and economic power held by an outside nation, combine to produce a powerful form of structural violence - of which American interests are clearly implicated. Brown offers two examples of how Latin American church leaders respond to this violence, representing the range of options available for combating unjust social structures.

Brown recognizes the uncomfortable implications of his argument, and he seeks to further investigate these implications. He concludes that a just revolution is possible, distinguishing violence that oppresses from violence that liberates. Using the criteria for a just war, Brown provides criteria that make possible a just revolution. He cautions, however, that the means to combat violent social structures in one situation are not necessarily appropriate for combating structures in other situations and circumstances. At the same time, Americans should not too quickly extrapolate lessons from South America and apply these lessons to our context. Examining structural violence at global and national levels, Brown explores options for creating social change. By viewing other countries as "developing nations," Americans effectively reinforce systems of inequity and keeps them in a dependency role. For this reason, a shift from a theology of development to a theology of liberation must take place. Brown also believes the best ways to handle structural violence abroad is to change systemic violence here in America, and he asserts there are four options in which create the possibility for change. Change can be created, first, by using the existing structures. Second, systemic change can occur through nonviolent means. Third, new structures can be created to replace unjust structures. Fourth, a violent struggle can be used to overthrow the system. He suggests, however, that "selective conscientious objection" is the best alternative to violence, one that believes in nonviolent means but allows for violent responses in extreme circumstances.

Finally, Brown discusses the ways in which a religious community can help alleviate structural violence. Accordingly, the terms we use to describe ourselves must be broadened to include our religious identity in order to be inclusive of other people. We must identify with others, and defining ourselves as Jewish, Christian, or Muslim gives us a place to stand to critique and change unjust structures. This identity acknowledges the equality of all in God's creation and elicits a higher loyalty than loyalty to nation, class, or race. Our sacred texts illuminate God's impartiality: God is a God who takes sides with the oppressed. The religious community should not be agents of conflict but agents of reconciliation and must recognize and teach that power is available through the grace of God. Finally, white churches should employ revolutionary nonviolent love in changing unjust structures, a strategy different than other churches.

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