Item description for What about Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Christian Practice of Everyday Life, The) by Robert W. Brimlow...
Overview In an argument for Christian pacifism, Brimlow confronts difficult questions such as, What about Hitler? and How can Christians not answer evil violence with "good" violence?
Publishers Description Must Christians always turn the other cheek and resist violence? Is it ever justifiable for Christians to retaliate in the face of evil? Philosopher Robert Brimlow struggles with these questions in "What about Hitler?" The author skillfully integrates meditations on scriptural passages, personal reflections on his own challenges to live nonviolently, and a hard-hitting philosophical examination of pacifism and just-war doctrine. Both Christian pacifists and defenders of just-war theory will appreciate this book. In addition, "What about Hitler?" will appeal to those interested in Christian ethics and discipleship, including students, pastors, and laity.
Citations And Professional Reviews What about Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Christian Practice of Everyday Life, The) by Robert W. Brimlow has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 06/12/2006 page 47
Christian Century - 02/20/2007 page 46
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Studio: Brazos Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.9" Width: 6" Height: 0.6" Weight: 0.6 lbs.
Release Date Oct 1, 2006
Publisher Baker Publishing Group
Series Christian Practice of Everyday Life
ISBN 1587430657 ISBN13 9781587430657
Availability 0 units.
More About Robert W. Brimlow
Robert W. Brimlow (PhD, University of Rochester) is associate professor of philosophy at St. John Fischer College in Rochester, New York.
Reviews - What do customers think about What about Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Christian Practice of Everyday Life, The)?
A written struggle Feb 13, 2008
Brimlow takes his writing very personal, and throughout the book much of his reflections or comparisons resonate from stories of his experiences. Sandwiched between each chapter, you will also find a min-chapter, or "Meditation" where he openly reflects upon passages of the Bible and difficulties that he (and many Christians, particularly pacifists) deal with.
I really enjoyed the fact that he expounded a little on Emmanuel Levinas' writings (and his concept of the Other), something I've been waiting for since reading about Levinas in an ethics class.
Not much directed at Hitler in the book, despite the title, and Brimlow explains why, he mostly focuses on the difficulties faced in the titled question, giving great consideration for writings by just war enthusiasts, and tackles them with honesty and prose.
Not a 'light' read.
Fabulous, glorious book Dec 29, 2007
Brilliant book. The reasoning is tight and solid. The "meditation" chapters, while they seem to slow down the "action", are very germane and contain things I have never thought of about many difficult Scriptural passages. Not to mention intriguing ire toward even God occasionally, and much honest confessions of confusion on the part of the author. The chapters that directly reason on the topic of pacifism are great. Brimlow shows how just war theory is self-contradictory - a great but subtle argument, and then shows how Jesus' teachings are uncompromisingly pacifistic. His actions were too, as when he told Peter to put the sword away. No one could be more innocent than Christ, and if defending the most innocent person who ever lived is not allowed, how can it be allowed for others less innocent? Brimlow then argues that, while pacifism appears ineffective, that is the short term view. Look at Jesus' pacifistic yielding to death. Just after the crucifixion, his life appeared a total failure. Yet he has influenced western culture for 2000 years more than any other individual. Brimlow's final argument is that what we are called to do is cull out violence even from our thinking, and we do this by prayer and lives dedicated to merciful acts toward those less fortunate than ourselves. A great book. A wonderful, but almost terrifying argument, full of emotion as well as logic.
Soul-searching, yet incomplete Oct 9, 2007
What Brimlow does well is demonstrate the raw honesty in the struggle to be a Christian pacifist. Reading the book left me asking, what is it that I want to believe? How do my own desires influence my position? Brimlow has the courage to say that a consistent pacifist will let the Hitlers win, and leave it to God.
We have an example of an activist Christian pacifism that worked during World War II: the village of Le Chambon, in Vichy France. (See Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed.) Yet, even it worked under the shelter of a war against Nazi Germany. Nonetheless, I don't want to deny the courage or power of a community that takes Jesus' words to turn the other cheek seriously.
The difficulty I have with Brimlow's book is that it doesn't really address the best argument for the "just war": love. I imagine a Rwandan Tutsi asking me, why did we not come and help? How can I respond with "turn the other cheek"? Does not our love for our neighbor demand that we do something about their peril? Though he only hints at it, Brimlow also undermines the use of a state's police powers to restrain evil. Yet, Paul seems to suggest that the state is ordained by God to do just that. If a non-Christian governor is allowed to restrain evil through his/her police powers, can a Christian do any less? Similarly, if a non-Christian is allowed to defend his/her people, should not a Christian do so as well? I feel as if I'm willing to be persuaded to Christian pacifism, but I still need to hear answers to these questions.
I also would quibble with Brimlow's characterization of Augustine, whose experience of evil (the fall of Rome, the seige of Hippo) was far from academic. His monumental City of God was not, in the end, a defense of a church-state alliance, but just the opposite: should the City of Man fall, the City of God continues...history is still in God's hands. That's actually very close to Brimlow's own conclusion.
I recommend this book to all those struggling with pacifism or just war theology in Christian context.
A Challenging Call to Non-Violence Mar 18, 2007
Brimlow offers an honest, insightful and challenging look at Jesus' call to Christian pacifism. He begins each chapter with a prayerful reflection on a difficult passage of scripture, and then with a personal story that highlights a specific theme he then develops in the chapter. Brimlow writes with a transparency and honesty uncommon for many writers handling this topic. I don't want to ruin too much of this book, but allow me to say that Brimlow tackles Just War theory before moving to terrorism and, of course, World War II and "the Hitler Question". Brimlow challenges our assumptions of what counts as successful and the ways in which we're called to holiness. All in all, this is a fantastic book. I *highly* recommend it.
Brave Work Nov 27, 2006
When one reads "What About Hitler?: Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World" one is immediately struck by the amount of things going on at one time in this short book. The first thing that is important to note is the sheer honesty of this work. Not a conventional "academic" book, "What About Hitler" is revelatory in nature and takes the form of several "meditations" which usually contain a quotation of a Bible passage, Brimlow's prayer on that Bible verse and an anecdote from Brimlow's life (which are not usually flattering to him). All of this reveals Brimlow's inner struggle with the broader question posed by the book's title, "What About Hitler?"
The question posed by the title is meant to confront the Christian with the ultimate test of the call to nonviolence, namely, nonviolence in the face of ultimate evil - Hitler. On his way to answering to answering this question, Brimlow tackles the doctrine of "just war." In his analysis, Brimlow finds the criteria set forth to justify a "just war" to be too flaccid and easily malleable to justify even the most immoral "unjust" war. Brimlow also finds the theologicial justifications set forth by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and other theologians as consequentialist which do nothing more than weigh the costs and benefits and advocate an "ends over means" mentality.
Brimlow also addresses Michael Walzer's contribution of the supreme emergency" as a refinement of the "just war" theory. According to Walzer, "supreme emergency" is defined by two criteria: "the imminence of the danger and the second with its nature." For a "supreme emergency" to arise, the danger of the threat must be imminent and the nature of the threat must be "immeasurably awful." If such a supreme emergency arises, moral and philosophical concerns are trumped and man must do whatever is necessary to confront this ultimate evil and the rights of neutrals, innocents and noncombatants can under the right circumstances be overridden. However, in overriding the rights of innocents in the supreme emergency, Walzer asserts, "when we override them we make no claim that they have been diminished, weakened or lost."
Brimlow finds incoherent Walzer's assertion that it can be both right and wrong to kill innocents in the case of a supreme emergency. Brimlow does not do much to rehabilitate Walzer's construction of a "supreme emergency" though one gets the impression by reading the text that Brimlow could easily do so. Indeed, one need only to analogize the "supreme emergency" as a wildfire in order to better understand Walzer's meaning. A wildfire begins in the forest consuming the trees. In order to save the rest of the forest (humanity, civilization, etc.), the firefighters (those responding to the "supreme emergency") create "firebreaks" which consist of chopping down trees to cut the fire off from the rest of the forest. By cutting down the trees (the innocents), the firefighters save the forest.
Brimlow chooses not to rehabilitate Walzer in the way I did above because doing so is inconsequential to his ultimate thesis which is, "we must live faithfully; we must be humble in our faith and truthful in what we say and do; we must repay evil with good; and we must be peacemakers. This may also mean as a result that the evildoers will kill us. Then, we shall also die" (151). Moreover, if a "supreme emergency" arises it is the result of our failure to heed the call to nonviolence; in short (and to modify a line from Billy Joel), we DID start the fire.
There is much that is troubling in this trying work not the least of which begins with the title. If, as the title suggests, we live in an evil world, one is confronted by the probability that evil will continue to triumph over good and one's efforts at living in a way that Brimlow is advocating will likely not have a positive outcome. Brimlow shows that our focus on outcomes is misplaced but in so doing also shows that the call to nonviolence is as much an article of faith as it is an intellectual belief.
Brimlow's work is searching and insightful and is relevant to the events of today. Though it seems like a bitter pill to swallow, there is also a glimmer of hope in what Brimlow has to say. Though I may not necessarily agree with everything that Brimlow writes in "What About Hitler", I hope I am the better for having read it.