From Synagogue to Church: Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities
by James Tunstead Burtchaell
Cambridge University Press, 375 pages, $59.95
In the tired debate whether the priesthood is of the esse or the bene esse of the Church James Burtchaell offers a provocative twist: the priesthood is of the esse of the Church but not of the bene esse. Most discussions of the historical origins of the Church's ministry confuse vitality with order. It is more reasonable, argues Burtchaell, after reviewing the ancient sources as well as the debates since the Reformation (fully half the book), to conclude that there were offices in the Church from early on but that the Church's spiritual power and energy were not found in those who held office but in people who “without community screening or authorization did God's work.” He draws an illuminating contemporary comparison. “Somewhere in Calcutta today there is a parish priest whose name no reader of this book will ever hear, who will make no remembered mark on the story of the Church here or there. In his parish a frail Albanian woman in a sari is a worshiping member. From our point of view it is she who counts for most there; but Mother Teresa would surely say that it is he who presides. That we never hear of him does not mean he does not exist. But that he does exist does not mean that he is the leader and she the follower. She may lead though he presides.” Wise observation that.
—Robert L. Wilken
Martyr of Brotherly Love: Father Engelmar Unzeitig and the Priests' Barracks at Dachau
by Adalbert Ludwig Balling and Reinhard Abeln
Crossroad, 117 pages, $14.95
One historian has called Dachau “the biggest monastery in the world,” for some 3,000 clergy, 2,500 of them Catholic priests, were imprisoned there during World War II. Among them was Father Engelmar Unzeitig, a young Marianhill missionary from a German-speaking family in Moravia who spent four of his six years of priestly ministry in the notorious Bavarian concentration camp. Volunteering for nursing service in the Dachau typhus ward, he contracted the disease himself and died weeks before the camp was liberated by the Allies in 1945. His cause for beatification has been introduced; one of the authors, Father Balling, is involved as vice postulator of Father Unzeitig's case. Martyr of Brotherly Love is a useful introduction to a dimension of the Nazi horror that is little known in the West. The book is neither well-organized nor well-translated, but the power of Father Engelmar's self-sacrificing love, and that of many of his fellow priest-inmates, shines through nonetheless.
The Dance with Community: The Contemporary Debate in American Political Thought
by Robert Booth Fowler
University of Kansas Press, 210 pages, $22.95
“Communitarianism” is very much in vogue, and Fowler does a masterful job of examining the different, and frequently contradictory, meanings of the term. He describes himself as a proponent of “existential community,” by which he suggests a very sober, one might say Augustinian, view of human possibilities and limits. He is sensibly suspicious of grand visions, especially those motored by a Rousseauean notion of national community based in common belief. Attend to the particular, says Fowler, nurture character, seek out opportunities for hospitality, and try to gentle the nastier aspects of human behavior (in yourself and others). The author has a strong appreciation of the importance of religion in public life, and this book can be warmly recommended as a help to sorting through the sometimes confusing talk and counter-talk about community.
If I Am Not for Myself . . . : The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews
by Ruth R. Wisse
Free Press, 225 pages, $22.95
This is that rare thing, a devastating polemic delivered with literary, and human, grace. Professor of Yiddish and English at McGill, Wisse dissects the ways in which smugly assimilated Jews mindlessly embrace liberalisms that have again and again betrayed the Jews. Jews do neither themselves nor the truth any favors by being so open-minded as to blame themselves for the hostility directed against them. In the case of Israel, says Wisse, such open-mindedness could be a sure formula for suicide.
Preferential Option: A Christian and Neoliberal Strategy for Latin America's Poor
by Amy L. Sherman
Eerdmans, 230 pages, $17.95, paper
An imaginative and convincing argument that moves the moral criterion of “preferential option for the poor” into the post-socialist era. Sherman, a contributor to this journal, has a rare gift of joining biblical imperatives to historical possibilities. Preferential Option is must reading for those who want to understand how the world's poor can be helped to help themselves.
Judaism, Human Values, and the Jewish State
by Yeshayahu Leibowitz
Harvard University Press, 291 pages, $39.95
The first book of essays to appear in English by a famous Jewish thinker who is always interesting and often infuriating. A contrary and contradictory man, Leibowitz is on the one hand a biochemist holding to a strictly scientific view of the world, and on the other hand an Orthodox Jew with a grimly anti-humanistic view of religion. While some regard Leibowitz as something of a prophet or a brilliant philosophical “gadfly,” others think he is, in the end, simply a crank (see David Singer's “The Unmodern Jew,” FT, June/July 1991).
The Blackwell Dictionary of Judaica
by Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Blackwell, 597 pages, $75 cloth, $24.95, paper.
With 7,000 entries on all aspects of Jewish life, religion, and history—none more than a paragraph in length—this reference work has more breadth than depth. But it seems to be quite solid as far as it goes, and is very handy for quick reference—a credit to the publisher, which, in recent years, has distinguished itself by producing very fine single-volume encyclopedias and dictionaries on a variety of large subjects.
Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World
by Richard J. Mouw
Intervarsity Press, 173 pages, $14.99 cloth, $8.99 paper
The president of Fuller Seminary makes a convincing case that civility is—dare we use the word?—a manly virtue. It finally comes down to knowing that we are not God even as we contend relentlessly for what we discern to be God's will. We can think of so many people who need to read this book, even as we suspect most of them think it would do us a heap of good. They're probably right.
The Unholy Ghost: Anticatholicism in the American Experience
by Mark J. Hurley
Our Sunday Visitor, 318 pages, $16.95
“Surely you exaggerate.” That's a common response when concern is raised about anti-Catholic bigotry. The great merit of this book is to bring together in one place the expressions of anti-Catholicism that are accurately described as pervasive in American life, past and present. The unusual thing about this bigotry, of course, is that it is blithely tolerated and frequently perpetrated by those who most zealously demand sensitivity toward everybody except Catholics (and, be it added, fundamentalist Protestants).
A Fragrance of Oppression: The Church and Its Persecutors
by Herbert Schlossberg
Crossway, 252 pages, $11.95 paper
One of the most remarkable and depressing features of contemporary Christianity is the indifference of most Christians to the reality of martyrdom in this century of persecution greater than any in the Church's history. The reasons for this indifference-or ignorance, which may be much the same thing-are examined by Presbyterian Schlossberg with ecumenical and historical care. He urges Christians everywhere to prepare for persecution by, among other things, reaching out to those who are being persecuted now. The book is written with a sense of immediacy tempered by theological reflection and spiritual commitment.
No Longer Exiles: The Religious New Right in American Politics
edited by Michael Cromartie
University Press of America, 155 pages, $18.95, paper
In 1992 much of the print and broadcast media abandoned all pretense to objectivity in excoriating “the religious right.” The impression given was that the American polity was threatened by an alien band of religious fanatics. Naked bigotry aside, the media bias was and is profoundly anti-democratic. Millions of Americans who are politically engaged and who make a close connection between public policy and moral judgments informed by their Christian faith are not aliens. They are a necessary, insistent, and enduring part of “We the People” from whom the legitimacy of democratic governance is derived. For reporters and other commentators on the American scene, this collection of essays is an invaluable resource. Included are some of the most respected authorities on religion and public life: George Marsden, Robert Booth Fowler, Robert Wuthnow, James Davison Hunter, Carl Henry, and George Weigel.
The American Hour
by Os Guinness
Free Press, 458 pages, $24.95
Subtitled “a time of reckoning and the once and future role of faith,” this book is an urgent call to recognize that the culture wars, so to speak, go all the way down. They go down to the deepest beliefs that Americans have held, historically and at present, as the truths that vivify their audacious social experiment. Guinness, an Englishman who has lived in the U.S. for almost a decade, has a sense of the American promise that many Americans have, perhaps irretrievably, lost. The American Hour is part political theory, part cultural analysis, and part a frankly revivalistic appeal for the rediscovery of the singularity of the American spirit. The author does not conceal his evangelical Protestant convictions, and these pages help explain why he is much in demand as a speaker among Christians who are not resigned to a never-ending stalemate between militant secularists and “the religious right.”
The Critic as Conservator: Essays in Literature, Society, and Culture
by George A. Panichas
Catholic University Press, 262 pages, $49.95
A polemic issued from the “catacombs of the modern world.” That hell-bent world, the author believes, and not without reason, is in an awful hurry to get there. Meanwhile, the few decent men remaining must cultivate the memory of what once moved our culture to aspire to greatness. Panichas is editor of the quarterly review Modern Age.
by Hahn Moo-Sook
University of California Press, 327 pages, $45 cloth, $15 paper
Subtitled “a novel of 19th century Korea,” this is an affecting story of Catholics who were persecuted and martyred in Korea, and of the apostates (“Judases”) who betrayed them to the authorities. The genre is not exactly that of the novel, being a version of p'ansori, a synthesis of novel and opera in which the narrator serves as a kind of Greek chorus commenting on the moral significance of the unfolding tale. The book is an instructive introduction for Westerners to an important chapter in the development of a vibrant Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, in Korea.
The Complete Adoption Handbook
by Kay Marshall Strom and Douglas R. Donnelly
Zondervan, 287 pages, $8.99 paper
Pretty much what the title says it is, and deserving of a note in these pages because of the growing importance of presenting alternatives to abortion. A copy definitely belongs in the libraries of parishes and other religious agencies. Millions of Americans hoping to adopt will find it highly useful, as will those who work with women with crisis pregnancies.