Light in the Shadow of Jihad

Although our bookstore has long been known for a diverse selection of mission titles and other books for living faithfully in the global community, the terrorist atrocities of September 11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan have heightened interest in books about world religions, global awareness, the so-called "clash of civilizations," and biblically-guided approaches to international peacemaking. We have been interviewed by the local newspaper and have had many opportunities to talk about our favorite books on being a "world Christian" who is sensitive to cross cultural concerns. CCO staff will recall that within weeks of the attack, I pulled together a diverse listing of helpful essays and articles about the just-war theory and peacemaking, in anticipation of the looming war. (Those resources may still be useful and can also be found in the resource section of the CCO Web site.)

For some of us, this is not altogether new ground. In what seems like another lifetime in the 1980s, Hearts & Minds helped--with hopes of evangelism and peacemaking in the not-too-far-back of our minds--with inter-cultural exchanges with the (then hated) Russians. Amidst hot nuclear war talk and a not-so-Cold War, it was nearly considered treasonous to suggest that we ought to learn about, let alone care for, the Soviet people. (And, while mentioning the hostilities of those ugly years, let us not forget that the rise of radical Islam in Afghanistan was in part occasioned by the brutal invasion of the Soviets in the 1980s, who were--as the peace movement predicted!--responding to aggressive U.S. nuclear policies such as placing Cruise Missiles near their borders in Europe. The old biblical wisdom of reaping what we sow has now come back to haunt us.)

Caring for those our government declares to be our enemies is nearly always controversial. I'll never forget the ugly picket line protest against an ecumenical worship service at my church--there were (gasp!) honest-to-goodness Russian Orthodox priests in town and our Presbyterian prayers for peace drew some scary responses. Were we naïve about the brutality of the awful Communist regime (or, even, that there were most likely KGB spies in with the delegation of the Orthodox)? Of course not! Did I think that merely reading Russian folk tales to children at local elementary schools, as we often did, would really bring about world understanding? Well, yes and no.

As a Calvinist, I am well aware of the depths of evil that may reside in the human heart. But as a Christian bookseller, I am ever hopeful of the power of words. That a book--a story!--can give a new vision of greater understanding is a rock solid belief. We know we are not alone in our loyalty to the notion that books can make a difference. And what tense fun we had decades ago smuggling books--American novels, evangelical theology, and some Bob Dylan tapes--past the KGB spies and into the hands of eager Soviet friends. Books can contribute to a measure of courage to build a world which may reflect the shalom which God intends.

And so, it is important that we describe a few recent titles about this recent manifestation of the crisis of our times and the heartbreaking lack of shalom in God's world. Certainly plenty has been written since September 11th, and you can find good articles, maps, and other resources without difficulty. We are grateful for the opportunity to share some of what we have found helpful these last few months and titles that we are eager to recommend. This is at least what a bookseller can do--share our best ideas and hope that the books may make a difference, one reader at a time.

To this end, we offer three catagories of books this month: