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.
may still be useful and can also be found in the resource
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: