by Pat Ferrone,
Pax Christi Massachusetts

The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, The Contemplative Life, and Sustainable Community) By Brayton Shanley

I have a long-standing habit of underlining, or in other ways noting, challenging or profound thoughts expressed in some of the books I read. This initiates a kind of ‘lectio divina’ in which I then reflect on the text and allow it to enhance or alter previously held ideas. Happily, Brayton Shanley’s new book, The Many Sides of Peace qualified for just such appraisal. Many underlined, notated, starred passages can be found in my copy of his book, elucidating points that hadn’t occurred to me in my years of soul-searching and peacemaking.

Though my bias of friendship with the author should be noted, I insist that this beautifully rendered apologetic for an all-embracing and whole-hearted approach to living Gospel nonviolence, is a ‘must-read.’ Beginning with the first page, one enters into the company of a veritable Cloud of Witnesses who have resonated with the compelling call of Jesus’ radical invitation to “Come follow me…” From the gospels and the prophets arise the words of admonishment and the call to forgiveness and metanoia; from seekers of truth of long-ago history to the present day, we hear voices that ring with authority and insight, reminding us that if we truly desire Peace on Earth, only the means of boundless, nonviolent love will seed this hope and, ultimately, bring about transformation.

In his writing, Brayton never shies away from the observation that these are, indeed, dire times. He in no way avoids the deviltry of individual causality, nor the accretions of dominative power built into the very structure of society, which contribute to the bereaved moaning of so many in the global community. He identifies the dead-end approaches we employ to deal with individual enmity and global issues of violence when fear is operative and the means of loving action based on imagination and creativity are abandoned. It is then that we are more likely to acquiesce to the idea that a little violence here, a bit more there, will remedy the evil perpetrated by the treacherous ‘other,’ the intransigent dictator, the greed of corporate machinations or governmental secrecy and the plague of war.

Brayton’s years of immersion in scripture, self-reflection, analysis, and plain hard work, lead him to suggest that this Way blossoms as we align ourselves with the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters, and by fidelity to the holistic means of prayer, study, physical work, protest, and the nurturing of the nonviolent community -always in celebration of the essential goodness of our God-given lives, and of all creation. With clarity, he details the grounded life of nonviolence lived with his wife Suzanne, co- creator with him of the rural, “green,” Agape community in western Massachusetts. Guided by the Spirit of the Divine Feminine, and with the energizing company of other truth-seekers and supporters, Brayton presents convincing evidence that a sustained commitment to seeking God’s will is possible, and yields much fruit.

There’s trust on these pages that slowly by slowly, one will be blessed with the grace and strength to witness to the perfidy and pain of our suffering world, and to participate in its healing. I would suggest that you seek out a copy of the book, published by RESOURCE Publications (Wipf and Stock Publishers), and ponder its thesis. Better yet, read and discuss it in the company of others committed to peacemaking, as will be done by our Pax Christi MA board, beginning in September.

2 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: “The Many Sides of Peace” challenges one to live Gospel nonviolence

  1. A gem of a book! Brayton Shanley provides inspiration, perspective, and practical advice for the seeker of Peace. Drawing on 30+ years of devotion to simple living and bearing witness to the Gospel truth of Jesus’s nonviolent love, he delivers an exciting, hopeful perspective that will be helpful to seasoned nonviolent activists as well as those who are exploring or newly embracing this life pathway. Highly recommended. ******

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