The Sacrament of Civil Disobedience – Review
The Sacrament of Civil Disobedience, by John Dear. Labora Press, Nov 2022 (2nd edition). ISBN-9781739716226, 330 pages. £7.99 (paperback)
Dear is a priest and renowned peace activist who has written over 30 books. He currently serves as the founder and director of the Beatitudes Center for the Nonviolent Jesus, in California, which “teaches and promotes the nonviolence of Jesus, to help end violence and to create a new culture of nonviolence”. This is a revised edition of the original 1994 book, updated to reflect the needs of the urgent challenges we face from the climate crisis. It explores the roots of nonviolent resistance in the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament and presents a compelling argument for the role of nonviolent civil disobedience in the pursuit of justice and the transformation of society.
Dear knits together his personal experiences with historical examples of nonviolent civil disobedience including Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. He shares his encounters with various civil rights movements, including his participation in protests and acts of nonviolent resistance.
The book is in two parts; part one looks at the tradition of civil disobedience throughout the Bible and part two is a civil disobedience field guide. Dear convincingly presents the case for the necessity for nonviolent disobedience in the face of injustice and reflects on his experiences in El Salvador in the 1980s, where he felt compelled to peacefully “confront and resist” the systems in place, in the hope that it would fully awaken people to what was going on there.
This is a thought-provoking book and found myself reading a few pages each night and taking time to think over what I had read whilst meditating on the relevant bible references. It presents civil disobedience as a legitimate response to injustice for followers of Jesus but is very clear that this must always be firmly rooted in prayer and meditation, with a careful examination of one’s motives for taking part, ensuring that one clearly discerns God’s will in the matter.
Through his expressive and passionate writing, Dear captures the moral and spiritual imperative behind civil disobedience and his engaging style invites readers to seriously consider the role of nonviolent resistance in the face of the many challenges we face today. Dear’s fusion of personal anecdotes, historical context, and spiritual insights create a credible narrative that will surely inspire readers to see the valuable and necessary role of peaceful activism, rooted in love and prayer, in response to the injustices we see around us.
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