Book Reviews

Pacific Book Review

 
Story-Formed Pathways to Peace: Headline News from Genesis, Jesus and Today is a phenomenal book. It is superbly written: a cogent yet complex journey through Biblical stories in their original context and in modern day application. If you’re looking for an insightful explication of Biblical themes and morals, look no further. Beginning with Genesis, Reimar illustrates the evolution of conflict resolution presented in the Old Testament. This trajectory (including noncooperation, conciliation, reconciliation, and forgiveness) culminates in the peaceful example set by Jesus. Rich in etymological clarification, narrative analysis, and practical application, this is a thoughtful and engaging work that strives toward achieving peace in all aspects of life.

Reimar begins each chapter with modern headlines framing ancient Biblical stories. The striking similarity clearly indicates that humanity has the same problems. The conclusion is simple: the lessons of the Bible are just as relevant today as they were 2,000-5,000 years ago.

“Scripts” are known as methods for conflict resolution in military and other arenas. We are given prescriptions for medical ailments. And scripts are literary works that literally tell the actors what to do and say. This book is about the lessons learned in the Bible. From these metaphors and logical deductions, God has given us scripts to follow:
“story-formed pathways.” Sometimes they are literal, sometimes metaphoric. Reimar shines here by doing a close reading of certain Biblical passages. Certainly, there are ambiguities in the Bible, leaving room for interpretation. Where these occur, Reimar goes the extra etymological mile. Reimar put the work in and his interpretive conclusions are logical, text-based, and insightful. In terms of books on the Old Testament, (for me), this is comparative to Elie Wiesel’s Messengers of God.

Reimar traces the conflicts faced within families, neighbors, nations, enemies, and outsiders (or the “other”). He acknowledges the messages of Jesus would strike many as impractical in 2018, but he gives logical justification for reconsidering. Gandhi’s “noncooperation” is one modern historical example. Reimar also addresses the more common (and therefore overlooked) sentiments such as the meek inheriting the earth. In this case, Reimar gives some clarification that this actually means the meek have to “get up, go ahead, and do something.” I will say that at no time is there any political bent in the book. Also, although being focused on Christian doctrine, the author consistently cites textual and philosophical links to other religions: namely Judaism and Islam. Such political/religious boundaries are to be cast aside.

Reimar discusses the different strategies en route to peace: noncooperation, conciliation, reconciliation, forgiveness, and inclusiveness. He uses an effective boundary vs. centered thinking to show the consistency of doing and saying as Jesus said and did. From all of this, Old Testament to the New, readers get “scripts” or “story formed pathways” which all point toward peace.
 

The US review of Books

 
Story-Formed Pathways to Peace: Headline News from Genesis, Jesus and Today
by Dalton Reimer
Xlibris

book review by Michelle Jacobs

“The stories from the past capture our imagination as they model ways for living in the present.”

Using “the stories of earth’s first families as told in Genesis” and the teachings of Jesus, this book sets out to explore conflict resolution through a biblical context. Reimer retells these stories with commentary and analysis intended to guide readers toward peaceful resolutions in their personal relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. He makes a strong and fervent case for the relevance of these ancient texts to modern life and draws direct parallels between the lives and choices of people like Cain and Abel and the escalation of violence in our own modern times. Reimer also injects behavioral science, psychology, and philosophy into his biblical-based, conflict management mindset. The results are a multifaceted exploration of the pressing and universal topic of peacemaking.

Reimer’s work as a peace educator is evident in the depth and breadth of information and explanation provided throughout this call to action and reconciliation. His biblical analysis is articulated with clarity and insightful prose accessible to any reader seeking the moral clarity of the Bible. The prose flows like a Sunday sermon from the pulpit, rich in imagery and inspiration. The highly organized structure of each chapter provides a clear path through the content that ranges far and wide through the social sciences but is effectively restrained in its purpose. The reader never feels overwhelmed but rather guided by a gentle hand and kind voice, offering alternatives to cycles of violence and suffering. These alternatives are rooted in stories, the universal language that can be used “to powerfully shape our communities.”

RECOMMENDED by the US Review
 

Kirkus Reviews

 
A debut religion book calls for modern peace through a reflection of Scriptures and Christian traditions.

Reimer, the co-founder and former director of Fresno Pacific University’s Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies, analyzes the major stories found in Genesis and the New Testament Gospels through the lens of violence and peacemaking. According to the author, shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, is at the center of Abrahamic religions, even
while many Jews, Christians, and Muslims since Cain’s murder of Abel have failed to live up to that guiding principle.

Reimer sees aggression, including domestic abuse and genocide, as a central aspect of the human experience from Genesis through the 21st century. Most chapters begin with the juxtaposition of biblical stories of brutality with contemporary news headlines that demonstrate humanity’s embrace of bloodshed to solve disputes. While emphasizing this savage history, the book’s focus lies not on the depravity of humanity, but rather on finding guidance in Scriptures to discover pathways to peace in modern times. Though Cain killed Abel, another figure in Genesis, Jacob, eventually reconciled with his twin brother, Esau. Similarly, Joseph also made peace with his brothers, who sold him into slavery.

This theme of reconciliation, even in situations where human nature would justify fierce, retributive justice, extends through the Gospels and Jesus’ blessing of the peacemakers. In this cogent book, Reimer’s tone is both scholarly and accessible. While he approaches the topic as a Christian, he respectfully includes complementary Jewish and Muslim perspectives on hostility and tranquility. As someone who grew up in the pacifist tradition of Mennonites and is affiliated with a Mennonite university, Reimer is distinctly steeped in that religion’s support of nonviolence and skepticism of organized government. In a work centered on cruelty and conflicts, there is a notable omission of a meaningful discussion, even a refutation, of the alternate Christian tradition of a “just war.” This would have led to an examination of Christians from other backgrounds who traditionally defend the use of force in certain situations.

A thoughtful, well-argued defense of the central role of peacemaking in the lives of Christians.
 

Clarion Review

 
Story-Formed Pathways to Peace provides inspiration for seeking reconciliation through progressive Christian biblical commentary.

Dalton Reimer’s Story-Formed Pathways to Peace uses biblical inspiration to forward ethical commentary on contemporary challenges.

Reimer has considerable experience leading and teaching groups about conflict, violence, and peacemaking; his book draws from that background and is divided into two main sections. The first explores the book of Genesis, particularly the marriage of Abraham, the rape of Dinah, and the complicated family saga of Joseph. The second part explores the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament, again looking at themes around families, neighbors, and enemies. The book reflects a progressive Christian theology, referencing writings from thinkers including feminist biblical scholar Phyllis Trible and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Theory sometimes overrides practical concerns here, and some difficult topics, including divorce and sexual violence, are treated with too much distance; related solutions feel too safe. Contemporary examples help to make scriptural passages feel relevant, if some anecdotes are dated—even the most current are close to a decade old. These include an examination of Jesus’s leadership alongside a relevant, but aging, story that Nelson Mandela told about shepherds and sheep with the “nimble” leading the weak.

The book is best when it poses straightforward questions, such as how “who is my family” or “an eye for an eye” apply today, and forwards Christian teachings about theological themes of hospitality or forgiveness. Written using a mixture of cultural references, an exploration of Hebrew and Greek, and theological ideas, the book’s themes and concepts work together, resulting in a unified whole. Citations are clear, with ample footnoting, source pages, and specific
quotations.

The book’s point—that the Bible can be a source of inspiration for approaching conflicts and fostering strong considerations of Christian ethics—is well made. Each chapter follows a sermon-like pattern, including a brief introduction, an exploration of a biblical story, and practical applications from peace and conflict work. For example, it suggests that Jacob’s family saga provides a model of reconciliation that includes confession, forgiveness, and repentance. Such notions are familiar but are enlivened by novel images and metaphors, like a suggestion that Jesus treats tradition like a river that can be filled with either polluted water or that of pristine mountain springs. Similarly, to questions of what family means and what family members are owed, Reimer notes that, for Jesus, the golden rule extends to enemies and neighbors; they too are family in this conception.

Story-Formed Pathways to Peace provides inspiration for seeking reconciliation through progressive Christian biblical commentary.
JEREMIAH ROOD (January 18, 2019)
 

Blueink Review

 
Story-Formed Pathways to Peace: Headline News from Genesis, Jesus and Today Dalton Reimer Xlibris, 171 pages, (paperback) $19.99, 978-1-9845-5044-6
(Reviewed: January 2019)

In his treatise Story-Formed Pathways to Peace, the co-founder of the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University explores how the Bible chronicles humankind’s journey toward understanding the value of interpersonal relationships.

Examining stories from the book of Genesis, author Dalton Reimer outlines the evolution of human responses to conflict, including murder, separation, conciliation, and reconciliation. Here he unpacks Cain’s murder of his brother Abel as a response to jealousy; the separation of Abraham and Lot in response to disagreements over land and seemingly limited resources; the peace offerings of Jacob to his brother Esau as a response to guilt over familial betrayal; and the reconciliation of Joseph toward his brothers as a response to attempted fratricide. Reimer demonstrates that there is a rising of consciousness in these stories, a movement away from base primal responses toward sympathy and compassion as a means toward peace.

From here, Reimer explores an even higher level of understanding of harmony found in Jesus’s New Testament teachings. While Old Testament stories dealt primarily with forgiveness toward family members, the New Testament looks to address how we should act toward our enemies.

Ultimately, Reimer argues that Jesus shows us that “All humans, however evil, are created in the image of God and are deserving of our care and respect, not for what they do but for who they are.”

Reimer writes with authority. His prose is generally clear and direct, his subject matter timely, and he argues his points methodically and with alacrity. Some of his summaries of Bible stories could easily be trimmed, however, and his chapter on genocide needs more development to clarify how it fits into the schema.

Despite such issues, Story-Formed Pathways to Peace provides solid reading. It should appeal to Christians looking to understand how far we’ve come in our understanding of forgiveness and how much further we need to go to fully embrace Jesus’s teachings of peace and nonviolence.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.