Douglas Noll, Peacemaking: Practicing at the Intersection of Law and Human Conflict. Telford, Pennsylvania: Cascadia, 2003 (copublished with Scottdale: Herald Press). Pp. 476. (Paperback --$34.95) ISBN 1-931038-11-2 Reviewed by Barry C. Bartel.
Donald B. Kraybill, The Amish: Why They Enchant Us. Scottdale: Herald Press, 2003. Pp. 48. ($7.99, paperback / $12.49 in Canada) ISBN 0-8361-9241-9 Reviewed by Rich Preheim.
Ervin Beck, MennoFolk: Mennonite and Amish Folk Traditions. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2004. Pp. 231. ($15.99-paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9276-1 Reviewed by Brad Born.
Reuben Z. Miller and Joseph S. Miller, eds., The Measure of My Days: Engaging the Life and Thought of John L. Ruth. Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2004. Pp. 310. ($22.95-paperback) ISBN 1-931038-25-2 Reviewed by James C. Juhnke.
Douglas Noll, Peacemaking: Practicing at the Intersection of Law and Human Conflict. Telford, Pennsylvania: Cascadia, 2003 (copublished with Scottdale: Herald Press). Pp. 476. (Paperback --$34.95) ISBN 1-931038-11-2
This ambitious book redefines conflict theory as "peacemaking" in a cross-disciplinary approach. The book is designed as a law school text but should be read by attorneys and others interested in expanding their understanding of human conflict. The book is divided into five parts: The Law and Peacemaking, Conflict Resolution Processes, Understanding Conflict, Conflict Analysis, and Peacemaking. The detailed Table of Contents is helpful in giving a roadmap of the book and a way to trace back.
The book seeks to approach conflict from a number of different perspectives. Chapters are as diverse as Conflict Resolution Models and Processes, The Neuropsychology of Conflict, Religion and Conflict, Game Theory, and Apology and Forgiveness. Yes, you can assimilate everything from serotonergic neurons to prisoners' dilemma to Plato.
The point is not that Noll presents something for everyone, but that a full understanding of the complexities of human conflict is best accomplished by weaving together learnings from different disciplines. The book is a valuable resource. Noll is a lawyer who writes from experience and frustration with a legal system dominated by an "adversary ideology" which is not only self-perpetuating but where preparation in law schools is focused on that ideology. Even "alternative dispute resolution" is by its name alternative to the dominant mode and operates in many ways under the same adversary ideology. Noll seeks to expand the concept of conflict resolution from a narrow focus on adversity to interdisciplinary attention to peacemaking.
With a forward by Professor Howard Zehr and book cover endorsements by Lawyer Max Factor III, Professor John Paul Lederach, Professor Lela P. Love, and Professor and former Justice Janine Geske, students and professionals serious about understanding and working with conflict need to digest this book.
This book is theoretical and practical. Group discussion will enhance the learnings from this book. Lederach calls this a "great introductory text," and the conclusion to Noll's last chapter affirms that "if the reader comes away somewhat dazed by the concepts presented, then she is open to the idea that many skills require mastery before one is truly a gifted peacemaker." Individual study will be interesting, group study will be stimulating, and study mixed with praxis will be the only way to build on what is presented. There is no concluding guidebook for easy implementation.
While the basic focus on the need to broaden the understanding of human conflict beyond the traditional adversary ideology of the legal system is important, profound, and will be endorsed by many, I found Noll's indictment of the legal system at times too broad and general. For example, Noll argues that "ethical negotiation [is] considered weak, passive, and ineffective" in the legal system. The stereotypical "Rambo lawyer" that Noll describes sells his soul and sacrifices all for the sake of victory, but in reality fails to fully understand the dynamics of the underlying conflict or grasp the essential components of true victory. But there are lawyers every day who are strong, ethical, and effective, who work with integrity to understand the full nature of the conflict and advise a client about the options and risks, and who negotiate a good agreement or resolution where prudent and turn to judicial resolution where necessary. The legal system has an ideology, myths, and limitations; it may not foster a broader understanding of conflict resolution, but it does not make it impossible. Noll's book is a valuable contribution to help people think about that and deepen their own ideology, perspective, and practice. It may take the humility to be "dazed" to benefit from it fully.
The book could be made even more useful in several ways. More positive and negative real-life examples from the legal system, particularly in Part One, would provide a stronger foundation for the book by demonstrating different approaches. While the Table of Contents is excellent, an index would make the book more useful so that the reader could more easily locate topics and themes from the discussion of other disciplines. And while discussions are attributed broadly to external sources listed in the Reference section in the back, a list of key sources that the reader could consult to expand the study of each topic would be helpful in making this a guide for those wanting to study further. I also wonder if some of the discussion would be strengthened by incorporating a broader discussion of characteristics of conflicts of different sizes - from individual conflict to the mega-case dealt with by teams of lawyers for large corporate clients and of different types of conflict in the legal system (particularly civil versus criminal).
There is power and synergy in the cross-disciplinary analysis Noll presents. Students of conflict, including those who have been practicing professionals for years, should read this book. Perhaps a revision or a second volume will draw in learnings from even more disciplines.
Barry C. Bartel
Donald B. Kraybill, The Amish: Why They Enchant Us. Scottdale: Herald Press, 2003. Pp. 48. ($7.99, paperback / $12.49 in Canada) ISBN 0-8361-9241-9
Published last year, Donald B. Kraybill's The Amish: Why They Enchant Us could have headed off the travesty that has been the Amish in the City TV series. Alas, it appears that the show's producers didn't read this small but extremely informative and highly readable volume. It goes far to dispel the stereotype of the Amish as curious, quaint, even backward. Rather, they are thoughtful, intelligent, even sophisticated. What's more, as Kraybill tells us, these buggy-driving, suspender-wearing people are growing and thriving in an instant-gratification world.
But those aren't new revelations. Kraybill, probably the most distinguished scholar of the Amish, and other researchers have long been providing keen insights about these plain people. The Amish: Why They Enchant Us is instead meant to be a concise overview, a sort of primer for us "English" (non-Amish). And the book succeeds marvelously. In just 48 pages, Kraybill explains Gelassenheit, the Ordnung and the notorious Rumspringa. Other sections address Amish history, education, business, recreation, government relations, uses of technology and more. The comprehensiveness of such a small book is impressive.
About the only thing missing is further treatment of clothing and beards. Kraybill simply says such distinctives "signal submission to the collective order and serve as a public symbol of group identity." Because physical appearance is one of the great Amish identifiers and a common source of questions, a bit more explanation would have been warranted. For example, why don't men have mustaches and why don't they wear belts?
But then being Amish is about more than just appearances. Kraybill has provided a valuable, accessible resource, if not for the producers of exploitative TV shows on the Amish, then for the people who watch them.
Ervin Beck, MennoFolk: Mennonite and Amish Folk Traditions. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2004. Pp. 231. ($15.99-paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9276-1
So there's these three rural Mennonite women visiting New York with their husbands, and they decide to venture out to a musical without their men along. After the show they decide to eat dinner in their hotel's top-floor restaurant. They step into the elevator, and who should enter behind them, but a big black man with his big dog. . . .
"The Reggie Jackson Urban Legend," as author Ervin Beck calls it, is not only a prominent chapter in this collection of essays about Mennonite folk culture, but it is itself an origin tale of sorts for Beck's years of studying, collecting, and publishing articles about "MennoFolk." It was the tale about the Mennonite women's high-rise encounter with the famous baseball player that prompted his subsequent studies of Mennonite folklore. And those studies yield here an interesting range of topics, including "Inter-Mennonite Ethnic Slurs," "Origin Tales and Beliefs," "Trickster Tales," "CPS Protest Songs," and "The Relief Sale Festival."
Before venturing into these different categories of Mennonite folk culture, Beck devotes his first chapter to a summary and brief explanation of four functions of folklore, concepts he borrows from anthropologist William Bascom. Applying Bascom's analysis, Beck suggests four functions of "Mennofolk" beyond the most immediate value of entertainment: all four of these--validation, education, social control, and compensation--function to maintain Mennonite cultural stability. So, for instance, a tale about Menno Simons preaching in a barn, falling into a molasses barrel, and having his leggings licked might serve to validate the sweet tooth of Mennonite children in Holland. While many stories serve to educate proper behavior or encourage social control, others provide members of the culture with a sanctioned form of rebellion, allowing people to compensate for feeling oppressed by those same social controls. One of Beck's examples of a compensation story takes the form of a mother's instructions to her young daughter:
"When the Lutheran preacher comes, hold on to Mommy's purse tight and don't let go, no matter what. When the Salvation Army preacher comes, stand in front of the food pantry and don't move, no matter what. But when the Mennonite preacher comes, you crawl up on Mommy's lap and don't get off, no matter what"!" (34)
As Beck notes, years ago the punch line of this story may have seemed obscure to some Mennonite readers, but when some church leaders were charged with sexual harassment, the meaning of the story emerged more clearly, suggesting not only a compensatory function but an overtly satirical one. As illustrated by this example, folk stories can have more than one function, and changes in historical or social contexts can change their function over time.
Most readers of this book will appreciate it primarily for its entertaining collection of humorous stories, a handful of reproduced photographs, and 25 color figures--11 of these in the chapter on Old Order Amish "Painting on Glass," and 14 in the chapter devoted to "Indiana Amish Family Records."
For readers curious to join in Beck's analysis of the function of Mennonite folk culture, his examples and commentary might prompt further questions and debate. For example, the urban legend involving Reggie Jackson may indeed exhibit various positive characteristics of urban Mennonite life, and the happy resolution of the tale may indeed suggest a redemptive theme. But surely this tale also reveals uncomfortable racial anxieties, which Beck acknowledges. And readers may disagree with the generally optimistic interpretation Beck gives it--although to his credit, he invites such disagreement. The fact that this tale circulated in many different American rural settings and among many different ethnic subgroups doesn't ameliorate its problematic nature when told by Mennonites. Indeed, as becomes evident in other examples in this book, "MennoFolk" is often quite entangled with AmericanFolk, suggesting that the boundary between mainstream American culture and Mennonite culture is often blurred. So, for instance, a riddle joke told near Goshen, Indiana goes like this: "Q: In a room full of Amish people, how do you get everyone's attention? A: Say, 'We are going to Wal-Mart'" (48). Yes, those horse and buggies look mighty peculiar in that parking lot, but their owners are shopping at America's largest retailer, like everyone else. How distinctive, finally, is Mennonite folk culture?
A similar question arises in the book's excellent chapter on CPS protest songs, which includes the texts of several protest songs written not by Mennonite conscientious objectors, but rather by the Socialist "bad boys" of other CPS camps. As Beck notes, these songs are hardly "Mennonite folklore," yet he also claims their sentiments as increasingly complementary to the activist peacemaking that has emerged in Mennonite church institutions, and among Mennonites in Christian Peacemaker Teams and students in peace studies programs at Mennonite colleges. That earnest Mennonite Christian activists would reclaim the songs of leftist agnostics is further evidence of the cross-fertilization of "Menno" and "American" folk culture.
In light of such paradoxes, Beck's closing chapter is especially fitting. In it he contemplates whether Mennonite relief sales function as "folklorized" or as "carnivalesque" festivals. If the former (borrowed from Marianne Mesnil's terminology), then such sales would appear to be culturally conservative venues that merely reinforce the commercial or ideological purposes of self-interested authorities. If "carnivalesque," as the term is defined by the Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, then such relief sales undercut any "official" authority, reversing cultural norms by giving temporary license to all sorts of fleshy (carne) excess. One of the book's many enjoyable and provocative lines arises in the context of this discussion, and it may serve as a clue for how Beck answers his own thoughtful question. As one relief sale enthusiast put it, "'Get fat for Jesus'" (197).
Reuben Z. Miller and Joseph S. Miller, eds., The Measure of My Days: Engaging the Life and Thought of John L. Ruth. Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2004. Pp. 310. ($22.95-paperback) ISBN 1-931038-25-2
This book is a collection of eighteen essays and interviews in honor of John L. Ruth, a Mennonite leader of Franconia Conference in eastern Pennsylvania. John Sharp, director of the MC USA Historical Committee, introduces Ruth as a "pastor, professor, historian, storyteller, film maker, and videographer." Editors Reuben Miller and Joseph Miller recruited a distinguished group of Mennonite scholars, many of them friends and all of them admirers of John Ruth, to contribute to the volume.
Although these essays are on diverse topics and written in different styles, the theme of community emerges as central. In all his ministries, Ruth has served as an advocate for the integrity and value of traditional disciplined Mennonite (and Amish and Hutterite) communities grounded in rural space. From the perspective of Mennonite historiography, Ruth belongs to a broader late twentieth century neo-conservative cohort of Mennonite scholars. Historians Theron Schlabach and Beulah Hostetler, among others, challenged an earlier progressive interpretation that saw a nineteenth-century dark age of separatist isolation succeeded by a "Great Awakening" of new openings to education, mission, and denominational development.
Some of the essays in this festschrift implicitly or explicitly (but never without qualification) resist Ruth's placing such high value on traditional Mennonite community discipline, yieldedness, humility, and separation from the world. Jeff Gundy borrows from the title of Ruth's comprehensive history (1,329 pages!) of Lancaster Conference Mennonites to pose the question, "If the Earth is the Lord's, Do We Have to Hate the World?" Joseph S. Miller affirms a paradoxical "Necessity of Leaving Community." Julia Kasdorf warns that community can be undermined by those who seek control. Leonard Gross, who as a teenager had to confess before the church that he had sinned by attending a public school picnic in a park, finds the essence of Anabaptism/Mennonitism in "the visibility of the individual disciple living in tune with his or her conscience." John Richard Burkholder wrestles with the definition and claims of conscience and joins John Ruth in the startling conclusion, "Don't let your conscience be your guide; rather, ground yourself in loyalty to the community of faith-for Jesus' sake!"
Judging from this collection, Ruth's small pamphlet, "Mennonite Identity and Literary Art,"originally presented as the Menno Simons Lectures at Bethel College in 1976, has had as much influence as his larger historical works. In those lectures Ruth made his most complete theoretical case for a Mennonite literary agenda oriented to the central values and experiences of the community, rather than the ironies and dysfunctions on the boundaries and edges. Julia Kasdorf's interview with Ruth discusses and illuminates these issues.
Another delightful interview-Joseph S. Miller with the Old Order Mennonite farmer and museum/library developer Amos Hoover-provides an unusually perceptive glimpse into the ways of traditionalist Mennonitism. Hoover is a gifted communicator who could have been a prominent denominational institutional leader if he had not chosen to submit to the disciplines of his community. He says that John Ruth is one of very few outsiders who really understands how Old Order people live.
Each reader of this festschrift will have favorites among the essays. Three of my nominations of worthy writings are John D. Rempel's on the meaning and practice of communion, Ervin R. Stutzman's on the calling out of church leaders, and John A. Lapp's on the Global Mennonite History project.
John Ruth has led more than forty historical Mennonite tours to Anabaptist sites in Europe-a significant ministry that gets scant attention in this book. The book might also be more useful with an index of names and subjects. But overall it is a significant celebration of a well-lived life.
James C. Juhnke
North Newton, Kansas
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