"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, October 26, 2018

North American Churches and the Cold War

Eerdmans recently put into my hands a very impressive collection edited by Paul Mojzes, North American Churches and the Cold War (2018), 560pp.

It is a substantial collection of considerable size and range. I am especially cheered to see included two sections that one rarely finds in collections like this--or, if one finds them, then they are invariably tiny and begrudging: thus we have a hefty first section devoted entirely to Canadian church history in six chapters; and another section with five chapters devoted to Eastern Orthodox Churches. (Too many collections, if they include either section, usually have one token contribution in it.)

In the former, I recognize with fondness the name of Lois Wilson, author of the chapter "Canadian Churches and the Cold War 1975-90." Growing up in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, you could hardly avoid the name of Lois Wilson if you paid any attention to both ecclesial and political affairs. She was elected moderator--the first woman to hold that position--of what was then the largest Protestant body in the country, the United Church of Canada. She came out of the social gospel tradition of Western Canada from which, in part, the inspiration for the Canadian universal healthcare system emerged. I met her in the fall of 1990 at a preparatory meeting in Quebec City for those us going to Canberra, Australia in February 1991 for the seventh general assembly of the WCC, of which Wilson was then one of the seven outgoing presidents. Her reputation as a dynamo did not disappoint, and I think I had a mild but instant crush on her.

The latter section, on the Orthodox Churches, contains chapters by names familiar to all, including those I am glad to call friends.

The section leads off with a chapter by Leonid Kishkovsky, "The Orthodox Church in America: Steering Through the Cold War."

This is followed by Nicholas Denysenko (see my recent interview with him here) authors the chapter "Sustaining the Fatherland in Exile: Commemoration and Ritual During the Cold War."

Andrei V. Psarev and Nadieszda Kizenko co-wrote "The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, the Moscow Patriarchate, and Their Participation in Ecumenical Assemblies during the Cold War 1948-64."

Lucian Turcescu, who has written about Orthodox Churches and Cold War (as well as post-Cold War) politics in Romania itself, here authors "Fascists, Communists, Bishops, and Spies: Romanian Orthodox Churches during the Cold War."

D. Oliver Herbal (see my interview with him here about his splendid book Turning to Tradition) rounds out this section with his chapter, "Redressing Religious Freedom: Anti-Communism and the Rejection of Orthodox Christianity as the 'Fourth Major Faith'."

Before and after these two sections, there are chapters on "Evangelical Approaches," "Peace Activities," "Roman Catholic Approaches," "US Mainline Protestant Approaches" and a final section, "Lessons Learned."

All told, as the publisher tells us, this book fills a considerable gap:
History textbooks typically list 1945–1990 as the Cold War years, but it is clear that tensions from that period are still influencing world politics today. While much attention is given to political and social responses to those first nuclear threats, none has been given to the reactions of Christian churches. North American Churches and the Cold War offers the first systematic reflection on the diverse responses of Canadian and American churches to potential nuclear disaster.
A mix of scholars and church leaders, the contributors analyze the anxieties, dilemmas, and hopes that Christian churches felt as World War II gave way to the nuclear age. As they faced either nuclear annihilation or peaceful reconciliation, Christians were forced to take stands on such issues as war, communism, and their relationship to Christians in Eastern Europe. As we continue to navigate the nuclear era, this book provides insight into Chris-tian responses to future adversities and conflicts.

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