Book review: ‘Smart Compassion’

May 22, 2017 by

How radical should radical hospitality get? If you are open to having foster children in your home, is one enough, or should you have two or four or maybe eight? At what point do you set a boundary? A foster...

[read more]

Book review: ‘God Without Violence’

May 8, 2017 by

J. Denny Weaver’s latest book is popular theology written in response to a question asked by a child: Why did God kill his own son? The target audience for God Without Violence is those troubled by a...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Simple Life Fretz’

Apr 24, 2017 by

During the early 1980s, while a senior at Bethel College, I participated in a monthlong interterm travel course to Washington, D.C., focused on peace issues and Mennonite social justice engagement. Faculty...

[read more]

Book review: ‘A Doubter’s Guide to God’

Apr 10, 2017 by

When I was young, I had no idea normal people doubted God. So when I doubted, I was ashamed. Normal people believed. They flourished as Christians and at church. I wasn’t normal. I was bad. Roger Martin’s...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Wholly, Holey, Holy’

Mar 27, 2017 by

In his self-published memoir, Melvin D. Schmidt reflects on his life and nearly 50 years as a Mennonite pastor. It is a page-turner, wonderfully written with hundreds of anecdotes, picturesque language (beware...

[read more]

Book review: ‘A People of Two Kingdoms II’

Mar 13, 2017 by

Half a century ago, James C. Juhnke was a graduate student in history at Indiana University, completing a dissertation on his people, Kansas Mennonites, and their experiences in politics from the 1870s to...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Martyrs Mirror: A Social History’

Feb 27, 2017 by

Martyrs Mirror has shaped the Anabaptist tradition more powerfully than any book besides the Bible. That is the premise of David L. Weaver-Zercher’s masterful new history of Thieleman J. van Braght’s...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Both My Sons’

Feb 13, 2017 by

I’m not one of those folks who reads historical fiction and longs for the past, for a more bucolic way of life and the wonder that might accompany the discovery of new frontiers. Indeed, I know a work of...

[read more]

Book review: ‘A Witness in Times of War and Peace’

Jan 30, 2017 by

The subtitle of this memoir, “The Story of Gerhard Hein, a Mennonite Pastor Who Served in the Wehrmacht During World War II,” suggests why it was published now in English 35 years after it was first...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Righting America at the Creation Museum’

Jan 16, 2017 by

Susan L. Trollinger and Wil­liam Vance Trollinger Jr. describe the Creation Museum as an arsenal for the Christian Right’s culture wars. It’s an apt analogy, but perhaps a better comparison would be a...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Daughters in the House of Jacob’

Jan 2, 2017 by

Who am I? Where am I going? How did I get here? Those are common questions for anyone looking into their family history and their place in the generations. Fortunately for the descendants of Jacob J. and Anna...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Enchantment and Despair’

Dec 19, 2016 by

The writer Flannery O’Connor once said, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. If you can’t make something out of a little experience,...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Becoming Amish’

Dec 5, 2016 by

The same desire and longing I identified in the rock/rebellion anti-establishment culture during my early 20s I have found in Christian culture and especially in Anabaptist groups who believe in living out...

[read more]

Book review: ‘European Mennonites and the Challenge of Modernity Over Five Centuries’

Nov 21, 2016 by

Have Mennonites influenced the course of modern history? That is the question taken up in a new book on Anabaptists in Europe over the past 500 years. In contemporary North America, where Old Order Amish and...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Sick Religion or Healthy Faith?’

Nov 7, 2016 by

I look forward to reading the work of pastors. Pastors live close to the ground, in the muck and mire, vulnerable to the minutiae of birth, death and all the life in between. Pastors quickly learn everything...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Very Married’

Oct 24, 2016 by

In July, my parents celebrated their 53rd anniversary. This seems a miracle of sorts to me, not because their marriage was especially contentious but because they spent very little time together before...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’

Oct 10, 2016 by

What are the roles of language in forming and maintaining religious identity? This fascinating volume explores Pennsylvania Dutch, a language that, nowadays, is “neither explicitly taught nor read nor...

[read more]

Book review: ‘The Gospel Next Door’

Sep 26, 2016 by

Seeking the peace of the city in Houston, Texas, is no small task for a minister with a heart big enough to reach out to everyone in his urban community. But Pastor Marty Troyer of Houston Mennonite Church, in...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Simple Pleasures’

Sep 12, 2016 by

In the creative nonfiction course I teach every spring, I talk about a memoirist’s ability to both convey personal experience and also make connections with an audience. This interplay between the individual...

[read more]

Book review: ‘In Pursuit of Faithfulness’

Aug 29, 2016 by

In 1957 in Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, communion was only served when a bishop was present. The bread and cup were reserved for church members who were deemed in good standing. This practice of...

[read more]

Book review: ‘For His Sake’

Aug 15, 2016 by

A loud rap on the door interrupts the mealtime of Mennonites Johann and Barbara Strausz and their children in June 1815. They live in Polish Austria, where they farm the land and live in peace, exempted from...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Mennonite on the Edge’

Aug 1, 2016 by

In 2004, Cynthia Yoder broke new ground in Mennonite letters with Crazy Quilt: Pieces of a Mennonite Life. The memoir, one of the first of its kind written by a Mennonite, detailed the debilitating depression...

[read more]

Book review: ‘To and From Nowhere’

Jul 18, 2016 by

This refugee tale is an imaginative work of biography, dedicated to “the disenfranchised and deported everywhere.” Based on the life story of Greta Enns (1902-1985), it is a timely contribution as...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Horse-and-Buggy Genius’

Jul 4, 2016 by

Royden Loewen’s new book examines how Old Colony and Old Order Mennonites try to maintain religious and cultural changelessness in a world that celebrates change. But Horse-and-Buggy Genius also provides a...

[read more]

Book review: ‘Breakaway Amish’

Jun 20, 2016 by

As a distinct religious and social group, the Amish have grown used to having their lives reported and interpreted by outsiders. Scholars study them. Novelists and “reality” television shows tell stories...

[read more]