New releases assess Catholic relationships with the Jewish community, and desegregating Southern churches, and stories of faith.Church teachings on Judaism: From grim past to Vatican II hopeFrom Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-65, by John Connelly. Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Mass., 2012). 384 pp., $35.As the Catholic Church marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, many are now revisiting and studying its proceedings over the years 1962-1965. The council and its 16 resulting documents addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the world.The shortest of these by far, with a text of only about 1,600 words in English, was the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions ("Nostra Aetate"). I suggest this small document as an illuminating entry point to John Connelly's timely and important book, "From Enemy to Brother."This succinct document affirms the importance of "discussion and collaboration with members of other religions." Particular emphasis is given to encouraging and furthering "mutual understanding and appreciation" in relations between Christians and Jews as they share "a common spiritual heritage."The council and this document, and their clarion call to unity and charity across peoples and nations, is where Connelly's book ends; the book begins at a grim point in history when many in the church and the world violently delineated common heritages of religion, race and nationality.Connelly, a historian of Central and East-Central Europe and professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley, traces the complicated progression from the church's long anti-Semitism and persecution of Jewish people to its recognition of Jews as brothers and sisters created in God's image.Investigating the progression of political, social and religious events, scientific, scriptural and theological research, and individual relationships across countries and traditions of faith, Connelly presents a dense story, noting in his introduction: "Rather than force linear elegance upon a crooked historical path, the narrative that follows occasionally pauses to wonder about ideas that led nowhere or roads that were not taken."The first chapters provide the background for the hatred and suspicion in pre- and interwar Europe. Understandings of race, identity and the natural order were given different emphases in different places in these years, according to Connelly. "Catholicism can vary significantly across boundaries, and some national variants proved more open to racism than others."And while he notes that church leaders proceeded with caution when the science of the times upheld "race" as a biological reality, the German cultural climate and its mixing of science with theology was not without its influence on the church. One avowedly anti-Nazi Catholic preacher could still declare that "baptism was powerless to cure Jews of moral defects that they carried in their genes."The book's middle chapters introduce the politically active Catholics outside of the Vatican, and living outside of Germany. A thread throughout the narrative is the role played by a small group of Catholic converts, most of whom were born Jewish. Connelly provides the history showing that "virtually every figure of note in the Catholic battle against anti-Semitism was a convert."Their study of the Christian tradition and of modern science provided the materials that refocused intellectual and theological debates across international and ecclesial circles. They fought to uphold a new vision of understanding and reconciliation between Catholics and Jews, and of cooperation with Protestants and Jews. They practiced "de facto ecumenism, an extraordinary phenomenon on the European continent of that time. ... But because these Catholics were converts it was difficult to tell them to shun contacts with the outside. The outside, after all, was their homeland."These converts, "border-crossers" as Connelly calls them, were still considered alien in the Catholic Church since they were considered racially Jewish. These encounters with racist Christianity in Germany prompted their work to "convert their new Christian world to a true lost faith; to move discussions about race and anti-Semitism beyond stale, self-contradictory patterns; to return to original texts and bring the fold back to original understandings."How the church is brought back to "original understandings" is the material of the book's last chapters, as the groundwork for Vatican II is laid, the church's relation to the Jews is reframed, and the painstaking crafting of "Nostra Aetate" is accomplished. "By answering the question 'Who are the Jews?' the Catholic Church had found its way across previously insurmountable boundaries to tolerance, to recognizing that God extends grace to all humans.""From Enemy to Brother" is an exceptional resource, deeply thoughtful, carefully written and extensively documented. Making one's way through the 300 pages of text, with another 60 pages of endnotes, is a worthy project.This nuanced and extraordinary new entry into Catholicism's past might serve to strengthen the orientation of its future, and bolster an unwavering commitment to this statement from "Nostra Aetate": "Therefore, the church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion."—Mary T. KantorDesegregating Southern churches: Adding to historical pictureThe Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation, by Stephen R. Haynes. Oxford University Press (New York, 2012). 352 pp., $29.95.On Palm Sunday in 1964, at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, a group of black and white students protested racial discrimination in a dramatic and powerful way: They held a "kneel-in."For more than a year, hundreds of such Sunday-morning demonstrations to protest segregated ecclesiastical space were staged across the southern United States, at churches of every major Christian denomination.Representatives of major civil rights organizations participated in these protests, which movement leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. considered vital. They eventually led Southern evangelical churches to integrate and welcome African-Americans.Yet, while well documented, the Memphis kneel-ins have attracted little notice from historians until now. Why? Perhaps in part, writes Stephen R. Haynes in "The Last Segregated Hour," because "they rarely turned violent, produced few arrests, and had no discernible economic consequences." Yet the story of the kneel-ins is both fascinating and inspiring.Nearly 50 years later, it's hard to imagine the segregated Sunday-morning church culture of the South that the protesting students faced.To illustrate it, Haynes turns to a 1967 article in Atlantic Monthly in which Marshall Frady described how one would frequently open the Monday newspaper to find "a picture of a dozen or so funereal-faced deacons standing shoulder to shoulder on the steps of some small brick church, all of them bareheaded, squinting a little in the Sunday morning sunshine, mouths clamped tightly shut, arms unanimously folded (usually hiding their hands), their black gazes fixed just an inch or two over the heads of a small delegation of Negroes clustered on the sidewalk below them. It was one of the more curious spectacles produced by the most profound domestic moral crisis of our time."Haynes, a religious studies professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, conducted extensive research for his book, including interviews with nearly 150 witnesses and participants, and it shows on every page. He should be commended for tracking down these now-elderly sources and recording their stories, which are an essential part of the historical record. Even the book's footnotes are well worth reading, as they are packed with rich background and context.Haynes tells us that the kneel-ins were held at random, but frequently during the Easter season — and that participants often faced physical resistance from racist worshipers. This "curious spectacle" of kneeling Christians being barred from church services commanded national as well as local media attention. Interestingly, the protesters included students from a local Presbyterian college — then Southwestern, now Rhodes College.At one point, church officials told Southwestern's president, Peyton Rhodes, to "call off" the protests or face financial consequences. Rhodes replied in these now-famous words: "Southwestern is not for sale."Ultimately, Haynes concludes, the effects of the kneel-ins were far-reaching. Not only did they push Southern evangelical churches to integrate, they also had a lasting impact on many of the young people who participated. "White and black students alike," Haynes writes, "developed a genuine respect for colleagues on the other side of the racial divide."He quotes one African-American student, Elaine Lee Turner, who recounted in an interview her experience of "standing alongside white students": "'This was actually the first time that I had really gotten to know any white students at all. You know, I was in college at that time but I had no opportunities to really interact with white students because everything was very segregated here. ... We were able to see that they were just like us; they're studying, they're going to school, they have ambitions, goals just like we are, so you know, that was really positive. And then they were willing to take a stand, you know, and that was something that was really good to see.'"Yet, both black and white kneel-in protesters reported to Haynes that "lasting interracial friendships were quite rare." Perhaps this is not surprising, given the segregated climate in which these students had grown up. Still, their ability to work together to pioneer this creative form of protest remains a significant achievement.In "The Last Segregated Hour," Haynes makes a major contribution to our understanding of how religion figured in the historic civil rights movement. This solid scholarly study is also well enough written and paced to command a wider audience.—Nancy L. Roberts Inclusion of disabled: Benefits for allAmazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability, and Inclusion, by Mark I. Pinsky. Alban Institute (Herndon, Va., 2012). 312 pp., $18.Mark I. Pinsky's "Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion" offers readers practical and inspiring stories about religious institutions that successfully have included people with physical, cognitive, developmental and mental disabilities into their faith communities.The book shows that sometimes the simplest, most common-sense solutions can create an opportunity for people with disabilities to fully participate in their faith.Pinsky, a religion writer and author, organized his book into 64 short stories about Catholic, Protestant, nondenominational, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim communities that welcomed and included families and individuals who had been ostracized and segregated in their search to find welcoming places of worship. Pinsky addressed different perspectives in the book, including stories that focus on ministering to people with disabilities and their families as well as people with disabilities and their families who themselves minister to faith communities.Federal law requires that children with disabilities be included to the fullest extent possible in public school classrooms, and the Americans with Disabilities Act provides legal protections and assurances for individuals with disabilities throughout many aspects of adulthood. However faith institutions are often exempt from these requirements.Since most churches include people with disabilities based solely on congregants' initiatives and a requirement of faith rather than federal laws, resistance can be met and progress can be slow. However, as the book suggests, working to build friendships and awareness are key to making faith communities inclusive and welcoming.The stories of inclusion typically consist of a few similar elements: A person with a disability stumbles upon or seeks out a home to practice his or her faith, at least one parishioner acts as a friend and advocate, and a small congregation makes common-sense changes to worship for inclusion. Pinsky highlights how individuals with autism, developmental disabilities or physical disabilities add wonderful talents, faith and joy to the communities through their ministry.Included in the book is the story of Karen Jackson and her daughter, Samantha. Samantha has autism, a disorder encompassing a wide range of symptoms, including deficits in social interactions and communication.For a time, Jackson and her husband would take turns attending Mass to care for Samantha at home. When Jackson and Samantha started participating together in their religious education and Mass, Jackson became emboldened to ensure that others with disabilities could worship in an inclusive setting. Now director of a faith inclusion network, Jackson is reaffirmed in her faith time and again because of her daughter's eagerness to participate in church life.One of the most poignant stories in the book is about an elderly Jewish man who was not accepted into his faith community until his final days on earth. Isadore Rosen was institutionalized at a state center for people with intellectual disabilities at age 12 and hadn't heard from any family members since then. Now in his 90s and planning for his death, he wanted to be buried with his parents but could not remember their first names to find where they were buried.With the help of a young woman working for a Jewish inclusion program, he was finally brought into his faith. The woman invited Rosen to Passover Seder and was reacquainted with Jewish traditions. His parents' burial site — ironically located only two miles away from his residence — was found, and just a day after a rabbi visited with Rosen, he died.The story highlights that through dedication and friendship, an elderly man long rejected and ignored because of his disabilities was finally welcomed and included into his Jewish faith.These stories are an appropriate read for ministers, religious educators, parish staff and interested parishioners seeking to enrich their outreach to people with disabilities. The stories are inspirational and helpful, constantly reminding the reader that God's gift of faith community is intended for all individuals.—Regina LordanThe Reviewers—Mary T. Kantor, who lives in Boston, is a writer, lecturer and adjunct faculty member at area colleges and holds a doctorate in religion and society from Harvard Divinity School.—Nancy L. Roberts directs the journalism program at the University at Albany (State University of New York). Her books include "Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker."—Regina Lordan is former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.
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