The reviews are in…
Coleman McCarthy says The Many Sides of Peace is “a gem of a book”!
You can order your own copy directly from Agape Community or at an upcoming Book Tour Event.
Brayton Shanley has long practiced what he preaches. He co-founded the Agape Community, a lay Catholic peace community nestled in the hilly backwoods of Hardwick, Massachusetts in 1982 with his wife and co-worker, Suzanne Belote. Brayton and Suzanne have been peace educators all these years. They are exemplary pioneers of Christian peacemaking on two fronts- resisting the violence of the status quo (the foreign wars and domestic injustice and horror resultant from the promulgation of American empire) and co-creating with the God of Love and Compassion, the God of Jesus, the “beloved community” here “on earth as it is in heaven.” [showhide type=”review5″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
Brayton Shanley’s vocation has been (with Suzanne) to be a teacher. He is both a faithful and rightful starry-eyed idealist (one needs to keep one’s eyes on the prize after all) and equally a most focused practitioner of Gospel values day in and day out in the most practical and mundane of ways. Shanley writes eloquently, even elegantly, about the spiritual tradition and theory of Christian and faith-based pacifism as many committed authors have before him but he does so with a remarkably personal twist. He writes so uniquely in this genre precisely because he writes so personally. While his text is about the highest motives and rationales for embracing principled Christian nonviolence, he brings the legitimate celestial musings into the daily round such freshness that he seriously and creatively engages his readers in all the ethical questions surrounding the pivotal question that his writing asks: Will we be about the waging of war or the pursuit of peace? He goes into significant detail about how we might choose the latter for ourselves in the particulars by covering topics that range from the finding of good means for “nitty gritty” conflict resolution in families and also in institutions responsible for healing the wounded to the growing of fruits and vegetables organically and to building in stone and wood as good stewards of the land. His work is a contemporary echoing of Saint Elizabeth Seton’s sage advice that we “live simply that others may simply live.”
Each chapter of Shanley’s book is flavored with literary gusto and vivid illustration. His chosen themes make for writing that is to be savored, to be taken in slowly with spiritual and earthly delight. He writes of constructing his home of straw bale and stucco, of heating with wood and of time-honored methods for reverencing creation. He writes descriptively of his community’s making use of solar energy to power the electrical needs of the Agape homestead and of making use of a composting toilet, what he calls the “right way to go.” He ultimately encourages us all to be living in accord with Nature’s gift and bounty in line with the plan of the Divine.
Shanley’s The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, the Contemplative Life, and Sustainable Living, aptly takes up the task of fleshing out the spiritual premise of its title for the author teaches that pursuing genuine peaceableness in yourself, your family, your community and the world is, indeed, a multi-faceted project. By describing his own learning and experience over three decades of such synthetic labors, he invites his reader into their own examen of lifestyle and a possible shaking up of conscience as was the pathway to Shanley’s own episodic and adventurous spiritual growth.
As the world teeters more and more on the brink of environmental and military disaster, Brayton Shanley’s advice seems ever more precious and pertinent. He himself has moved intentionally and with quiet determination and faith further and further away from the precipice of social and ecological tragedy by taking his cues from the Jewish prophets and Jesus the Christ whose persons and teachings have been in his purview for many years. He shares his own prayer experience in concert with the work of educating the young and not so young. It is the combination of emphases that gives this book its most peculiar quality, one difficult to describe, except perhaps to allude to the fact that it bears the mark of a true contemplative who is also an activist, a father, a pretty good farmer- someone altogether deeply concerned about the fate of the earth and the human project from the vantage of Christian revelation and the mystical and wisdom traditions of the world’s major religions.
Brayton Shanley is a brave yet gentle purveyor of the most daring and demanding kind of Christian living. There is. to be sure, a kind of vigorous and rigorous Christian athleticism in him, but this is most appropriately tied to the place and work of grace, silence, and Sabbath in a life. Shanley tells that there is so much more than work to be done. There is most assuredly blessed gift to receive from the hands of the Most High and someone to be. I read Brayton’s book in between prayer, work and gardening labors of my own, completing, very providentially, the entire text on the Feast of Saint Benedict whose motto ”Ora et Labora” has long inspired monks but also devout lay persons as Brayton to “pray and work” in the spirit of his 1500-plus year old rule. Alasdair McIntyre, the celebrated University of Notre Dame philosopher, lamented some years ago that our age lacked a figure like Saint Benedict to guide it in this time of great societal confusion and stress. I sense that Brayton Shanley is just such a figure as McIntyre hoped for with regard to our age for he speaks with authority and great theological insight.
The many practical implications of living the Gospel tend to create “order out of chaos,” the work entertained and undertaken by Saint Benedict in the sixth century and by Peter Maurin, the beloved co-founder with Dorothy Day, of the Catholic Worker movement in the twentieth. The shared vision of these great Catholics is the cultivation of conditions most sympathetic to the pursuit of social justice and peace. Brayton surely shares the vision of Saint Benedict, Maurin and Day and his leadership over decades of apostolic labor is very much like theirs. Read his book. He will lead you and me along the best and “most needed to be taken” paths! He has done us the favor of mapping out the Way for People of the Way who know it not and for those of the Way who need to know the Way better. Brayton Shanley has given us a holy handbook with which to take up with the grace of God the blessed task of bringing more light, joy, and peace into our days.
—MICHAEL BOOVER, Member of Annunciation House of Worcester and Sacred Heart/Saint Catherine of Sweden Parish. He is also a part-time chaplain at the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, an urban farmer, and a long-time Catholic Worker.
Brayton Shanley has written a magnificent book about love in all it manifestations. It is about what it means to be fulfilled as a human being. It reads for me like a sacred text published in a secular age. All people should examine it because in fact love is at the root of all religions. It is the driving force of evolution.
For Brayton it is our mission to understand the meaning of love, feel its power, and realize it in practice through its highest dimension. Its highest dimension is found in the word Agape, something from the ancient Greeks. Agape is one form of love. It is not just philia (affection) eros (friendship and desire) but unconditional love. For Brayton, it is nonviolent absolute love and a gift from our creator. [showhide type=”bookreview4″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
As a couple, Brayton and Suzanne Shanley have chosen to live in a simple life indeed, under taxable income. They will not cooperate with a government that gives over fifty percent of its federal budget to the military and toward the devastation of life on earth. They are modeling a way of life that leads us away from war and environmental devastation.
They have established a community in Western Massachusetts that is designed to teach people a lifestyle that reaches across the spectrum of religions. They seek to live a life of truth and nonviolence in everyday life. It is in the manner of seekers like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Lanza del Vasto, and others who have followed the deep leadings of the human heart. They show a way to redesign our lives in order to take away the necessity for war and doing harm to others.
Brayton reminds us that all World Religions testify that killing innocent people is never morally acceptable. He reminds us that “Ahimsa, Agape, unarmed truth, compassion and mercy are all holy words that can be found in all foundation documents of the World Religions. They speak directly to the sacred and what is experienced as Divine…World politics rests on the adversarial belief in one country’s moral superiority and economic advantage over another.” This kind of politics will not work in today’s world with such destructive technology.
By continuing to live as we do, the consequences are deadly and shocking. From 1991 to 1999, 170,000 children under the age of five died as a result of the 1991 Gulf war due to the poisoned drinking water and the U.S. embargo of medicine to treat dying children with dysentery. Millions of Americans, Iraqis, and Afghans have been killed, wounded, and traumatized since 2001. Over 2,000 innocents have been killed in Afghanistan. The list goes on. People read about this, feel helpless, sigh, and go back to their routine life.
The capitalist markets can also be destructive. The author describes how the 335 billionaires own $1.1 trillion, which is equivalent to the poorest 45% of the world’s population. It is time to live simply, so that others might live, he says.
He cites Dom Helder Camara, a pacifist and Archbishop of Recife who worked with the poor in the barrios of Brazil. “I pass no judgment on those poor people of good conscience who believe violence is more effective. But I say, go as far as you can with nonviolence. There is no victory over oppression and the structures of injustice without sacrifices, (but) sacrifices accepted in nonviolence are better preparation for the future and for reconciliation than the sacrifices of violence.”
The alternative to war is to “cooperate with the good.” The “yes” is to construct a life plan that addresses economic injustice and the wreckage of war. This means demonstrating solidarity with the underclass, serving the needs of others and conscientious objection to going into war.
The author refers to writers in different religions who speak of ways to redesign the economy. He quotes E.F. Schumacher on Buddhist economics in which economy and work relies on
“…using the smallest amounts of materials with the fewest inputs of toil. The less toil, the more time and strength are left for artistic creativity. The lower the rate of our consumption, the higher the human satisfaction. The more modest the use of resources, the less likely to be at each other throats than people depending upon a high rate of consumption.”
Brayton and Suzanne are sympathetic to Gandhi’s dream of developing self-contained villages based on cottage industries, agriculture and simple hand operated machines. Gandhi objected to the modern “craze” for machinery while thousands die of starvation.
Here is one caveat. Brayton participates in protests against war but is cautious about expecting a positive outcome. People march by the thousands to protest war, he says, and then come home after a weekend and go to work expecting to have achieved something. He thinks the protests will require more dedication for longer periods of time, overflowing the jails and risking jobs to invoke a massive refusal to cooperate.
Otherwise the political machine will just keep moving along automatically. It may require a shutdown of the economy to awaken elite politicians of the self-destructive ends of war.
This is not just a dream. It has happened in other countries. For example, Gene Sharp describes the case of Ubico in the 1940s, a dictator in Guatemala who admired Hitler. His oppressive rule became so unacceptable that the whole country responded with a silent paralysis. The opposition parties broke off talks with the government. The teachers marched collectively in protest. Workers struck. Businessmen closed stores and offices. It was a total economic shutdown. Everything closed. The streets were deserted. Ubico, shocked and powerless, agreed to resign and move out of the country.
In sum, the author is talking about developing a new paradigm for our evolution. It means finding a life with loving respect for all on the earth and its environment, indeed, the universe. He is suggesting a redesign of our political life. He writes about a loving urgency to find what is sacred in our lives.
The book is written from the heart. It can be read easily by anyone. I wish it could be a textbook in public schools and universities.
—SEVERYN BRUYN, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus Department of Sociology, Boston College
With a few core members and two families they founded the Agape Community, influence by Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, the work of Gandhi and the spirit of St. Francis. Deeply imbued in anti-war activities from the start, they took their community to the deep countryside in Hardwick, Massachusetts, in 1987, where they have since entered determinedly into a practice of contemplative life and sustainable living, straw-bale buildings, solar power, compost toilets, simple lifestyle, reliance on hard physical work and all. Brayton now writes of this experience on occasion of their thirtieth anniversary as a community last year. [showhide type=”bookreview3″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
The Shanleys take all aspects of non-violent life seriously, to a degree that astonishes even many of their friends. Words of Jesus, starkly incompatible with our usual habits, come to Brayton’s mind constantly throughout his critique of the retributive mind-set and war addiction of American society and its leaders. The love of Jesus stands as model, love shown even as he confronts those he calls hypocrites, never acquiescing in the taking of human life for any reason, always open to understanding what is in the other’s mind even when it leads to the most perverse and cruel action. Do we return evil for evil? Jesus never would, nor can those who would imitate him. Do we choose the lesser evil? The lesser evil is still evil and must not be accepted as other.
Taking such critique to the wars in Afghanistan, so explicitly endorsed by such religious sources as the Pope and the American Bishops’ Conference, or the far more deceitful war on Iraq, to drone warfare, with its casual acceptance of “collateral damage,” or the “targeted killings” of persons who have had no trial, and we have a catalogue of horrors that our society has been able to condone unconscionably. The Shanleys will have no part of it.
Gandhian example ranks high in their life choices, leading to nonviolent action. St. Francis, whose October feast is always a high point for their community, leads them to the radically simple lifestyle and close association of their lives with those of the poor.
Here we must take some account of what is socially possible in our world. It hardly seems likely that people in our society will all take to building straw-bale houses for themselves and we have not space enough for everyone to reap firewood from several acres to feed their wood stoves. Given the extreme threat that global warming poses to the basic conditions of life on our entire planet, we have to rely on massive social programs led by government and embraced, or of necessity, by the citizenry as a whole to break our reliance on fossil fuels and develop the alternative forms of energy and consumption of materials that will make what we understand as a civilized life possible. The Shanleys and their community, though, give us an example at which we can marvel of commitment to care for the earth.
Above all, the prayerfulness of their lives and their rootedness in the best practices we can derive from Jesus, from Gandhi and from Francis are the values we take from Brayton’s book. He and Suzanne have inspired many people over the thirty years of their community. May they be as helpful to many more.
—RAYMOND G. HELMICK, S.J.
With his new book, The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, The Contemplative Life, and Sustainable Living, Brayton Shanley achieves something remarkable in a short, easy-to-read format: He seamlessly blends personal, historical and political perspective with inspiration and practical advice. Whether you are new to the study and practice of nonviolence, a long-time activist, or a teacher seeking a useful classroom tool, you will find excellent value in this text.
Brayton and his wife, Suzanne Belote Shanley, co-founded Agape Community thirty years ago and have served as its hub and life force ever since. An intentional community based in rural Ware, Massachusetts, Agape is rooted in the practice of Christian nonviolence while remaining strongly interfaith in embrace.
Smartly organized in six sections examining Peace is My Gift, Peace of Mind, Peace in the World, Peace and War, Peace with the Earth, and Peace with the Soul, the book takes us on a tour of internal and external perspectives, challenging our assumptions and re-framing issues. Brayton Shanley’s perspective is as truly radical as Jesus’ message of all-embracing love. The author gets to the roots of the political behavior and personal choices that shape our lives. Reading this book empowers the reader to discern truth amidst the barrage of mainstream media messages promoting our culture’s dominant values of consumerism and state-sanctioned violence in support of the status quo. [showhide type=”bookreview2″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
A few nuggets illustrate the breadth of topics tackled by Shanley:
On the importance of developing inner peace: “Historically, serious daily spiritual practice has not been available to the average Christian layperson. In the absence of these spiritual tools, we cannot truly discern the purpose and direction of life, which is powerfully illuminated by a steady, aware, inner gaze. So, by default, frenzied outward activity too frequently has become the alpha and omega of our daily grind.”
On creating positive social change via personal choices: “Political and economic powers are not taken from us; we give them away. If we continue to consume more than we need and, thus, consume massive amounts of oil, we effectively authorize our president to wage war. We take back power from political tyrants by withdrawing cooperation from their unjust policies, first morally, then economically.”
On nonviolent child-rearing: “As parents, it was important for me and Suzanne to communicate to (our daughter) Teresa that nothing she would say to us would ever warrant punishment. As a result, Teresa, now an adult about to give birth to her own child, is quick to ask for forgiveness. Much quicker, I might add, than her parents will ever be.”
On sustainable living: “To live within the sacred loop which sustains, we must always ask: how much energy, especially heating and cooling with oil and gas, will the building require each year? Even in the world of green building, straw bale construction rates first in conservation. At R-50, straw has twice the energy conservation rating as the most current conventionally built super-insulated houses.”
Shanley’s message is coherent, clear, and counter-cultural. His integrity shines through as he offers up strong medicine to promote the personal and societal healing needed to realize lasting Peace.
—JOHN PAUL MAROSY
Arun Gandhi quotes his grandfather, the Mahatma, in the Foreword, “We must live what we want others to learn.” Few have followed that maxim as closely as Brayton and Suzanne Belote Shanley at the Agape Community, in Ware, Mass. This book is a series of reflections, many of deep and startling insight, on working, teaching, praying and resisting the powers in the spirit of Christian nonviolence as Brayton and Suzanne have lived it. With Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy, Suzanne and Brayton founded the Agape Community in 1982. They describe their project as a lay Catholic residential community, ecumenical and inter-faith in scope. They do not identify as a Catholic Worker community but they are certainly close, and approximate our ideal more closely that many of us. So this book can rightly be called a worthy addition to a growing corpus of CW literature. [showhide type=”bookreview1″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
Nonviolence is not an elastic concept to Brayton Shanley. He acknowledges the influence of Gandhi, John Howard Yoder and Giuseppe Lanza del Vasto, “Shantidas.” Echoes of Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy’s resound throughout. His nonviolence is, in short, Christocentric. But his language and manner of presentation can come through to those of other traditions. This is not a catalogue of dramatic events leading to court trial and imprisonment. I hope no one will take offense if I say this come as a relief. There is a time and a place…. “For everything, turn, turn, turn.” Nonviolent direct action including civil disobedience is on side of the coin. Building the beloved community: Gandhi called it “the constructive program;” Dorothy Day called it living the works of mercy, is the other. This has been the project of Agape.
This is a book for the nightstand. It has structure, but you can pick it up and read at any point. Here is a sample:
Walter Wink has a phrase of warning for any resister who has spent too many “unprotected” hours protesting in front of the Pentagon, or watching newscasts or reading too many newspaper headlines: “contagion of evil.” He observes that “Our very identities are often defined by our resistance to evil, but the struggle against evil can make us evil. …The very sight of evil kindles evil in the soul, wrote Jung.”
Another: “The pagan people in cultures before Judaism believed on one level in a multiplicity of divinities located inside or associated with the various forms of nature – steams, trees, earth, sir and mountains. The new and radical monotheism that became Judaism was prone to a rigid interpretation of “one God over all.” This theology began to cancel the idea that the spirit world could nay longer exist within the natural world. Some of these first monotheists with their dim view of pagans unwittingly ushered in the beginnings of nature denuded of all mystique and sanctity. Robbed of her intrinsic sacredness, nature was now in harm’s way… seen as ‘lower’ or ‘profane.’ ”
Readers may find many of Brayton’s points debatable, but it would be a worthy debate, unlike political and cultural discourse in the mass media and the major political parties. Brayton and Susanne leave a light footprint on Mother Earth, but a valuable impression on the minds and hearts of those they touch.
I read Brayton Shanley’s book, The Many Sides of Peace, curious about what the author, who has lived off the grid in a community dedicated to non-violence for 30 years, might have to say to someone like me, a teacher of Peace Studies who leads a much more conventional lifestyle. The good news is that Shanley’s book did not leave me feeling guilty for lacking a compost toilet in my house, solar panels on my roof, and a grease-powered car in my driveway. The book didn’t even prick my environmentalist’s conscience for not growing my own vegetables. (As you might guess, the Shanleys grow almost all their own food.) I was relieved to find that the author is refreshingly non-judgmental as he shares the wisdom gleaned from a life-long devotion to simple living and Jesus’s message of non-violence. [showhide type=”bookreview0″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
As Shanley describes the semi-monastic regimen of his Agape Community—morning and evening prayer, periodic fasting, manual labor every day—it becomes apparent that he isn’t self-righteous simply because he loves his way of life. The most affecting chapter for me was “Silence, Sabbath and Sacrifice of Time,” which evokes the universal desire for contemplation, for an experience of inner peace that requires, as Shanley puts it, “entering the solitude of silence.” I don’t have a hermitage, such as the Shanleys have, behind my suburban home, but I can still experiment with their version of Sabbath observance since Shanley emphasizes the not-doing at the heart of it. In expressing his love for nature, the author, like Wendell Berry, one of his mentors, made me feel its healing power—which is real, I could see, even if all one can enjoy of nature is a patch of sky or some window box geraniums.
More challenging are the sections of the book in which Shanley explains his commitment to simple living as a rejection of American society’s materialistic and violence prone culture. We Americans, he says, “want to feel good, to enjoy our comforts, to live a happy life, preferring to take refuge in the ease of our privileges and entitlements” and are thus complicit, he points out, in our government’s wars. “Any anxiety that gets in our way is mowed down by obedience to authority and the false reassurance of ‘us-them’ morality…Should anyone threaten ‘us’ and our entitlements, we quickly mold ‘them’ back into enemies. Our internal climate is a daily grooming…for some form of war.”
In this context, he indicates, one must be counter-cultural to follow Jesus, whose great contribution, according to Shanley, was to preach a “non-violent God.”
I came away from the book wanting to lead a more integral Christian life. Gandhi said that the practice of ahimsa must be “all around,” not just in the arena of political conflict. The Shanleys engage non-violently with society in a multitude of ways– from tax resistance, to anti-war protests, to housing refugees, to teaching non-violence and sustainable living at the retreats hosted by their community. But it is their quiet, consistent witness to non-violence in all the choices one makes that ultimately constitute a lifestyle that I find most inspiring. It takes courage to go against the grain of one’s culture, to choose “the narrow path.” Shanley is clear about the struggles involved in such a vocation. But the gentle, hopeful spirit which pervades his book is a reminder that the narrow path does indeed lead to life.
—PROF. LAURIE BRANDS GAGNE, Director of the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice and teaches in the Peace and Justice Program at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT. She is the author of one book The Uses of Darkness: Women’s Underworld Journeys Ancient and Modern (University of Notre Dame Press) and numerous articles on women’s spirituality and peace and justice. At the University of Notre Dame, where she received a doctorate in Systematic Theology, she wrote her dissertation on philosopher/mystic Simone Weil.
Make no mistake about this. Brayton Shanley’s book, The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, The Contemplative Life, And Sustainable Living, sets out to confirm and underscore each word of that demanding title. And it succeeds marvelously. Brayton and his wife Suzanne have dedicated their lives over the last three decades to living out an experiment in non-acquisitive, simple living – a life with an “…other-centered faith in the Nonviolent God of Love.” The driving passion and motivation of that life, shared with so many of you readers over the years, is now distilled in this book. [showhide type=”bookreview8″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
The author counsels us in uncompromising terms to live in bold defiance of the widespread perversion of the essential message of Jesus, a turning away from the words of Christ that leads to war and violence of all sorts, including despoiling God’s Creation left to our stewardship. That message, explained clearly and forcefully here, is that of a consistently “nonviolent Messiah”, whose words throughout the Gospels speak repeatedly against the widespread notion, even in the Christian community, of defending the “common good” by inflicting death and suffering.
This stands in clear contrast to the drift of history, beginning with Christianity becoming the sole imperial religion of the Roman Empire in 380. (We may have reached the nadir of that acceptance of militarism in the name of the good with the naming of the nuclear submarine, the Corpus Christi.) After all, when we are threatened as a nation (typically centering on our economic interests), “moral realism” to quote Cardinal Bernard Law, is said to call us to use “legitimate force”. Brayton explains, “When our personal or national lives are under control…Jesus is enough…when violence breaks out and our lives are threatened we need additional help…tanks, bombs, missiles…Once we have leveled the opposition, we can then re-open our New Testament.”
A careful reading of this clear, flowing volume, written by one who is manifestly and directly in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi leaves one with little choice but to re-examine one’s lifestyle and its ramifications.
That appraisal, according to the author, must lead us to the conclusion that “ A true nonviolent pacifist rejects war as an option…Pacifists choose the act of reconciliation and the severe and costly act of forgiveness…Love that embraces truth confronts the injustice of the oppressor, but does so without counter aggression.” “Evil can only be subdued by love.”
These words, when understood fully and taken on as a personal challenge, leave clichés far behind. They offer an opportunity to ponder deeply our role in this beautiful, created universe – from how we respect and nurture vulnerable Mother Earth, to how we treat-or mistreat-our fellow humans, from neighbors to nations.
While written with a Jesus-centered perspective, The Many Sides of Peace is for universal consumption, maintaining that a “nonviolent faith” is the “most mature expression of belief” which “knows no religious boundaries.” In this book, unique in the world of pacifist literature, Brayton Shanley offers inspiration, encouragement, instruction, and example. I urge you to read it and to share it with others.
—THOMAS F. LEE, Ph.D.
This is an extraordinarily thoughtful and comprehensive book on Gospel-based nonviolence, as books on nonviolence go. Brayton Shanley is the person to write it, since what he writes about he has also lived at the Agape Community that he and his wife founded in western Massachusetts. At every step the treatment is fresh and insightful. When he writes of nonviolence toward children, he writes not only as a parent, but as the consultant at a home for boys where he has wrestled with staff about frustrations that they experienced in punishing these abused children.
When he writes about nonviolence in relation to the environment, he writes as someone who is practicing at the Community what he preaches and dreams of. When he writes about nonviolent action, he writes as someone experienced in peace educating, demonstrating, rescuing death row prisoners, and aiding the poor and sick. He knows the literature and the practice. Was it heavy or tedious? It held my interest from beginning to end. This is an indispensable book.
—DANIEL MARSHALL, Long-time Catholic Worker, writer and librarian
My friend, Brayton Shanley, has written a book on this subject, The Many Sides of Peace. He has written it out of forty years of praying on, dialoging about, reading on, and living out the truth of nonviolent love of all. Any truth whether it be the Sermon on the Mount or E=mc2 cannot travel the road from concept to operational reality in human history without committed hard work in a multiplicity of areas. Day, King and Gandhi are certainly witnesses to this in terms of the truth of Nonviolent Love of all, which is sometimes called agape, sometimes called ahimsa. And, so are many others who across thousands years have seriously and creatively committed their time, energy, talents and lives to proclaiming by word and deed—to a humanity riddled by governmental, commercial, religious and personal violence—the truth that Nonviolent Love toward all is the Way of the Holy One the way that human beings, individually and collectively, can be all they can be fully human. The Benedictine adage, ora et labora, “pray and labor,” is a call to a commitment to pray diligently for the truth for which you labor and to labor diligently on behalf of the truth for which you pray. The Many Sides of Peace is a memorable presentation of and witness to ora et labora on behalf of the truth of Nonviolent Love of all as being the Way of God with His/her sons and daughters as well as the Way that brothers and sister in God must committedly struggle long and hard to be with each other.
—FR. EMMANUEL CHARLES McCARTHY, Agape Co-founder, International Retreat leader on nonviolence
This book is real theology for our times; thoughtful, wide awake reflections by a Gospel-centered seeker of the fullness of peace. Brayton’s challenging insights rise out of a life time of living deliberately, including 26 years of homesteading for peace in the woods. Thoreau would have this book on his shelf. But the message of Christian non-violence isn’t limited by location. Brayton takes us into the streets, schools, prisons, houses of worship and anywhere people yearn to turn towards an authentic and enduring peace. Read this book. You will be challenged, but you’ll find inspiration from a trusted companion living and sharing the journey of peace.
—BOB WEGENER, Brockton, MA Agape Mission Council, and Architect (The Narrow Gate, Boston, MA)
A president wins the Nobel peace prize while saying peace is not realistic; corporations claim rights to modify and patent the basic ingredients of our food supply; industrial waste still destroys our lakes, rivers and oceans; the air we breathe leaves us sick; church bells ring songs of peace as their chaplains go off to bless war. We chase after terrorists all around the planet and in our own cities while we train the world’s most sophisticated, paid terrorists, our military. Without a whimper from taxpayers we pay for war while our schools and health care disappear. Is there even a chance that anyone can speak of peace and right relationships with mother earth in a meaningful way to today’s technologically gifted citizens? [showhide type=”bookreview7″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
There are many voices used for speaking about the relationship of what we say we believe to how we live in today’s world. It is refreshing to find someone who can speak with the authentic voice of an evolving lived experience.
Maybe we are waiting for someone who speaks of peace and actually lives peacefully; someone who says save our planet home and shows us one way to do it gracefully. Maybe the church people who have walked away from a dying institution and are looking for a voice with integrity who speaks the traditional language of “gospel Christian speak” and acts as if he believes it is true will find this book helpful. Brayton and Suzanne live truth at Agape. If only to salvage a future for our children, the story in Many Sides of Peace is worth serious attention.
—ALICE KAST, Member Pax Christi MA and of extended Agape Community
I have a long-standing habit of underlining, or in other ways noting, challenging or profound thoughts expressed in some of the books I read. This initiates a kind of ‘lectio divina’ in which I then reflect on the text and allow it to enhance or alter previously held ideas. Happily, Brayton Shanley’s new book, The Many Sides of Peace qualified for just such appraisal. Many underlined, notated, starred passages can be found in my copy of his book, elucidating points that hadn’t occurred to me in my years of soul-searching and peacemaking. [showhide type=”bookreview6″ more_text=”Read more” less_text=”Hide”]
Though my bias of friendship with the author should be noted, I insist that this beautifully rendered apologetic for an all-embracing and whole-hearted approach to living Gospel nonviolence, is a ‘must-read.’ Beginning with the first page, one enters into the company of a veritable Cloud of Witnesses who have resonated with the compelling call of Jesus’ radical invitation to “Come follow me…” From the gospels and the prophets arise the words of admonishment and the call to forgiveness and metanoia; from seekers of truth of long-ago history to the present day, we hear voices that ring with authority and insight, reminding us that if we truly desire Peace on Earth, only the means of boundless, nonviolent love will seed this hope and, ultimately, bring about transformation.
In his writing, Brayton never shies away from the observation that these are, indeed, dire times. He in no way avoids the deviltry of individual causality, nor the accretions of dominative power built into the very structure of society, which contribute to the bereaved moaning of so many in the global community. He identifies the dead-end approaches we employ to deal with individual enmity and global issues of violence when fear is operative and the means of loving action based on imagination and creativity are abandoned. It is then that we are more likely to acquiesce to the idea that a little violence here, a bit more there, will remedy the evil perpetrated by the treacherous ‘other,’ the intransigent dictator, the greed of corporate machinations or governmental secrecy and the plague of war.
Brayton’s years of immersion in scripture, self-reflection, analysis, and plain hard work, lead him to suggest that this Way blossoms as we align ourselves with the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters, and by fidelity to the holistic means of prayer, study, physical work, protest, and the nurturing of the nonviolent community -always in celebration of the essential goodness of our God-given lives, and of all creation. With clarity, he details the grounded life of nonviolence lived with his wife Suzanne, co- creator with him of the rural, “green,” Agape community in western Massachusetts. Guided by the Spirit of the Divine Feminine, and with the energizing company of other truth-seekers and supporters, Brayton presents convincing evidence that a sustained commitment to seeking God’s will is possible, and yields much fruit.
There’s trust on these pages that slowly by slowly, one will be blessed with the grace and strength to witness to the perfidy and pain of our suffering world, and to participate in its healing. I would suggest that you seek out a copy of the book, published by RESOURCE Publications (Wipf and Stock Publishers), and ponder its thesis. Better yet, read and discuss it in the company of others committed to peacemaking, as will be done by our Pax Christi MA board, beginning in September.
—PAT FERRONE, Pax Christi Massachusetts
“The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence and Sustainable Living is vintage wisdom from a person who has faithfully borne the heat of the day in commitment to non-violence. These essays distill the best of the passion and wisdom of Brayton Shanley to a radical Christian faith. Read these and be both confronted and inspired.”
—THOMAS GROOME, Prof. Theology and Religious Education, Chair, Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, School of Theology and Ministry, Boston College.
“Brayton Shanley is a peacemaker. He now offers us a stunning account of a life lived for peace, guided by nonviolent love. This is a personal report of a remarkable experiment: a lifelong effort to live with full integrity that is to live each day by one’s most basic commitments of mind and heart. The story speaks of the inner life, of the intimate relationships of marriage and family, of building community, and of facing the world as it is and accepting responsibility for the human family. In Christian terms Brayton Shanley and his wife Suzanne have attempted to live “the integrated life” in which discipleship and citizenship are one and the same. Most discourse about religious and moral responsibility struggles to blend idealism and realism, faithfulness to universal ideals and hard-headed assessment of the realities of life. With the great figures of nonviolence Shanley rejects world-denying asceticism and ideal-denying accommodation. Instead he and his friends have tried to turn peace, and justice, and sustainability into verbs, moral ideals defined by action, personal, communitarian and political. It is a story that will show a path to hope, and to renewed commitment to building what Shanley’s greatest predecessors called “the beloved community”. The book, with the advice of colleagues and editors, merits publication and wide public attention.”
—PROF. DAVID O’BRIEN, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of history and formerly the Loyola Roman Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross.
“The Many Sides of Peace is a thoughtful account of a family and community deeply committed to nonviolence as a way of life and to sustaining themselves on the land. AGAPE, over twenty-five years in the making, involves living a life of voluntary poverty and a commitment to building a peace culture. The teachings of the apostles of nonviolence, from Jesus to Gandhi to Dorothy Day, are made concrete by the community’s involvement in nonviolent resistance to war and injustice.
The author faces the challenges of the dominant culture, commenting on recent events and miscarriages of justice, and offering an alternative to the violence of the status quo. The book’s philosophical and theological reflections are applied to events in recent history, reminiscent of the approach of earlier important experiments such as Adin Ballou’s Hopedale Community, Gandhi’s Tolstoy Farm, and Peter Maurin’s Catholic Worker.”
—PROF. MICHAEL TRUE, Emeritus professor, Assumption College, and former president, International Peace Research Association Foundation and Center for Nonviolent Solutions, Worcester.
“Brayton Shanley aims to give readers a clear, coherent and practical message about ways to work toward peaceful relations among ourselves and, as much as possible, with all of planetary being. Through quietly courageous and exemplary lifestyles, the Agape community refuses to support militarism in our modern time. Their faith in nonviolent love awakens earnest energy. Why not work, every day, to build rational communities capable of transforming our world? Here is a thoughtful, absorbing book, offering a way forward for peacemakers enamored with “agape.””
—KATHY KELLY, Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence
“We must live what we want other to learn, my grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, said and I believe, Brayton Shanley has demonstrated this well throughout his life. The Many Sides of Peace is an excellent compilation of his experiences in living peace and sowing seeds of peace and not only deserves to be published but also widely circulated so that newer generations can understand that peace is not something one can wish for, it is something one needs to work for. Peace can only be achieved when we stop exploiting each other, stop discriminating because of race, color, gender, religion, politics and economics and the countless other ways in which we compartmentalize human beings. It is only when we are able to create a human society that is based in love, understanding, respect and compassion that peace will become possible. Brayton and Suzanne have demonstrated this through their lives. May the fruits of their sacrifice be sweet.”
—ARUN GANDHI, President, Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute