For the Healing of the Nation: A Biblical Vision, Russell Pregeant, Foreword by John B. Cobbs. Jr., Cascade Books: Eugene, OR, 2016, paper, $41.00, ISBN: 975-1-4982-3539-6, 335 pages with Epilogue and bibliography.
An easy read written with honest humility For the Healing of the Nation is a profound coming of age story that provides the seeds for a biblical way to bring about our nations healing.
The healing lies not in one political or religious way or another. Pregeant is equally critical of religious and political stances, as well as the political parties. For Pregeant this is not where the solution lies.
When For the Healing of the Nation was first published in 2016, the nation was in political and religious turmoil, yet the book failed to receive the exposure that it deserved. Here we are six years later. The political and religious turmoil continues, perhaps even more pronounced today than in 2016.
For the Healing of the Nation no longer deserves to be read. It must be read! Every Christian, liberal, conservative or otherwise urgently needs to read For the Healing of the Nation.
Russell Pregeant offers us a way toward healing, a way “forward,” as he sees it, rooted in the melding of disparate ideas to arrive at something entirely new. Pregeant calls this new idea, “ecocommunitarian.” To be clear, this is not about compromise. Compromise, as Pregeant remind us, rarely works out in the wrong run. Ecocommunitarian takes ideas that appear to be entirely different from each other and melds them into a entirely new idea. To reference the proverbial envelope, it is as if the envelope never existed.
Central to the book is the thought that idolatrous worship of our culture’s ideologies and norms hide what it means to live out a biblically-based faith. The emphasis is on “live out.”
Pregeant in For the Healing of the Nation skillfully weaves together his own coming of age story in the during the mid-twentieth-century in the Deep South as a white, Protestant male, and his realization of biblical values that rise above the mores of one’s culture. For Pregeant his coming of age brought about deep inner-struggles and painful breaks with family, church and his Southern Community.
Although, in For the Healing of a Nation Pregeant’s coming of age is about how he changed his ideas and biblical stance toward issues, his coming-of-age story reminds us that if we are to find our way out of our political and religious morass, we too need to be willing to grow and to struggle with our culturally induced beliefs and move beyond them. And it is quite possible that’s going to necessitate painful breaks.
As Pregeant’s story unfolds, he arrives at new biblical perspectives concerning racism, economic injustices, institutional violence and the effect these have on unweaving the fabric of our society. As he shares, he challenges us to seek new biblical perspectives. For it is in these new biblical perspectives that the healing of our nation lies.
As I write this review, I keep wishing that I could write, “Here’s the solution in a nutshell.” I can’t. That’s not a criticism of the book, but rather points to its strength. We have to read the book. We need to allow ourselves to become the one whose coming of age story unfolds. We need to move ourselves from Pregeant’s Deep South to where we grew up, to where we now live; then to ask ourselves where have we allowed our idolatrous worship of our cultures values to obscure biblical values?
We Christians are, as Pregeant states, a community of pilgrim people. For us, there is no lasting city. Our pilgrimage continues to death.
“What we should pray for, and struggle to achieve, is not a static social system that would inevitably decay, but a continuing process of creative transformation, a perpetual revolution in search of peace, justice, and harmony with nature.”
This, I might add, is the definition of “ecocommunitarian.”
Russell Pregeant, A Methodist Minister, now retired, was Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Curry College (Milton, MA) and Visiting Professor in New Testament at Andover Newton Theological School. He is the author of several books, Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons (2011) and Encounter with the New Testament (2009). Russell and his wife live in Wells, Maine.