What does it mean to be a peacemaker in a polarized world?
It can feel as if the world—and the church—has never been more polarized. But when we feel worn down by the chasms dividing us, we can take hope from the early Christian vision of God uniting all things in Christ, a hope that can lead us to act. Stuck Together explores Bible stories and narratives ancient and modern that inspire us to open hearts and minds to persons with whom we disagree as we gain confidence in our own convictions. Drawing from Scripture, from his own life journey, and from the witness of others, author J. Nelson Kraybill demonstrates how even small steps of reconciliation by confessionally grounded Christians can have big effect and give loving Christian witness in a polarized church and society.
Acknowledgements Foreword Introduction: Today I Fired My Dentist
1. Small Actions Can Have Big Consequences 2. Boundaries Are Necessary but Can Polarize 3. Jesus Also Lived in a Polarized Society 4. We Are Lepers in a World That Needs Healing 5. Why Jesus and Nicodemus Talked in the Dark 6. The Big Challenge Is to Listen Well 7. Our Stories Change How We Read the Bible 8. Paul Boldly Bridged the Jew-Gentile Polarity 9. Right Remembering Fosters Healing 10. Systemic Racism Shaped My Neighborhood 11. What Draws the Global Church Together? 12. Deep Spiritual Wells Can Replenish Hope
Conclusion Appendix A: Options for Action Appendix B: It Matters Where We Get Our News and Commentary Appendix C: Possibilities for Further Reading Index Notes About the Author
J. Nelson Kraybill, PhD, was president of Mennonite World Conference (2015–22), president of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Indiana (1997–2009), and programme director of the London Mennonite Centre in England (1991–96). Author of Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation, he is an ordained minister who served churches in England, Vermont, and Indiana. He leads Peace Pilgrim tours to biblical sites in the Holy Land, and currently is teaching and writing in Israel and Palestine (2022-23)..
“With much grace, humility, and presence, Stuck Together challenges the local church to engage the contentious issues of our time. Using careful scholarship and drawing from deep experience, J. Nelson Kraybill leads us to consider the demands of our life together in Christ for the world. A fresh, timely, wonderfully rich book for those seeking to be Christ’s justice amid a broken, violent world.”
~DAVID FITCH, B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary and author of The Church of Us vs. Them: Freedom from a Faith That Feeds on Making Enemies
“We may be stuck together as families, as churches, as human beings sharing the same world, but can we get unstuck from our polarizing attitudes and behaviors? I’m encouraged to do just that by J. Nelson Kraybill’s Stuck Together. It’s filled with real-life stories of what’s gone wrong and how we might move forward in healthier ways, grounded in the example of Jesus and the early church as they, too, faced polarization in their world. There’s no quick fix for the deep divide of polarization, but this book points to a better way and offers some practical steps to get there through learning respect for others, listening well, loving our neighbor, and leaning on God.”
~APRIL YAMASAKI, pastor, editor, and author of Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal
“Polarization, conflict, and violence have become the norm in today’s world. But fortunately, some peacemakers offer another path that brings meaning, transformation, and hope to an exhausted globe. In this hopeful and helpful book, J. Nelson Kraybill presents the true stories of peacemakers and the call to remember that we are all in this together. This book is an invaluable resource for the church, with relevant insights and solid religious underpinnings infused with the author’s personal experiences—a tool that peacemakers can use to bridge the polarized world.”
~DR. SAMUEL KEFAS SARPIYA, executive director of the Center for Nonviolence and Conflict Transformation
“Any Christian seeking to hold tension faithfully in these polarized times should read this book. Wise, grace filled, realistic, and yet deeply hopeful, J. Nelson Kraybill identifies tensions at the core of what it means to be human, tensions that permeate the very text of Scripture itself. Yet these costly tensions can be made beautiful in small ways by our participation in Christ’s victory, in resurrection life, and through the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit of self-giving love.”
~MICHAEL GULKER, president and cofounder of The Colossian Forum
“Stuck Together is peppered with insights, anecdotes, and biblical reflections, inviting patience, curiosity, and grace from those on all sides of polarized conversations to regard one another as partners in dialogue rather than as opponents in arms. This book will be a welcome conversation starter for church groups wrestling with what it means to be in communion with those with whom one disagrees.”
~BETTY PRIES, cofounder and CEO of Credence and author of The Space Between Us: Conversations about Transforming Conflict
“In Stuck Together, J. Nelson Kraybill embraces a paradox at the heart of the Christian faith. ‘The Spirit of God inspired diversity,’ he writes, yet ‘diversity alone is not an adequate identity for the church.’ Thus, the challenge for followers of Jesus is not to agree on everything, but rather to learn how to disagree ‘with gentleness and reverence’ (1 Peter 3:16). Yet Kraybill does not flinch from naming profound evils, such as genocide against Native Americans and systemic racism, where ‘agreeing to disagree’ is not an option.”
~DAVID BRUBAKER, dean of the School of Social Sciences and Professions and professor of organizational studies at Eastern Mennonite University and author of When the Center Does Not Hold: Leading in an Age of Polarization