Folks who follow these matters have been waiting for Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for a very long time. Way back in the nineties, he spied within Bonhoeffer’s witness a whole new way of conceiving the self: “The new being emerges in and out of togetherness…Jesus Christ as life together activates the living consciousness of the other as neighbor” (Reclaiming Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Promise of Theology). From there, as teacher, memoirist, and historian, Marsh took a long and fruitful detour into America’s Civil Rights era, interviewing, recording oral histories, and chronicling a past that isn’t at all dead in God’s Long Summer, The LastDays: A Son’s Story of Sin and Segregation at the Dawn of a New South, and TheBeloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil RightsMovement to Today. Beloved community, the fact of it, the vision of the thing, and the way it's always before us as a possibility is also named in his notion of LivedTheology, a project he exemplifies and enables and seeks to cultivate in others. It’s a vision of holistic gospel which makes Marsh the kind of person who would see a live connection at work where others see different compartments, issues, isms, and fields of study.
Take for example the spirit that moved community organizer John Perkins to return to live and minister in Mississippi in 1960 even when his brother, a decorated WWII war veteran, had been murdered by a police officer there 13 years before, dying in his arms as his uncle searched in vain for a hospital that would treat African Americans. Where does this spirit connect to the motivations behind Will Campbell’s ministry to imprisoned Klansmen or Bonhoeffer’s decision to return to Nazi Germany? Read Charles Marsh to find out.
I’ll mention too that Marsh is the kind of person who would take the time to introduce Jon Foreman to John Perkins to see what would come of it. What comes of it is this sort of thing.
So….I drop all of this on you to celebrate the arrival of Strange Glory (the title of this post comes from a phrase on pg. 13) AND to notify all Nashvillians that Charles is among us tonight (Thursday 6:30) at Parnassus Books. Come on out and be delighted.