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BOOKS AND REVIEWS

Released summer 2012.  J. M. Dawsey’s The Malachy Oracles:  Evil’s Scent (Savage, Mn: Lighthouse Christian Publishing)

Born with 220 million olfactory receptors in the mucous membrane of her nose, the same as a bloodhound, and trained to smell diseases, SISTER MICHAELA is asked to make sense of a contagious illness.  During the day, the sick wilt; lesions cover their bodies; they burn with fever.  But as these symptoms abate at night, the patients emit a sulfurous odor: Evil.

Michaela’s search for the deeper meaning of the disease and her attempt to stop its spread lead from Atlanta to an ancient Jesuit mission in the southern Amazon to Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro and back to Atlanta.  The more she pursues answers, the more Michaela finds herself entangled in a web she does not understand.  Through a secret Order of militant knights, the Vatican is involved.  A hotel bombing.  A marksman’s bullet.  No one knows how Michaela’s niece became pregnant, and then she is kidnapped.  The State Department wants Michaela to disappear–and meanwhile the virus is spreading.

The knights are descendants of the Templars and keepers of the ancient oracles.  The Church and the Pope face danger.  But why do the knights guard Michaela?  The scrolls of Qumran provide additional clues.  And when joined to Michaela’s ability to sniff what ordinary people cannot, she begins to grasp meaning.  Who are the forces of night?  Why is Michaela’s niece a bull’s-eye target?  Does the sickness indicate more than the rise of the sons and daughters of darkness?  Is that the Order’s most damning secret?  What does the Vatican not want anyone to know?

*****

Released 2010.  Peter’s Last Sermon: Identity and Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press).

What Christian would not want to hear Mark’s gospel as the first believers heard it?  Peter’s Last Sermon makes significant progress toward that task.  Using all the tools of modern scholarship, the study takes seriously Mark’s audience.  The community would have heard rather than read the gospel.  It would have encountered the story as a whole instead of piecemeal in short texts for sermons.  Missing would have been the static of Matthew, Luke, and John.  And there is much more.  As for the speaker?  While most modern scholars table the question of authorship, the post-apostolic writers of the second and third centuries claim with one voice that (though penned by Mark) the gospel actually went back to Peter.  So to hear the gospel as did those early Christians was to hear it as if coming from him.  Does it make a difference to our understanding of Mark’s message if from Peter?  Yes.  And the result is surprising.  Peter’s Last Sermon takes us on a journey through Roman and Jewish texts to meet not the Jesus of the modern Church but of Peter’s proclamation in Rome.  Nero’s persecution had left the community in crisis.  What was Peter’s message for his time?  Christ was different than expected, he said.  But how?  That is the content of Peter’s Last Sermon.

*****

Released 2009.  Masters and Savages (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press).

A saint who despises slavery yet traffics people.  A Southern hero, but also a coward.  A runaway aching for home.  Civil War survivor Witfield Stone totters on the brink of insanity.  Entrusted with transporting contract laborers from Africa to Brazil where his father and members of the Southern Land and Immigration Society plan to reconstruct their lost fortunes, Witfield takes special interest in the fate of eleven-year-old Fatima.  On the eve of embarkation, disease breaks out, and there is pressure to sacrifice the child for the sake of the cargo.  Witfield valiantly resists.  And even as the clipper ship sails and disease takes hold of all on board, Witfield protects her.  But why does he stake the last vestiges of his crumbling humanity on saving this particular girl among so many?  What leads him to think she is the road to redemption?  There is more to Witfield’s past than first meets the eye.  And there is more trouble ahead than he can imagine.

*****

Released 1995, paperback 1998, Portuguese revised edition, 2005.  The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press). Co-authored and co-edited with Cyrus B. Dawsey, III.  Portuguese revised edition, Americans: Imigrantes do Velho Sul no Brasil. Serie Perspectivas Internacionais (Piracicaba, SP: Editora UNIMEP).  Co-authored and co-edited with John C. Dawsey and Cyrus B. Dawsey, III.

The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil concerns a group of southerners, dissatisfied with the outcome of the American Civil War, who immigrated to Brazil.  Most of the immigrants who remained in Brazil eventually settled near what today has become the city of Americana in the state of São Paulo.  There, the community prospered in the late 19th century and early 20th century and for many years preserved the English language, the religious beliefs, and the educational values of the immigrants.  This volume focuses on the Norris colony, near present-day Americana, and makes clear the ways in which the Americans influenced Brazilian culture beginning in the 1860s and continuing to the present.

*****

Released 1992, Spanish edition 2002, Korean edition 2009.  From Wasteland to Promised Land:  Liberation Theology for a Post-Marxist World (Maryknoll, NY, and London: Orbis Books and Shepheard-Walwyn). Co-authored with Robert V. Andelson. Spanish edition, De la Tierra Devastada a la Tierra Prometida (New York, NY: Robert Schalkenbach Foundation).

Stymied by the persistence of poverty throughout the world, persons of good will search widely for realistic models of social transformation.  In From Wasteland to Promised Land authors Andelson and Dawsey argue that the biblical perspective on land, and the proposals of economist/social critic Henry George, offer challenging and promising horizons.  In the wake of failures of both socialist states and capitalist economies, Andelson and Dawsey demonstrate convincingly how thought on land as the basic source of human wealth can be developed to address the problem of poverty.

The “Promised Land” remains a compelling symbol of deliverance, from the time of the Exodus to the “boat peoples” of our own day.  The biblical perspective on land as a gift of God to the community, and not primarily to any individuals, has been obliterated by capitalism and mangled by secularist socialism and Marxism. Andelson and Dawsey persuasively argue that misuse of land constitutes the root problem of human poverty and national underdevelopment.  They build on the recommendations of Henry George on “land rent”–citing policies on land in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark–as a way to redress the inequities inherent in current systems.

With clarity and insight this pioneering book cuts through the inadequacies of traditional solutions to the dilemmas of poverty.  At a time when the alternatives often seem to be between selfish pursuit of wealth and ineffectual idealism, From Wasteland to Promised Land retrieves a transcendent religious vision of community that is realistic both about economics and about human nature.

*****

Released 1988, 1989.  A Scholar’s Guide to Academic Journals in Religion. Atla Bibliography Series no. 23 (Metuchen, NJ, and London: The Scarecrow Press).

When first published, A Scholar’s Guide was a valuable tool for those seeking to publish academic writings in Religion.  Today, much of it’s information is dated and Dawsey is considering a request to produce a revised edition.  The guide identifies academic journals publishing articles on Scripture, religious education, or social justice; the types of articles a specific journal normally does or does not accept; the manuscript requirements; to whom an article should be addressed; specific submissions editors are seeking; whether submissions are refereed or not; length of time it takes editors of a particular journal to respond to a submission; approximate proportion of submissions a journal accepts.

*****

Released 1986.  The Lukan Voice:  Confusion and Irony in the Gospel of Luke (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press).

Here we have a fresh reading of the text of Luke by one who is familiar with literary criticism and the devices of storytellers, ancient and modern.  Even though Professor Dawsey does join the “how” of Luke’s Gospel with the “what” of Luke’s Gospel, it is quite evident that he does not make literary criticism the handmaiden either of history or of theology.  Professor Dawsey argues persuasively that Luke has used the ancient  storyteller’s device of giving characters in a story identifiable patterns of speech as distinct from the narrator.  These different voices expressing different views of Jesus and of Jesus’ work address each other and the reader.  By means of two literary devices, confusion and irony, these different voices function to confront the reader with the message of the book.  Because more than one view of Jesus is presented by these voices, the reader is forced not only to discern the message, but also to make some decision about it.  Because of his very careful and close reading of the text of Luke, Professor Dawsey invites but also demands that those who join him in this study do the same.

Discussion

One thought on “BOOKS AND REVIEWS

  1. I need to read Peter’s Last Sermon. Is it available via Kindle yet?

    Posted by James Ciro Dawsey | January 9, 2012, 8:01 am

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