I thought too much of the book was filled with uninteresting fluff: such as what time Carlson checked into a certain monastery, clothing worn, what kinds of chores he may or may not have performed, the monks' schedules, what they ate and when they ate it, etc. Without these details, the book would have been far shorter than the nearly 300 pages that it is.
Here's what I understood to be the overall opinions of the monks and nuns Dr. Carlson interviewed:
- America is wrong, we deserved what we got on 9/11, and it's no wonder everybody hates us;
- Americans are a bunch of prideful carmudgens who don't share with our global neighbors;
- So much is wrong with Christianity and Christians;
- Americans and American Christians need to forgive, as well as observe the events of 9/11 from Islam's point of view;
- Americans and American Christians need to learn about others and how we can compromise in order to better get along with our global neighbors.
Primarily, my biggist issue was with Carlson's theology, which can be summed up in a single phrase out of the book, "Dialoguing and praying with other religions seems less important if the church believes those other relgions need to be evangelized" (p. 154). Let's be honest for just a moment: If what we Christians believe is true about God, heaven, hell, sin, salvation, Jesus Christ, etc, and if we truly believe what we believe about those things is true, then it seems to me that Christians would/should want everyone to know the truth. It seems we would be righteously burdened to evangelize the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ so our neighbors won't suffer eternal damnation in hell.
But that's not the approach in "Peace be with You." In fact, Jesus Christ and His graceful work of redemption of sinners is largely absent in the book. He's not set forth as the Prince of Peace the world needs. Instead, all paths appear to be equally valid approaches to the summit of bringing the world into unity. Rather than needing Jesus Christ for salvation, Carlson seems to suggest that what the world needs most is Thomas Merton's enlightenment (p.265).
Sadly, the mention -- and even explanation -- of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are hardly mentioned in the book. When mentioned, Calvary was more of a figurative event than a literal one. For example, "...the incarnate Christ is being both crucified in every moment of human suffering and being resurrected whenever that suffering is met by selfless acts of love" (p.265). I wonder what happened to the true purpose of Calvary, where Jesus was crucified to redeem sinners to a holy God, and rose again to secure eternal life? That message is absent in this book.
Dr. Carlson certainly got the point across that it would be good for us (Christians, Americans, etc) to approach and view our "enemies" through the eyes of Jesus Christ. "Does the Christ whom I worship see the world with its religious divides, or does Christ see beyond that to the suffering of our world? (p.49). Maybe we would do well to learn how to forgive those who attacked us on that day. Maybe doing so would aide is progressing toward healing. If Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, why do we so often think that command doesn't apply to our situation? It's high time for Christians to lead the rest of the world in how to respond to our world, our enemies, and our neighbors. That said, I give Dr. Carlson credit for at least getting the questions into the public forum.
Overall, I wasn't entirely interested in this book, but I promised to read completely in order to fairly review it. I give "Peace be with You" two and a half stars out of 5, primarily for (1) effort and (2) legitimacy of some important questions proposed. I dock stars primarily for theology and lack of interesting material.
Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review. All opinions are mine. I was not threatened, coerced, or promised favors of any kind in exchange for writing a positive review.