Amy Peterson – The place Kindness Nonetheless Grows – Bible Type

Amy Peterson – The place Kindness Nonetheless Grows

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Nothing is ever wasted

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Where goodness grows:
Recapture virtue in times of hypocrisy
Amy Peterson

Hardcover: W Publishing Group, 2020
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Reviewed by June Mears Driedger

In 1994, William J. Bennett published The Book of Virtues: A treasure trove of great moral stories, a collection of stories, reflections, and poems that deal with features such as responsibility, courage, persistence, faith, self-discipline, and other characteristics. A total of nine virtues. A year later, he wrote the book of virtues for boys and girls for middle school students. Both books were extremely popular with evangelical readers and were used by parents to teach their children family devotions.

Amy Peterson writes about these books as part of her formative years in her conservative evangelical household in her book: Where goodness still grows: Recapture virtue in an age of hypocrisy. Peterson recovers virtues with nine different virtues, looking back at how those specific virtues were understood in conservative evangelical culture, then examining how these traits have changed for her and how she now understands them.

The introduction to her book is entitled "Virtues for the Apocalypse" to determine where her own perceptions began to change: after her overseas missionary efforts stalled (as she described in her previous book, Dangerous areas) and her subsequent move to the west coast of the United States, she began taking care of the environment, immigration, health care, and the prison system. She writes: "But even when I started voting differently from my parents and many Christians I knew, I still believed in the good faith of those Christian leaders who supported Republican candidates." (xvi)

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But the infamous 2016 US presidential election shocked them. Donald Trump's candidacy and eventual victory have "lost" me. (xvii)

I expected them to take care of how Trump treated women … Again and again the people who spoke out against Clinton spoke strongly for Trump. (xvii)

Then Peterson wonders if she has to throw away everything she has learned from the Evangelical Church, but she is not ready to throw everything away. Instead, she recalls what was valuable to her: "… that I was created in the image of God, that I am worthy of love and that I am indeed deeply loved." (Xviii)

Peterson is a deep thinker and takes care of her shock at the hypocrisy of conservative evangelical culture. She returns to the book her father read to her and her siblings Bennet Book of Virtues. She began to study the book and found that fewer than ten entries were written by men in color and white women without contributions from women in color. The rest of the forty-three pieces were written by white men.

I began to understand that (Bennett's) treatment of virtue lacked basic curiosity and awareness that ethical decisions are complex. there was a lack of understanding of the need to seek real insights outside of the familiar. His vision of virtue was not panoramic and universal; it was short-sighted and self-referential. Could such a limited vision of virtue provide fertile ground for hypocrisy? (xx)

Peterson concludes that Bennett's book reflects the larger evangelical culture as "simple". and "moralistic," which then creates an armed understanding of virtue "that exists primarily to maintain the existing hierarchy."

She wisely teases apart the definition of the word "apocalypse" that she uses in her introductory title that it does not mean the end of the world as described in The late, big planet Earth written by Hal Lindsey in the 1970s or throughout popular culture such as "The Hunger Games" films or in Margaret Atwood's dystopian novels. Rather, the apocalypse means "an exposure, an unveiling of something hidden, a revelation". (xxiv) For Peterson, a lot has been discovered in the broader culture and especially in Evangelicalism. But what has been exposed can be healed – transformed – into God's kinship.

And Peterson begins to complain – to complain as a holy complaint; The way to announce this is wrong and needs to be changed. She describes the lawsuit as the "seedbed of hope". From her complaints, she imagines virtues as tools to “cultivate wisdom, not a weapon that can be used against enemies; as wild, not tame; as embodied, not just written; as diverse, not unique; negotiated as relational, not regulated by law. "(Xxv)

After complaining, she begins to construct the virtues that she believes are in God's kinship on earth as in heaven: kindness, hospitality, purity, humility, authenticity, love, and discernment.

She closes her book focusing on hope and how she practices hope:

Practicing hope means seeking justice, caring for the earth, creating and celebrating beauty, making others curious about their lives, and through these actions proclaiming that God is God, that death and corruption do not win, despite all evidence for the contrary, every part of this world is precious and salvation is on the way. (163)

Peterson is an excellent writer who has forced me to underline the whole book extensively. She is a thoughtful writer who made me add stars, exclamation marks, and other notations to my underline. She honestly and vulnerably shares her deconstruction process without making fun of the people she loves and who still identify as conservative evangelicals. Rather, Peterson believes that nothing is ever wasted, including her childish beliefs.

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June Mears Driedger

June Mears Driedger is a writer, spiritual director, and resident of The Hermitage, a contemplative retreat center in Three Rivers, Michigan.

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