“A Dangerous Dozen: 12 Christians Who Threatened the Status Quo but Taught Us to Live Like Jesus” by the Rev. C.K. Robertson. SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, Vt., 2011). 171 pp., $16.99.
“Ten African Heroes: The Sweep of Independence in Black Africa” by Thomas Melady and Margaret Melady. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, N.Y., 2011). 205 pp., $25.
By Regina Lordan
In the face of violence and political instability, certain brave Christians have answered with a rebellion and conviction, changing the world forever. Two books highlight these people who impacted the world throughout history.
In “Ten African Heroes: The Sweep of Independence in Black Africa,” Thomas Melady and Margaret Melady offer an insider account about the influence of faith and theology on African leaders who were the impetus for peaceful revolution from colonization in Africa in the 1960s. The Rev. C.K. Robertson’s “A Dangerous Dozen: 12 Christians Who Threatened the Status Quo but Taught Us to Live Like Jesus” features men and women from early Christianity to modern history who were a threat against political order and the status quo, sexism, anti-Semitism and bigotry.
A noted Anglican theologian, Rev. Robertson wrote a truly interesting book that even offers for the amateur reader some unknown information about important Christians and their rebellious spirit.
For example, St. Francis of Assisi is often viewed as a peaceful man with birds perched on his shoulder and rabbits snuggled at his feet. Though he was a friend to the animals, according to Rev. Robertson, St. Francis’ order of men evoked anything but an ambivalent response from church leaders. Living in poverty and preaching among the people, St. Francis’ followers bordered on the extreme and weird, and were viewed by some as a threat to the status quo.
Rev. Robertson also wrote about other game-changers: St. Paul, Dorothy Day, Sojourner Truth and Archbishop Oscar Romero, to name a few. Rooted in historical research and reflection, these stories are inspiring, engaging and educational.
In their book, the Meladys describe in great detail the many meetings and correspondence they shared with key African leaders involved in the peaceful independence movements that swept the continent. Former U.S. ambassador to Burundi, Uganda and the Vatican, Thomas Melady built relationships with these leaders by coordinating visits with universities and other agencies when they traveled to the United States.
Through these and other diplomatic duties, Melady and his wife built important relationships and deep understandings of the Christian motivations behind the statesmen from around the African continent. They share the stories of Leopold Senghor, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and others in the book, highlighting the influence of Protestant and Catholic teachings and missionaries in their lives.
A little dry, the book is appropriate for the reader who is familiar with and interested in African politics and movements. However exclusionary to the common reader, it gives an interesting insight into the so-called “Arab Spring” protests and reminds the reader that faith and religion cannot be discounted as a powerful motivator for action, good and bad.
Lordan is former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.