“Be Still!” reviews

“Be Still!” cover: Van Gogh’s “Prisoner’s Round”.

Reviews and endorsements of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017, Wipf and  Stock), and author interviews.

Donald Shriver, President Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, friend and colleague of Kosuke Koyama to whose memory “Be Still!” is dedicated:

“This is a marvelous little book, so eloquent and insightful about our modern need for stillness that I decided to read “Be Still!” in stages. Reading it all in one gulp is an insult to both its form and its content.

“It reminded me also of the title of Thomas Friedman’s recent book, “Thank You for being late.” Lateness in a visitor permits the visited a few minutes for reflection. Friedman celebrates his early years  in Minnesota.

“The Van Gogh reproduction on the cover reminded me of how hard it must be for the denizens of our prisons to ‘do time’ in a way envisioned for them when Protestants in early 19th century America named prisons ‘penitentiaries’.

“This collection is full of gems of thought and expression.  I will remember “Little Boys With Toys” as I attend a meeting this coming Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations on the current nuclear madness on the Korean Peninsula and in Washington.  And then, there is the gem of Cain and Abel….

“Koyama and I talked a lot about this madness, but together we rejoiced that we both had aurvived the madness of World War Two, he in not being killed by the dud of an incendiary bomb that fell in front of him during the great Tokyo obliteration raid of February, 1945, and I in not being dragged into the occupation of Japan as a draftee in 1946, my life having been allegedly saved by the war’s  end in the destructions of the atomic bombs in 1945. I often told the story of Koyama’s church membershi9p class at his age 12 as the war with Japan was beginning and his pastor said to those young Christians, “You must remember that God loves Americans as well as the Japanese.”  I usually    pointed out that I do not believe being told that during my time, at a similar age and time, in the churches of my upbringing in the 40s.”


John M. Miller, Chapel without Walls, Hilton Head, North Carolina.

“In Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, Gordon C. Stewart shows himself to be a Michel de Montaigne of the 21st century. His collection of essays addresses many of the issues which have created great problems in contemporary life, but he does ever so much more; he proposes ways for us to overcome these problems.

“The titles of his essays hint at the breadth of his mind. The Man Who Loved Graves; Mysterium Tremendum: Little Boys with Toys; Religion and Politics: Cain and Abel; Being Human: Nothing Less and Nothing More; Creating Hell in the Name of Heaven; Jacob Miller’s Amish Rocking Chair; Only One Sin: Exceptionalism; The American Oligarchy – 4/29/10. Who could allow titles such as those to go unread?

“The Rev. Stewart has been an extraordinary preacher and pastor in the congregations he has served. His theological and philosophical insights are indeed rare in someone whose life was dedicated to pastoral ministry. He would be an outstanding teacher at any university, seminary or divinity school in the country.

“It is evident that Gordon Stewart has drunk deeply of the truths of the Bible, the news media, and of life itself. His prose is virtually poetry. His words flow like lilting waters over the round rocks of a clear mountain stream. To read his book is to experience joy and to be moved to the very depths of one’s own being. Every pastor and serious lay member of any church will find fulfilling spiritual nourishment in these masterful essays. Be still, and then prepare to live life as one born anew.”

Midwest Book Review, April 2017:

“Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” is a consistently engaging and impressively memorable read from cover to cover. Thoroughly ‘reader friendly’ in organization and presentation, “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” is unreservedly recommended and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Religion/Spirituality collections and supplemental studies reading lists.” 

Bill Tammeus, Faith Matters blog:

When the Forces of Fear Rule” (April 18, 2017),  and Essays to Explain Our Collective Madness” (April 19, 2017).

Marilyn Armstrong, SERENDIPITY:

It is beautifully written. Elegant. …[E]ach section is complete — a story, an anecdote, a parable unto itself. …. If there is a criticism to level, it is simply that there is so much to think about, it’s hard to keep reading. I need to stop, think. And wonder!


Bill McKibben, Author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Plane

”These are lovely, powerful, centering essays–messages from and for a fragile but beautiful planet.”

Lucy A. Forster-Smith, Sedgwick Chaplain, Senior Minister in the Memorial Church, Harvard University

”As a person who navigates the pleasures and perils of the twenty-first-century campus, having Be Still! at my fingertips will be like having a counselor, a guide, a very present help in these times. This volume touches the pulse of our times with the rare combination of unwavering candor and tender mercy.”

J. Barrie Shepherd, Author, Between Mirage and Miracle

”Gordon Stewart has a way with words, a clean, clear, concise, and yet still creative way with words, a way that can set the reader almost simultaneously at the blood-stained center of the timely–the urgent issues of our day–and also at the deep heart of the timeless, those eternal questions that have forever challenged the human mind. Stewart looks at terror, Isis, and all their kin, from the perspective of Paul Tillich and, yes, John Lennon. He moves from Paris, Maine, by way of the town drunk, toward the City of God. This is strong medicine, to be taken in small, but serious doses. Wear a crash helmet!

Michael McNally, Ph.D, Professor of Religion, Carleton College; Author of Honoring Elders

Be Still! is needed at this American moment of collective madness even more than the moments that occasioned many of the essays originally airing on public radio and other venues. With a keen eye and a knack for telling the right story at the right time, Rev. Stewart speaks to the pressing issues in our politics, economy, and culture, and consistently, often poignantly, puts them in ethical and theological perspective that clarifies what too often mystifies. Great bedside reading for those of us who stay up at night concerned about where our world is heading!”

Joyce Sutphen, Minnesota Poet Laureate; Professor in English, Gustavus Adolphus College

Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness, is exactly what its title proclaims: a departure from the frenzy and folly of our times. Each essay offers the reader an opportunity to breathe deep, to fall into the story or idea and consider what it means to be a citizen, a friend, a human being. The topics covered are both particular and universal (usually both at the same time), and the writing is wonderfully concise and open–much like poetry! This is a book you will want to open again and again; it s what the world needs now, more than ever.”

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

“This wondrous collection of rich snippets would be of interest and value if only for the rich source material that Gordon Stewart quotes from, as it must be an inexhaustible memory and/or file. But the many words he quotes are no more than launching pads for Stewart’s expansive imagination and agile mind that take us, over and over, into fresh discernment, new territory, unanticipated demands, and open-ended opportunity. All of that adds up to grace, and Stewart is a daring witness to grace that occupies all of our territory.”