Westminster John Knox Press, $24.95, 305 pp.
Robert McAfee Brown may not be a familiar name to younger readers of Commonweal, but there are many reasons to place him on a list of contemporary Christian heroes. He was a teacher and a scholar, a theologian, a musician, and an activist for justice, and this memoir gives convincing evidence that he was an equally committed husband, father, and grandfather.
He died in 2001, this book not quite finished, but friends and family have filled in the few blanks with taste and passion. The brief foreword by the late William Sloane Coffin emphasizes that Bob-readers will find it difficult to think of him in formal terms-“recognized that being a Christian was not so much an achieved position as a desired one.” The prologue by Bob’s wife, Sydney Thomson Brown, emphasizes that “he wanted the earth to be fair and good for all” and addresses him as “my love, my compañero, my friend.” Gripping and sometimes humorous stories illuminate the various stages of Bob’s life, for which his Presbyterian pastor-father had well prepared him.
Bob first came to my attention in the early 1960s when he was teaching at Union Theological Seminary, and writing for Christianity and Crisis, a now-defunct Protestant biweekly founded by Reinhold...