Donald B. Kraybill updates bestselling, award-winning Upside-Down Kingdom

February 6, 2018

 Donald B. Kraybill updates bestselling, award-winning Upside-Down Kingdom

HARRISONBURG, Va.—In Donald B. Kraybill’s The Upside-Down Kingdom, Jesus is slightly irreverent. He critiques the rich, scorches nationalism, redefines Old Testament law, and undercuts the authority of religious leaders.

Kraybill points out that Jesus is into sharing, not hoarding. Service, not status. Community, not competition. Basins, not swords. Loyalty to God, not nation.

Kraybill, a prolific author and sought-after spokesperson on all things Mennonite and Amish, says that people who follow Jesus “embody the life-giving reign of God amid cultures bent on violence, destruction, and death.”

In this anniversary edition of the classic book The Upside-Down Kingdom, released on February 6 by Herald Press, Kraybill calls readers to imagine and embody the reign of God on earth “as it is in heaven.” Since its initial publication in 1978, The Upside-Down Kingdom has become the most-trusted resource on radical Christian discipleship. It won the National Religious Book Award in 1979.

The book has sold more than 100,000 copies and been translated into seven languages. In this edition, the author updated interpretations of parables and added cultural context and connections to current events. Lisa Sharon Harper, author of The Very Good Gospel, has written a new foreword. New discussion questions by D. L. Mayfield and Krispin Mayfield have been added.

Kraybill is internationally recognized for his scholarship on Anabaptist groups. His books, research, and commentary have been featured in national and worldwide media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, NPR, CNN, and NBC. He is distinguished college professor and senior fellow emeritus at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. Kraybill is the author, coauthor, and editor of many books, including Amish Grace and The Riddle of Amish Culture.

“There are many books on Jesus, each with a different spin on his story,” says Kraybill. “In The Upside-Down Kingdom, I have accented the provocative and perplexing upside-downness of the life and teaching of Jesus. My slant reflects my interests as a sociologist and an Anabaptist Christian.”

Staff release
Hi-res photos available

To schedule an interview with Donald Kraybill, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

The Upside-Down Kingdom is available from Herald Press for $18.99 (paperback) and $14.99 (ebook) at 800-245-7894 or at www.HeraldPress.com, Amazon, and other online sources. Canadian customers can order from CommonWord (877-846-1593), Parasource (800-263-2664), and elsewhere.

Pushing the Edges

By Byron Rempel-Burkholder

This week I’ve been working on two books by people who are not Mennonite but who are passionately committed to social justice and attracted to radical Christian discipleship. If you’ve ever heard me talking about the books, chances are you’ve heard me say that they “push the edges” of what we at MennoMedia normally do. Both are to be released this fall.

The first is a comic book, Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith. It opens with excerpts from the gospels, showing the original Jesus movement from a social justice perspective, and then tells stories of people through history who have taken seriously Jesus’ costly call to peace and reconciliation. Historical examples include Swiss Anabaptist Conrad Grebel and slavery opponent Angelina Grimke. More recent stories feature Christian Peacemaker Teams workers and civil rights leaders.

Editor Paul Buhle is a veteran comic book writer, editor, and university professor of comic art. Paul says this is the first comic book of its kind, taking its place among various graphic retellings of the Bible, including the recent Manga Bible. And yet it also fits squarely within a long tradition of using visual art to illuminate the gospel story.

The format is relatively new territory for us, and therefore edgy. But so is the cast of participants in the book. The three illustrators are all recognized comic artists from a variety of backgrounds, each bringing a unique perspective on what’s so radical about Jesus. Sabrina Jones overlays the gospel stories with visual allusions to contemporary social justice issues; Nick Thorkelson introduces us to Catholic Worker communities; while Gary Dumm pays homage to Quakers, and their relationships with Native Americans. It’s refreshing to see how radical Christian discipleship has played out in so many ways in history, beyond our usual Anabaptist stories, and even beyond the language we use to tell them.

Coincidentally—or providentially?—another fall release is doing something similar, even though it is quite a different book. For God and Country (in that Order): Faith and Service for Ordinary Radicals by Iraq war veteran Logan Mehl-Laituri is what the author calls a kind of hagiography—a book of stories about saints. But the saints he profiles here are people who have served in the military and have struggled to come to terms with Jesus’ call to the way of peace and nonviolence.

Many of these people were, or became, conscientious objectors. Some, like Logan, left the military when they encountered the gospel. Others felt God’s call to serve in non-combatant roles, such as chaplaincy or in the medical corps. Some, including Logan, maintain a deep compassion for their fellow-soldiers—especially today, when soldiers come home psychologically wounded, often ignored or criticized by the church, and every bit in need of the gospel as smug pacifists in armchairs.

Like Radical Jesus, this book begins in the Bible and then combs history for stories of faithful people—in this case, those who worked that treacherous borderland between civic duty and nonviolence. These “saints” are not perfect—and one or two, such as the biblical Samson, are downright bad examples. Warriors such as Deborah in Judges and Cornelius in the book of Acts show courage and faithfulness. St. Francis and St. Joan of Arc challenge militarism in their own ways. North Americans serving in the increasingly brutal context of high-tech warfare find themselves all the more convinced of Jesus’ way of peace.

For Mennonites and other pacifists who reject all participation in things military, some of the stories in For God and Country will shatter comfort zones. But maybe that’s healthy. It will help us be a little less judgmental of those who have interpreted Jesus’ call slightly differently. It will help us appreciate the difficult path that people of faith in the military walk every day. It will arouse us to compassion for those who have been wounded by war. It will jostle us out of the smugness that so easily tempts us, especially if we are not on the front lines of violence ourselves.

In editing both these books, I have become even more convinced that the way we grow in our faithfulness is by walking the edges, not staying in the comfortable middle. Even for those of us who wish to claim a “radical” faith—we can become settled in our radical identity. These books shake us up a little—just as the gospel itself does.

IMG_6160Byron is managing book editor for Herald Press, MennoMedia’s tradebook division.He works out of his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba.