On Second Thought

Essays Out of My Life

Donald W. Shriver, Jr.

Mar/2010, 224 Pages, PAPERBACK, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9781596271098



In this, Don Shriver’s fifteenth book, the socially involved ethicist and former president of Union Theological Seminary reveals some of the challenging experiences and ideas that have informed his work. In a book both personal and honest, Shriver reflects on the nature and importance of books, music, education, war, friends, marriage, political conflict, and his tenure at Union. The essays as a whole represent exemplary theological work by showing how biblical images and themes provided Shriver with both a lens for interpreting his era and a perspective from which to anticipate the future. A dominant theme of his work has been the dynamics of forgiveness in human society and the meaning of forgiveness, beyond personal life, in the relations of groups and nations. A final essay, a letter to the great-grandchildren he will never meet, articulates the positive and hopeful message of this wide-ranging collection.

For readers already familiar with his local-to-global efforts spanning ecumenical, racial, economic, and political justice issues, the book offers new insights into how Shriver’s life experiences have impacted his work. For those not yet familiar with that work, the collection offers an intimate introduction to Shriver’s passions for theology, history, and social justice, particularly in the American South, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, and East Asia.

Donald Shriver has belonged to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations since 1988 and was president of Union Seminary from 1975 to 1991. He has taught ethics at Union, Columbia University, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Emory University; written 13 books, and lectured worldwide. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he is married to the poet, Peggy Shriver, and resides in New York.

In Chapter 5, Shriver puts this wise question: “Whoever grew up without a lot of help?” (p. 68) However we grow in life, and whatever we accomplish in life, we do so on the shoulders of others. I have been inspired also by Shriver’s reverent practice of reaching out and offering “thank you” messages to several persons who have shaped his life. Shriver’s chapter on friends and friendship describes friends as “gifts arriving in one’s life without notice or asking.”   In his final chapter, Shriver offers an intriguing letter about his hopes for his great-grandchildren that he will never see: That they will be alive and well in 2060. That they will be daily grateful. That they will be honored to belong to a worldwide human family. That they will be deeply in love in a permanent marriage of companionship and fidelity. That they will be faithfully aware that they are greatly loved and empowered to love by a “love divine, all loves excelling.”   I chose this book as the basis for our retreat discussions because Shriver winsomely articulates what has been ultimately important to him and his life pilgrimage. I believe his reflections provide a remarkable instrument for exploring what is ultimately important for each reader.   Dean K. Thompson Former president, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary


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