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A Life of Reconciliation and Justice

Remembering Johann Christoph Arnold

The Editors

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On Monday, September 11, Plough hosted an event to honor the life of author Johann Christoph Arnold, who led the Bruderhof Communities for two decades. Arnold was a pastor, author, and tireless worker for reconciliation, and justice. His work has had a profound impact; he is respected across the political spectrum as reflected by the speakers who gathered to discuss his legacy.

Robert P. George remembers how Arnold’s rootedness in his own tradition (the Bruderhof Communities) and his living faith in Jesus gave him the authority and strength to witness to and work together with people of many different faiths and traditions. Timothy Cardinal Dolan remembers Arnold’s courage in standing up for marriage and the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death.

Dr. John M. Perkins, pastor, activist, and founding member of Christian Community Development Association shares memories of working together with Arnold. During the turbulent sixties, Perkins was looking for practical expression of what Martin Luther King called the “Beloved Community.” He found it in the Bruderhof, where Arnold was actively looking for ways to connect others who were working for justice and reconciliation. The friendship that grew from those years (Arnold often turned to Perkins as a mentor), has led to a decades-long relationship between Perkins and the Bruderhof.

R. R. Reno, editor of First Things journal, commented on Arnold’s work in publishing, and the living witness of the Christian community which inspired his written works.

From a local perspective, Stacey Rein, president of United Way of Ulster County, and Lieutenant Pat Regan of the New York State Police Department shared how Arnold and his community brought peacemaking and practical support to their next-door neighbors.

Hashim Garrett remembers working together with Arnold in the Breaking the Cycle program, speaking to young people about forgiveness in an effort to end the vicious cycle of revenge and violence.

Ultimately, however, the event was not about looking back on the life of Johann Christoph Arnold, but about looking to what he looked to, and continuing the work to which his life was dedicated.

“Don’t think you have to win the victory,” professor Robert P. George remembers Arnold saying. “That’s God’s job. Your job is to be faithful, and to bear witness.”

Let’s continue to do this together!

Johann Christoph Arnold and his wife Verena; watch the video here
Johann Christoph Arnold
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