The Orthodox Martial Art is Living the Sermon on the Mount Review

The Orthodox Martial Art is Living the Sermon on the Mount
CJS Hayward
CJS Hayward Publications
$19.99 Hardcover/$11.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

The Orthodox Martial Art is Living the Sermon on the Mount departs from CJS Hayward's other works, linking the Sermon on the Mount to Orthodoxy in a manner that promotes and links the Sermon to martial arts mastery.

Hayward opens with many thought-provoking statements, not the least of which is a discourse on the belief that Christians need to be more cognizant of catch phrases and words that describe their mission. His attack on the vague "lay down your life for your neighbor" and his consideration of the violence underlying this concept invites further discourse and reflection on the notion of Christians killing and fighting.

As always, Hayward's ability to both analyze and pull no punches in analyzing the belief systems and underlying psychological and spirituality which are part of Orthodoxy comes to the forefront in discussions which are as passionate as they are studious:

"The Orthodox Church indisputably has warrior-saints, including the patron of our monastery, but the Greek Fathers have precious little of a concept of "just war." The only Church Father I am aware of speaking in favor of Just War was Blessed Augustine, and I have said in other contexts that if St. Augustine is your only friend among the Fathers, you are on shaky ground. I do not see what theological warrant buttresses the assertion that Orthodox Christians believe in just war."

From his analysis and consideration of "slippery words in Orthodoxy" to deeper reflections on the gifts of the Sermon on the Mount which appear in disparate ways ("It was by the Sermon on the Mount not following protocol that an Orthodox elder responded to a subordinate who had let loose a torrent of toxic words against him by giving him a small gift and saying, 'Always talk to me that way!'"), CJS Hayward creates discussion points and insights that lend particularly well to debate in Orthodox circles.

From what translates to successful and ultimate mastery to how intention and spiritual reflection are employed both internally and externally, Hayward creates discussions that are passionate, vivid, and filled with life:

"The martial artist I most respect said, humbly, gently, modestly, that even in the close calls, he had said, "You're the tough guy," and backed down, or run away, or almost anything possible (whatever it took), coming out the loser in every social confrontation, and he went on to say, "Most people who think they want to fight don't really want to fight." And I submit that the proof of his profound mastery of his art was this: he has passed through minefield after minefield after minefield such as I almost certainly could not, without stepping on a mine even once. The point is not that he happened to be carrying a first aid kit in case he did step on a mine. The point is not that he was carrying a very, very good first aid kit in case he did step on a mine. The proof of his mastery is that, as of my last knowledge, he had never needed to open his first aid kit, not even once. And indeed martial artists often defuse a potential fight before most outsiders would recognize there was anything going out of the ordinary going on."

Given how martial arts is reflected in credentials, teachings, and instances in Hayward's life when he was granted extraordinary realizations and experiences that reinforced Orthodoxy beliefs and underlying messages, this book is a synthesis of his life work and revelations. It invites thinking Orthodoxy readers and Christians alike to reconsider some of the basic tenets of belief in a new way.

Libraries seeking a contemporary discourse on Orthodoxy's presence in and ongoing relevance to current daily living will find The Orthodox Martial Art is Living the Sermon on the Mount spirited, wide-ranging, and thought-provoking. It's essential reading for those who would link the underlying foundations of Orthodoxy to modern times.

[Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer
Midwest Book Review]