Book Review: Man from Macedonia
The Man from Macedonia
The book Man from Macedonia is a landmark work which is far past due in our time. The autobiography of civil rights titan Reverend Aaron Johnson, Man from Macedonia recounts six decades of struggle to bring civil justice to the American landscape; but does so from the vantage of a longsuffering Christian minister who, like his mother, believes in forgiveness rather than anger.
The book grabs the reader’s attention immediately by giving the sordid details of an appalling and terrifying act of injustice and hatred in the segregated south. But Johnson coaxes the reader from the depths of despair by transitioning into tales of a strong community spirit and strength which carried a people through a time of hardship on the wings of brotherhood and deep, spiritual roots.
Osculating between heartwarming and chuckling tales of a boyhood marked with equal parts religion and mischief; and tales of injustice suffered far too frequently – Johnson’s childhood is narrated in a witty, homespun fashion worthy of Roy Rogers or Prairie Home Companion. His seven-plus decades of life have in no way dulled Johnson’s wit or memory, as he paints each character from his childhood so clearly, you get to know them as if they were your own friends.
The narrative style shifts as the story progresses from childhood to early adulthood, and Johnson heads off the college. After this transition, the story accelerates as Johnson becomes acquainted with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and throws himself with a passion into the Civil Rights movement, enduring hardships and abuse with a sense of accomplishment that overrides his fear and reluctance.
At this point, the story still does not lack for narrative details which pull the reader into the atmosphere of the tale.
Post-College, Johnson begins telling of his early ministry as a pastor, still brushing up against civil rights as he shepherds his flock with commitment and love.
This all changes with the death of Dr. King. Suddenly the country is thrust into riots and chaos, and Aaron wades his way into this mess carrying on Dr. Kings message of non-violence and reconciliation.
What follows is a frantic, non-stop tale as Aaron performs the impossible: at one point even getting Klan members and Black Panthers in the same room to peacefully resolve their differences. At this point in the story, Aaron is dodging bullets from snipers and performing undercover work as he mills among violent fringe groups in order to recruit members into his non-violent movement.
Finally, Aaron is carried into the world of politics where his attitude of resolution rather than resistance continues on. In the last act of the book, he finds himself heading up the prison system in North Carolina, bringing about radical changes to better the living conditions and medical care within these institutions. As the book closes out, Aaron has brought outright revival to the prisons, changing hearts and lives with the message of God’s love.
At a moment in the book when Aaron and his family are being kidnapped at gunpoint, he says, “I knew I was a good talker – most preachers are. This gift of words and reason had saved my life more than once.” This gift of words is evident through the entire book as it captures and holds the reader’s attention. His engaging narrative style mingled with his fascinating life story form a cocktail difficult to resist.
Man from Macedonia is a book so timely, it ought to be required reading in schools alongside To Kill a Mockingbird.