Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Climate Church, Climate World

How people of faith must work for change, by Rev Jim Antal, 2018.

The national synod of the United Church of Christ, USA passed a motion in 2017 that: The climate crisis is the opportunity for which the Church was born.

Jim Antal’s book opens with historian Lynn White’s words in 1967.. More science and technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until we find a new religion or rethink our old one. Antal argues that climate change is the greatest moral challenge humanity has ever faced because it multiplies all forms of global injustice: hunger, refugees, poverty, inequality, deadly viruses and war.

A compelling case is presented that it’s time for the church to meet this moral challenge, just as the church addressed previous moral challenges. He calls for the church to embrace a new vocation so that future generations might live in harmony with God’s creation and each other. After describing how we have created the dangers our planet now faces, Antal urges the church to embrace a new vocation, one focused on collective not individual salvation and an expanded understanding of the Golden Rule. He suggests ways people of faith can reorient what they prize through new approaches to worship, preaching, witnessing, and other spiritual practices that honours creation, cultivates hope and motivates love for others into action.

Richard Smith

6 December 2019

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Book Review: Activist Theology

from our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice Australia

Activist Theology

Sometimes books come along at just the right time. One such book has been Activist Theology by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza which my wife and I have been listening to on audible as we have been driving round Tasmania. I can’t recall anything quite like it.

Twenty-five years ago, the theologian Dorothee Soelle commented,

When I first came to this country (USA) and started to teach at Union Theological Seminary, the faculty and students asked me again and again: What has your theology to do with your being a woman? I did not know how to respond. Of course I knew of some things I intensely disliked in male theological circles – namely, the springing from one quotation to the next in their writing without the courage to use personal discourse; the almost anal obsession with footnotes, called ‘scientific style’; the conscious – but much worse, the unconscious – craving for orthodoxy and shelter it offers to the professional theologian; the neglect of historical reflection in favour of glib talk about ‘historicity’; the failure to evaluate and reflect on praxis.

I also felt a certain lack of candour and honesty, and I sensed no need to be personally exposed to the truth of Scripture and tradition.”[i] (p.xvi)

None of these criticisms can be levelled at Robyn Henderson-Espinoza. Her life transparently informs her work. Robyn describes herself a transqueer activist and Latinx scholar with white-passing privilege because of the colour of her melanin who has had to rely on food stamps to survive.

She works at the interface between the academy (university defined widely), the church and local activist movements. While at one level this is not new, (I think of Jurgen and Elizabeth Moltmann, and Jacques Ellul in Europe, James Cone in the USA, the South American Liberation theologians, and even Charles Birch and Veronica Brady here in Australia), her approach has a freshness, immediacy and a companionable solidarity. Her inclusion of the work of and discussion with activist poet Britt!ni “Ree Belle” Gray is one of the many highlights.

When she writes about the importance of “struggle” you know that this is not a remote theological concept, but something that is integral to her life as an activist theologian. Her work then becomes nourishing emotionally as well as intellectually. Her theology is literally written onto her body, tattooed on her hands in prayer as “divine doubter”.

For activist theology, God is in the change that is becoming. Activist theology is thus hope filled, not covered in despair. This is the message our time needs.

A month ago, this was brought home to me when I gave a workshop for social work academics on what they could do about student poverty. Though well intentioned, many of the academics felt overwhelmed and powerless to act. This may seem strange to the outsider, for after all, academics have resources in terms of knowledge, communication skills, status and in some cases money that are far greater than those most in need. Yet it was true that the neoliberal system was putting obstacles in the way of their acting, (lack of tenure, increased workload, greater administration). More importantly, the neoliberal system sent out the message that social problems were all too hard, there was nothing that one can do.

As it happens, a week later I was called to give evidence in person to the Senate Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart and Related Payments. This was unusual. I am not employed by any institution, nor am I particularly well known or influential, nor do I have much power or influence. What I and a colleague did was write a submission on student poverty, (no 76), based on our research but not limited to it, that caught the attention of the Senate Committee. There are probably 1,000s of academics in Australia who are better qualified than I to have made a submission on student poverty, but with a couple of rare exceptions they did not submit. Their attention was elsewhere. They missed a valuable opportunity.

The hour in which I was given the opportunity to discuss student poverty with the Committee was a special time of grace. As always, the chair of the Committee, Senator Rachel Siewert of the Greens, was deeply respectful and concerned about the plight of the poor. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy of the Labor Party came down to welcome me into the space before the proceedings began. This certainly helped me feel at ease and calmed my nerves. Senator McCarthy, through her mother, is descended from the Garrwa and Yanyuwa peoples, whose traditional lands straddle the McArthur River and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Both Senators had clearly read my submission closely, asking insightful questions that showed an understanding of the individual and the wider policy issues. Also present was the Liberal Senator, Hollie Hughes, who unfortunately had been given the remit to promote the Government line, that 1. the best type of welfare is a job and 2. increasing income support payments was unsustainable.

Also giving evidence in the same hour was Cat Nadel from Young Campaigns. Her evidence was outstanding. When challenged by Senator Hollis on the sustainability of increasing payments she gave the best off the cuff explanation of the true meaning of sustainability that I have heard. Below is the Hansard transcript.

I would agree that young people are concerned about the future and want to see the Australian economy remain sustainable. I can really only speak for myself and the young people I work with and interact with, not for all young people. We have seen Australia go through years of what we are told has been economic growth, but we’ve also seen inequality widen deeply in that time. In my mind, a budget that is sustainable into the future needs to look after all of society and especially the poorest and most vulnerable in society. We are currently not seeing that; we are seeing the gap widen. While we are talking about how young people look into the future: we are also looking down the barrel of huge challenges to come, like climate change, and it is not clear how governments are budgeting to prevent those problems, and what implications that is going to have for future budgets. I would say that young people do want to see Australia continue to be a sustainable economy that looks after everyone, and that means we have to think about how we allocate support to the poorest in society. 

This was a spine-tingling moment in the proceedings. Though the Hansard record can’t show it, there was a moment as Cat finished, when Senator Hollis was left speechless, … before she proceeded on with her next scripted question. With young advocates like this, there is still great hope in these dark political times.

Yet this hope does not come without a cost. Despite her young age, Cat must have spent years preparing for this moment. (Not just this moment of course, but any moment when her talents can be used.) Time spent studying, researching, going to meetings, organising, listening and feeling the pain of others and the environment.

It is this cost that so few academics and church attendees are prepared to pay. Those with conservative views of course can maintain the illusion that they live in the best of all possible worlds, that they are safe and comfortable. However, those who profess progressive views present more of a problem. Why don’t more step up? In my own profession of social work, only a handful of social workers ever become involved in meaningful activism despite a commitment to social justice being written into their code of ethics. Academics, even those with tenure, rarely get their hands dirty with pressing social concerns. As for theologians, they may as well not exist in Australia. At best, the mainstream churches limit themselves to general statements that don’t offend too much.

What is the cost? The cost is a preparedness to share the pain. This is one of the meanings of incarnation, and without it, incarnation makes no sense. It means to regard status, career, security as nothing when compared to the call for justice and mercy for all: not just for humans but for the whole of creation. This seems to be the stumbling block. Progressives, like their conservative brothers and sisters can be too comfortable. They prepare their progressive thinking and their theology, use it to define themselves as not conservative, but then don’t use it often enough to address the growing injustice all round them.

The activist theology of Robyn Henderson-Espinoza does not let progressive Christians off the hook. Without activism there is no theology, progressive or otherwise, there is only a logy of empire, or of a nation, or of a cultic group. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza gives no easy answers. She is flailing about in what Dorothy Searle has called “the open horizon of Christ”.[ii] One sees at times those flashes of sparkling brilliance, but you know that to fully understand you must dive in. This is the challenge for these turbulent times. The need to dive in is more urgent than ever. Safe and steady will not do.

Len Baglow, Management Committee APCVA

[i] Dorothee Soelle, 1968, 1995 preface. Creative Disobedience. Wipf & Stock. p. xvi. (I realise the irony of an old white male footnoting a quote about the “almost anal obsession with footnotes” but this book is very good and I hope some of you will read it.)

[ii] Ibid, p.3.

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Book Review: The Forgotten Creed

Thanks to Richard Smith from the Progressive Christianity Network Western Australia for this review.

This book reveals how scholars believe that Paul’s remarkable words in Galatians 3:28 of radical equality among all people irrespective of race, gender, slave or free was borrowed from an ancient baptismal creed. The original author long since forgotten.

This ancient creed said nothing about God or Christ or salvation. Its claims were about the whole human race. In a world of bigotry, slavery and sexism the followers of Jesus proclaimed at baptism: “You are all children of God. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and female, for you are all one.”  But Christianity would within 300 years become a religion that despised Jews, condoned slavery as the will of God, and championed patriarchy.

Freedom slowly emerged 1500 year later as Christianity gave birth to secularism (this world) enabling the Church to rediscover its true original nature, from the historical teachings of Jesus and from science (Latin scio – to know and scientia – knowledge). Science gives birth to Ecology revealing the fullness of God, the ultimate reality that sustains all life on earth irrespective of race, gender, slave or free, human or non-human. But can Christianity resist the temptation of falling prey to the powers and privileges of wealth that science has bequeathed us. Again abandoning Jesus’ radical teachings and in Greta Thunberg’s words ignoring for the last 30 years, the science of climate change.

Richard Smith

25 November 2019

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Book Review: The Bible in Australia: a cultural history

[See my review below this background information]

By Meredith Lake, ABC RN Soul Search presenter and academic.

Meredith Lake collected the Australian History prize for her book The Bible in Australia in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards last month. Lake said when public debate about the national history curriculum was in full swing she decided to write the book as an antidote to the so-called culture wars. She said the phrase “Bible basher” had been coined in Australia and her research revealed Australians still held passionate and varied opinions about the Bible.

“[There exists] the idea of Australia as a somehow Christian nation adrift from its Judeo-Christian moorings, a nation whose freedoms may be somehow under threat. On the other hand, the idea of a Godless or secular nation in which religious belief has been at best weird and is best now put behind us [also prevails],” she said.

Woman with short brown hair stands at podium indoors speaking.

The ceremony at Parliament House was hosted by ABC presenter Annabel Crabb. The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were launched in 2008 by then prime minister Kevin Rudd as the nation’s richest literary prize for fiction and non-fiction.

They no longer claim the “richest” title after the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award was raised to $150,000 but they do offer the largest prize pool, with $600,000 distributed in six categories. Winners receive $80,000 and finalists receive $5,000 each, all tax free.

Full list of awards

Australian History:
Meredith Lake for The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History (NewSouth Books)

Fiction:
Gail Jones for The Death of Noah Glass (Text Publishing)

Young Adult Fiction:
Michael Gerard Bauer for The Things That Will Not Stand (Scholastic Australia)

Children’s Literature:
Emily Rodda for His Name Was Walter (HarperCollins Australia)

Poetry:
Judith Beveridge for Sun Music: New and Selected Poems (Giramondo Publishing)

Non-Fiction:
Tanya Dalziell and Paul Genoni for Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964 (Monash University Publishing)

Review

This is a big sweep of the history of Australia and the influence of the Bible on that history and the developing and changing culture experienced by European settlers, indigenous residents, missionaries and in more recent times the new citizens from all parts of the world. The Bible was a staple text of colonial Australian life.

But the influence of the Bible on Australian culture goes back hundreds of years before European settlement and this is a fascinating piece of research that includes St Augustine and Portuguese and Dutch traders. By the time of Cook the Bible had been available in English for 250 years and was ubiquitous. It circulated widely as a whole volume or separate books and was in the hands of settlers and convicts and slowly also the indigenous inhabitants. But it was not a smooth pathway of acceptance. It was a contested document right from the start of European settlement, with settlers, convicts and aborigines. Yet it was clearly locked into popular culture and the basis for many decisions, laws and practices. In a European imperial guise it was wrapped in colonial thought and culture. For indigenous it was a new mind set, one that challenged much of their world view. The ‘civilizing’ view of missionaries played out in many different and conflicting ways. They made reading, hearing and learning from the scriptures a part of the rhythm of mission life.

At the same time it became a focus for challenging the encroachment of colonial thought on the original inhabitants. Many efforts to include a rewriting of the Bible in local languages were the subject of enormous battles within the churches and amongst aboriginal communities. But for colonial governments the role of missionaries was to ‘civilize’ and make the aborigines compliant to the new overlords. One great challenge in translations was to agree on a name for God and in several cases ‘boss’ was the substitute.

The legal notion of terra nullius was a crucial cultural product of the bibles European history. people who knew the Bible, believed it, were among those who harmed aboriginal people or profited from frontier violence. There were humanitarians making some noise about the treatment of aborigines but they stopped short of saying colonialism should end.

Lake does a great job of covering the whole territory that includes how the ‘word’ was spread, the growth of publishing houses, the massive influence of the Bible Society, frontier work in a huge country, the way a devotional attachment to the Bible was seen as a means to a good society, the Bibles influence upon the development of banks, schools, hospitals and much more. But it never produced an agreed model for a good society.

Inevitably the text was re-examined as new scholarship in the form of scientific knowledge made its impact on the developing nation, as it did elsewhere. By the late 19th century many works began to appear critiquing the Bible and by 1869 Jesus was being credibly portrayed as a man rather than a God by none less the evangelical Chief Justice of South Australia. New ideas flourished and spread, but only for a couple of decades. By the 1920s 96% of the population was identifying as Christian and dissent was minimal. Once again new views evolved with the development of critical thinking groups, feminist critics and gradually the Bible became one of many books that informed ethical and good practice. At the same time temperance and moral reform movements were influential until mid-20th century.

From the moment the first Australian parliament met, scripture and prayer were locked into politics. The constitution ‘humbly relied on the mercy of God’. The White Australia was indirectly influenced by interpretations of scripture. religion pervaded political parties and influenced policies. Two world wars had a great influence on future perspectives where faiths were shaken. Nevertheless the commemoration ceremonies captured the scriptures as integral to ceremonies for generations. The country continues to erect ‘religious’ memorials with biblical quotes. ANZAC day has become the new religion for Australians.

So much more could be told here, but that would spoil it for the reader.

At 439 pages this is a big read, but an easy one, full of interesting characters and anecdotes from our history. This is a book that all seekers after the truth about our Australian biblical heritage will find fascinating and enjoyable.

Paul Inglis, November 2019

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Book Review: Opening Doors

A seeker’s reflection on the rooms of Christian living

by Kevin Treston

I have been looking forward to more from Kevin Treston since his The Wind Blows Where it Chooses made practical sense of the crisis facing western Christianity. Opening Doors is a great follow on from that book and once again he has produced a text that is useful for personal as well as group studies. This time the exercise is to reconcile a contemporary faith with modern science, cosmology and spirituality.

Dr Kevin Treston has taught and lectured for many years in 14 different countries. He is the author of 30 books, and a highly respected presenter among Christian educators. He was a visiting Scholar at Boston College and is a member of the association of Practical Theology Oceania. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his services to education.

He calls himself a seeker because he has taken on board Jesus’ invitation to open the door to him, get to know him better and at the same time bring Jesus wisdom into contemporary society. He invites us to be seekers and gives us the tools for shifting from the old anthropocentric (human centred) faith to an ecocentric faith better suited to our times.  This is a very personal exercise and the book acts as a resource that guides the reader/s through a range of elements that enhance Christian living today.

For Kevin it is obvious that the Christ Story is told within the Great Story of the Universe which is a much longer narrative than the 2000 years of Christianity. The profound mystery of God within and beyond creation needs to be reframed within the wondrous story of the universe. He has developed this theme in previous books so that the three great movements from Jewish beginnings to the traditional story we are familiar with are linked to the emerging cosmic story including teachings, theology, liturgy, ethical living that form a new consciousness that includes modern science.

Kevin builds the discussion on a foundation of human evolutionary destiny for homo sapiens as an exclusive species of hominoids exhibiting unique attributes of self-reflection, language, art and consciousness over 150,000 years through towards today’s global people to emerging trans human forms. This is accompanied by a history of the development of religions and especially in the Christian religion the rise of the clerical class which has had a depowering effect on individuals ‘reducing them to a spiritually dependent lay state’. He makes the point that the propensity to be religious deeply embedded in the human psyche is not confined to those who endorse creeds and doctrines. But it does give each of us an inclination to consider the question What Does it mean to live life given the fact that one day I will die? He gives fresh insights into the meaning of ‘incarnation’ as core thinking in the human narrative.

The reader is given opportunities to consider the issues and questions raised by the author’s commentary on life, religion, spirituality, advances in science, love and relationships, the divine, sin, God as Trinity, the worship of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and the Cosmic or Universal Christ, the exercise of ministry, the role and status of women and the problems of patriarchy and domestic violence, morality and shifts in teaching about morality. All of this leads to Kevin’s model for the spirituality journey which is really a framework for each of us to develop our own intentional model.

I found this book personally liberating and I was motivated to follow up on Kevin’s invitation to describe the room of life that I would like to be in after opening the door. Highly recommended for individuals, conversations and self-directed groups who will find some great ideas for getting underway. It is a resource suitable inside and outside the church with particular benefit to communities looking at the renewal and relevance of their mission focus.

Paul Inglis 14th October 2019

To order online go to: www.coventrypress.com.au

Phone: 0477 809 037 Email: enquiries@coventrypress.com.au

Post to: Coventry Press, 33 Scoresby Road, Bayswater Vic. 3153

Cost: $24.95 + *Postage: $9.95 for 1-3 books; $11 for 4 and more; free freight for orders over $100

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Book Review: Why are you here Elijah?

The Mystery of Meaning

by Walter Stratford

While reading this wonderful book, I felt a real sense of hope for the future despite the obvious challenges facing humanity and the growing challenges to our planet and humankind. It is a work that is dense with serious philosophical reflections on ‘the meaning of life’. Elijah is a great vehicle for demonstrating the conundrum that inevitably every thinking person is faced with – Why am I here?

Drawing on a range of great scholars in the field of existential theory, Stratford takes the reader on a journey through our links to land and Spirit, of our being in the world, our search for personal meaning that makes this being significant, the mystery of ‘God’ in the shaping of the meaning and the part played by shadows that hide the pathway ahead.

Ultimately, he grounds all of this in a series of case stories provided by a range of people who reflect on their own being experiences.

As the author says, there are two realities that undergird all in this book. Land and Spirit are fundamental for our being, and attachment to the land anchors our life…Imagination and story bind us to the earth and open pathways for the recognition of the Spirit.

We are reminded that a good religion has been ruined by its advocates, who got so caught up in literalism that its essence was lost. Consequently, much that passes for a Christian message makes little sense for so many. Stratford addresses this by describing God as a verb rather than an elsewhere person. In the web of possibility for hope and affection emerging from this view of God appears mythology and poetry which give life to a personal spirituality that has been lost, in the main, in the evolution of the Church.

Why are you here Elijah? Why in this place? Why not somewhere else and doing the job I called you to? This question encourages us to evaluate the situation in which we find ourselves and to live through that situation. It also encourages us to continue in a way of being, consciously, in a way that can be modified but which needs to be valued, to get on with living.

There is an intentionality about being that honours the earth as a gift for humankind, a place that needs to be nurtured if we are to maintain a healthy viability of being for all people. It also requires that we maintain kindness and truth as fundamental building blocks so that all people are accepted. There is a measure of personal responsibility implied. There is also a suggestion that we can all be greater than who we are now, and this will be validated, despite moments of uncertainty, as we become more aware of all that makes the framework of our life.

This book will cause the reader to think! You will also want to capture the hundreds of great philosophical reflections that Stratford produces, to stop and to make links to your own experiences of life. For me it was not for a single sitting because I needed to put it down for a while and let the ideas settle before coming back to it. Clearly this work comes from someone who has thought long and hard about the meaning of life. You won’t get a single answer to that question but you will be better able to answer it from your own perspective once you have engaged with this book.

The author: Rev Dr Walter Stratford is a retired Uniting Church Minister who served in such diverse places as the New Hebrides, Traralgon, Townsville and Dandenong. He also spent time as secretary to the Queensland Ecumenical Council, and as a chaplain at the Wesley Hospital, Brisbane. During his ministry Walter found time for study and completed a number of degrees, including a PhD in 2012. He is married with four adult children, a number of grand children and great-grandchildren.

Currently available as paperback from Amazon.com for $18 plus shipping cost.

Reviewer: Dr Paul Inglis

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Book Review: Into the Deep, seeking justice for the people of West Papua

By Peter Arndt (Catholic Social Justice Series Book 82)

I was moved to tears while reading this document about the challenges facing the people of West Papua, in particular their claim to freedom and independence.

In 2016, with ten fellow Christians from Australia, Peter Arndt, Executive Officer of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Commission, visited West Papua to hear first hand the stories of the local people. They were especially wanting to hear from survivors of the Indonesia massacre of 6th July 1998. This occurred at a peaceful prayer focussed demonstration for independence. These people had been under the governance of the Dutch, the Japanese and now the Indonesia military. The leader of the demonstrators, Filep Karma, at the time a prominent civil servant had insisted that his followers should only use bibles and hymns as their weapons. The vast majority of Papuans are Christians. They were attacked mercilessly by Indonesia soldiers.

Peter graphically describes this incident, it’s brutality, the many deaths and the torturing. This makes for hard reading as the incidents are dealt with so thoroughly. Peter was approached by Laurens who had been a teenager at the time of the massacre.

He gives evidence for Indonesia’s direct implication in some of the worst forms of human brutality and the incredible journey of Laurens and his Biak people.

Peter and his colleagues then experienced first hand the heavy hand of the Indonesia overlords and it seems they are not the first visitors to be interrogated and followed everywhere.

Peter Arndt’s clear and concise first hand account of the horrific suppression of justice and the state of fear in which the Papuans live is a moving tale.

Arndt sees the experience of Laurens paralleling those of Jesus and draws on the Scriptures to graphically make this clear. Laurens treatment and continuing struggle has moved Peter as it has moved me, to consider the way all Christians and people of good will must identify with the struggle of the Biak people.

Once read, the story cannot be dismissed or forgotten. The reader becomes part of the struggle for justice and freedom of the oppressed and abused people everywhere…

Peter and friends travelled to villages to hear more stories of brutality and killings and later Peter returned to West Papua several times gathering more evidence. The gathering of evidence was challenged at every step by police and corrupt officials and he was placed in fearful situations.

The author reflects on the way Papuans have been treated historically by colonial authorities and missionaries. It is a mixed history of blessings and mistakes. Their subsequent treatment is now part of the problem for a people ill prepared to fight for their rights. He also comments on the way in which Christians can express sympathy but cannot take the next step and offer real support.

The historical context for the current crisis helps to explain but not excuse the stark and shocking events that are now happening. The way in which the Indonesians are gradually reducing the influence of the Papuans culture, commerce, and faith practices is forcing them into minority status in their own land.

Within the Pacific Islands nations there is growing support for and solidarity with the people of West Papua. Drawing on the Scriptures Peter calls on the justice loving people of the world to recognize the plight of these people and for Christians who have been taught about restoration through love, the human values of freedom, dignity and hope to now come to the aid of a people begging for help. He also describes how a personal involvement in such a cause can bring to individuals a deep personally liberating outcome of living in the peace and love of God.

But there is more to this story….As First Peoples of West Papua they form a part of all those peoples who face injustice and deprivation. Advocating for them is advocation for all First Peoples.

I strongly recommend this paper to your reading and personal refection on how to be a part of the solution. If you are not greatly moved I will be surprised.

Paul Inglis 20th August 2019

Avaliable from Amazon Kindle Australia.

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Feedback: Aboriginal Spirituality

Our recent post about the spirituality of the original inhabitants of Australia brought many personal responses to me. This was a standout reaction from Betty Vawser.

“I am fascinated by this information you have presented about the Aboriginal people at Mowanjum. We lived with the families of the tribes you mentioned for years in the 1960s during which Donny Wollagodja’s father took Professor I A Crawford with him and a group of Aboriginal men into the Outback to repaint and revive the painting of the Wandjina in the caves and crevices. Each major Wandjina had a personal name.

The book he wrote resulting from his annual visits is called ‘The Art of the Wandjina’ and was published by Oxford University Press. He gave us a copy of this excellent book as he stayed with us before and after his trips to see the Wandjina, hear their stories, and observe the men when they entered Wandjina caves or places.

We also had a book written by Donna and his friend Bundell called ‘Keeping the Wandjina Fresh’ which he gave to us while staying with us. We know and love these people. I have more presents than you can imagine, their stories,a massive Wandjina painting,….I could go on but will sign off there…”

Betty.

Theology in changing times

This book “Doing Theology in the Age of Trump: A critical report on Christian Nationalism” is a work of theological reflections, about the state of Christianity and the moral character of the evangelical Right, which the nationalist/populist movement of Trumpism has co-opted. The contributors are academics in theology and religion of the Westar Seminar on God and the Human Future. While the Gospel is good news for the poor and woe to the rich, the authors expose how Christian Nationalism has led to various forms of economic oppression contributing to a vast, dynamic global network of systemic injustice and marginalization.
The books weakness from my science perspective was an adequate theology of the twin “Eco’s” of Ecology and Economy that describe two aspects of our common home. Ecology is governed by nature’s laws, within which humans construct their Economy governed by laws of human self-interest. While humans radically modify ecological systems for the economy they cannot change the fundamental laws under which these ecosystems have evolved to enable higher orders of life. These economies easily become corrupt, highly instable or self-destructive when the social contract on which they depend fails. The Christian Right long based on claims on the inerrancy of the bible have failed to accept science based on the immutability of the laws of nature leading to an escalating crisis of ecological destruction and global warming.

Richard Smith Progressive Christian Network, Western Australia

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Book review: on the global impact of Jesus teaching.

Book Review
All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians.
Roman A. Montero, 2017
By their economic practises the Early Christians discovered in Jesus’ life and teachings the corrective to the gross inequalities of the Roman Empire. Global Warming, a product of current economic policies poses a much greater moral challenge of gross inequality.

Is the answer to be found in “All Things in Common” with its striking parallels to the “communism of the apostles” passages in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37, which tells of how early Christians built “social relationships” to solve their problems of discrimination, poverty and dispossession in the violent multi-ethnic world of the first century Roman Empire?

Citing sources ranging from the Qumran scrolls to the North African apologist Tertullian to the Roman satirist Lucian, “All Things in Common” reconstructs the economic practices of the early Christians to reveal that Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 describes a long-term, widespread set of practices that were taken seriously. Practises that significantly differentiated the early Christians from the pagan world of the Roman Empire. Even taking into account Judean and Hellenistic parallels, the origins of the practises for promoting the common good are traced back to the very life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and their brilliant exposition by Paul, revealed in his six authentic and seven pseudo letters.

This book will be of value to anyone interested in Christian history, and the insights it offers to the human construct of capitalism based on self-interest, which now threatens the very basis of the civilisation it has built. Is the climax to the apocalyptic eschatology of the Gospels to be found in “All things in Common”?

Richard Smith

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