This would never have happened to Karl Marx! The British Library reading rooms are full. I bet that never happened when Marx worked here. I’ve been shunted away to the map room – I never even knew they had a map room, but it’s quieter because fewer people work here. Perhaps I’ll try it again next time. Oops, no; they’ve just shut at 5, and the other reading rooms don’t close until 8 p.m. Shunted again!
People say that biblical commentators (like me) see a reflection of themselves in Jesus. They find what they’re looking for. I have come to the conclusion that he was a gay red vegetarian. I would just like to put it on record that I am neither gay nor (currently) a vegetarian.
Every 6 months or so I check out London’s best and biggest book shops to see what’s new on the Progressive/liberal theology front. I was pleased to overhear one customer in Foyles today say that she had been told they were better than Waterstone for theology books, as this confirmed my own conclusions. Waterstones in Gower Street does have a big second hand section though, which occasionally has real gems. Here are some of the titles I liked the look of in Church House bookshop (Great Smith St, near Westminster Abbey):
(1) a new tome by Bishop John Selby Spong “the biggest selling non-evangelical Christian writer today” on the history of biblical literalism, “a Gentile distortion”.
(2) 3 books on Etty Hillesum. I want to read her because Don Cupitt reckons she has such profound insights into the human condition. Like Ann Frank she was a Dutch young woman, a Jewess, who was taken away by the Nazis and killed in a concentration camp. Etty is a shortened form of Esther. I like her photo; fag drooping from the corner of her mouth and big dark eyes looking defiantly up at the camera. A bit James Dean-ish.
I like it the way some of the best books in the shop are all next to each other alphabetically: Boff, Bonhoeffer, Borg.
At Foyles I encountered:
(1) A new book by one of the few evangelicals I can stomach – Australian Dave Andrews, writing very positively about shared Christian and Moslem viewpoints. He re-interprets the word ‘Jihad’ as a non-violent approach to social transformation.
(2) Miller edits a book bringing Liberation Theology into the 21st century (See, I told you it never died in the 1990s!) “Reencountering Liberation Theologies” looks not just at South American economic struggles but at black and feminist theologies too. Lib Theol seems to have become an umbrella term for all these viewpoints.
(3) Flusser‘s “Sage of Galilee” was first published in 1968. This is a newly rewritten version of a sympathetic Jew’s view of Jesus. In Israel in particular there are currently several scholars writing about and researching the life of Jesus with those insights that Gentiles so often lack.
(4) Another Miller edits a fascinating book (2008) from the ever reliable Polebridge Press (publishers of the Jesus Seminar, upon whom be peace). It is in the form of a debate between a scholar who believes that there will be an apocalypse, and three who think the kingdom of God exists here and now (which, after all, is how Jesus described it).
The trouble with all these delicious volumes is that they cost a fortune. I can’t even rely on the British Library getting hold of them because most of them are American in origin. I’ll check out the Kindle price and look at Amazon’s second hand dept (but their postage and packing charges are ridiculous.)
Justin Welby, the AB of C, is in the news for talking about how he’s only just discovered that the man whom he thought was his father was in fact not. The consensus in the British media seems to be “He handled it very well”. No-one has pointed out that 50 or 60 years ago when his conception occurred, England was a very different place. Every one paid at least lip service to C of E morality. Town Councils, like Parliament began each session with Christian prayers. Abortion was illegal, and nurses were required to say prayers in the hospital wards at the end of the day. The National Anthem (the first word of which is ‘God’) was played in cinemas every night when the main feature was over, and the audience were expected to stand to attention throughout it. A daily act of Christian worship was compulsory for every school child in the land. There were no single mums. As for unwanted pregnancies: concealment, hypocrisy and life-threatening illegal backstreet abortions were the order of the day. In other words, the church Welby now heads was responsible for the prevailing puritanical morality of the times that screwed up the lives of members of his family.
I should know – I was a product of those “Christian” times. The only difference between Welby and myself is that my adoptive parents told me the facts of my origins early on. The only addition is that I was an adult when I discovered my original birth name, which is neither ‘Peter’ nor ‘Turner’. It doesn’t worry me in the slightest, and I can’t be bothered to search out my birth mother who kept me for 3 months before buckling under moral pressure and putting me up for adoption. Today she would have kept me, a contented unconcerned single mum – one of many. So many in fact that they almost outnumber two-parent families here in the UK. I think on balance that two parent families are better for the kid(s).
That’s all, folks.
May your god go with you!
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.