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ISBN/ASIN : 0826459455
Manufacturer : Continuum International Publishing Group|
Release data : April, 2002
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a profound analysis of society and state
This is the second work by Edward Norman that I have read (the other being his Anglican Difficulties). From the start, I will admit my bias: I belong to the category that Schori recently noted as emphasising the fallen nature of a humanity in dire need of redemption; concomitantly I'm also cynical of modernist secular propositions that the state or technology will play a salvific role in alleviating the human condition.
And here we come to Norman: he examines in a penetrating analysis how contemporary society and the state are guided by principles which privilege material welfare, and why it is that the Church has accomodated this.
In doing so, he covers considerable terrain: humanism, commodification, plurlism, racism, authority and priesthood (among others) in which he time and again disrupts conventional thinking on progress and reform.
His writing is subtle and elegant, and my chief complaint would be the absence of footnotes. But then, the format is perhaps something akin to his Reith lectures, and hence this is a minor quibble.
The book is subtitled "New Century Theology," but forget about that--the author seems to be living in a past millennium. He pines for the good old Inquisition days when Christian dogma was shoved down everyone's throat, people despised themselves and "live[d] in terror of hell" (his words), and those uppity women weren't making pests of themselves by desiring some kind of status in the men's-club Church. He even speaks positively of the Islamic countries because they put serving God ahead of human welfare. Yeesh! If he thinks reverting to this kind of society is an improvement, I suggest he take a look at all the videotapes of Taliban-style executions and harrassment in Afghanistan, because that's the ultimate result of the kind of doctrinaire fundamentalism he seems so eager to force on everyone.
The only thing he got right, in my opinion, was that most people are turned off by the "passing the peace." (I know I personally am.) All I can say about the rest of the book is that: (a) he's a cleric in the Anglican church, so he's got a financial stake in whether it survives, and (b) if he's so hyped up on hating yourself and fearing hell, he's never really tried it. As someone who was brought up with these doctrines, I can tell him they are a horrible way to live, and if you truly believe them you will end up pretty close to insane. I would suggest Mr. Norman take a long, logical look at the bizarrity of Christian doctrine (and the results of strictly applying it: Calvin's Geneva, perhaps) before recommending we go back several hundred years to the "good old days."