“Western society is soured by a pervasive sense of victimhood. It is the underbelly of the mentality of the Free World, the resentment that freedom has not always given the happiness which we had been promised. People feel themselves to be victims of prejudice, or history, or their genes, or their upbringing. A particular characteristic of modernity, from North Ireland to the Middle East, is the sense of mutual victimhood, where everyone claims the status of victim. People even talk of ‘the competition of victimhood’: ‘I am more of a victim than you are.’ This is not to deny that there are people who are profoundly victimized, such as children who are sold for sexual exploitation and women in many parts of the world. But the Church can never accept that anyone is just a victim. Freedom begins when people grasp the choices that they can make, even if they are extremely limited, even if it is just to get up in the morning. If one passively accepts victimhood then one dies.” (p. 36)
Sometimes surprise buys are pleasant surprises and this particular book is one of them. When I was dropping by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre to check out the new venue for the Arrupe Bookstore (which I have discovered to have many hidden gems especially from the Roman Catholic stream), this book leaped out from the shelf!
While I’m sensitized by our differences in the special local contexts we come from, and yet in the light of globalization and the impact of western thought on our shores I found the insights in this book extremely helpful. In my limited interactions with a wide range of people from my old school mate whom would be more Chinese educated and selling chicken at a local market to young adults who’ve graduated from a degree overseas whom probably have English as their first language, I find what Radcliffe writes provides me resource to reflect specifically on the mindsets of the latter. Especially in the light of the quote above, and especially in many of the concerns and struggles which occupy our conversations.
I confess sometimes I wonder whether being Bi-lingual (at least in terms of culture – East and West) is a curse or blessing. The blessing is the joy of being a bridge for both worlds to connect. A curse is perhaps feeling not at home fully in either one and bearing the frustration of both! I find this to be true in many other areas of my life – e.g. between the young and old, between the so called “unchurched” and “churched”, between the “politically active” and “politically apathetic”, between the “pious” and the “secular” … etc.
Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to words like center, and in the case of this book … “the point” ðŸ™‚ On one hand I get a sense one is drawn to a central point as I read (especially being flooded by often many confusing options) and on the other hand it’s pointing beyond ourselves to another (and thus not an isolated truncated perspective). Radcliffe’s introductory declaration is fantastic when he comments on the Christian faith: “The point of Christianity is to point to God as the meaning of our lives.”
Well, I leave you with this particular review which resonates with my current impression of the book until page 36 which I read this morning. I’m looking forward to the “breeding panda” bit ðŸ™‚ :
“When asked the question “What is the Point of Being a Christian?” Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Order of the Dominicans, replied from a standpoint of logic – “Because it’s true.”
But logical truth was not enough for the questioner who wanted to know what kind of difference being a Christian made to one’s life. It was this encounter that led Radcliffe to write this book.
To give a bit of an insight into his thinking on the question, Radcliffe declares in his introduction: “The point of Christianity is to point to God as the meaning of our lives.”
Radcliffe’s style is easy to read and accessible as he confronts key issues for the Christian life in a conversational and reflective way.
He draws on a wealth of experience in his travels and encounters as Master of the Order, as well as his obvious depth in reading and personal reflection.
In comparison, having also recently read and reviewed Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, whilst Radcliffe may not quote scriptures as often, I found greater depth and purpose in his witness to the Christian faith.
Radcliffe is not afraid to tackle difficult issues: the gift freedom, our confrontation with death, issues of sexuality, our consumer society and the problems of the divided church, to name a few.
Yet even in engaging these serious topics there is at times a sense of playfulness and joy in his writing.
I particularly appreciated his metaphor for theologians working towards common understanding being like “breeding pandas”.
I found myself referring to Radcliffe’s thoughts and ideas in conversations, in teaching and in sermons.
This book is certainly worth the read and moreover is worth taking time in doing so to ponder insights on the journey rather than race to the back cover.
Reviewed by Rev Peter Lockhart, a minister with Clayfield and Hamilton Uniting Church congregations”