Not everyone has seen the lockdown as an opportunity to do some extra reading but I am a naturally bookish person so here are two titles that I can recommend from my reading over the last six weeks.
The first is “The Myth of Christian Persecution” by Candida Moss. Candida, a Catholic, is now Professor of Theology at Birmingham University but before that she had a academic career in the USA and became something of a media star. She is deeply learned in Christian history and in the history of of persecution in the early Church. This is her specialist subject and she has clearly read everything about it but notwithstanding she writes with great ease and fluency. I was carried along quickly and was sorry to put the book down after quite a short period.
There are three messages I will take away from this book.
Firstly: The stories of the persecuted martyrs are largely inspirational fiction. Persecution and harrassment did occur but it was only occasional and the early church enjoyed long periods of peace.
Secondly she explains why early Christians were disliked, why they were regarded as atheists, and, this is no more than a hint, why we might have disliked them too.
Thirdly: She criticises modern attitudes towards the persecution and martrydom of Christians especially in the United States. It encourages hatred towards the “others”, self righteousness and the demonizing of our critics. Of course in some parts of the world Christians do suffer for their faith but an indulgence in shrill rhetoric has led Christians to perform many cruel and evil acts. Better by far to work with all people of good will to eliminate cruelty, intolerance and persecution for everyone in the name of the God of love.
The second book also comes from the United States. It is “Everything happens for a Reason-and other lies I’ve loved.” by Kate Bowler. Kate comes from a Mennonite background in Canada and is a Professor at Duke University in the US which has a distinguished theological school with many Methodist scholars. Her specialist subject is the history and theology of the Prosperity Gospel and there are many references to it in the story she tells.
Kate suffers from cancer and the outlook for her and her family is not good. She describes her journey with the illness, the messages and ministry she has received from others and the place in which she finds herself now.
Anyone involved in pastoral care and finds themselves alongside the sick and the desperate will find this to be a helpful and challenging read. It’s not long. I read it in one day.
Both of these books are available to download on e-readers for a very modest price.