As British society is gradually torn apart by Government cuts and the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider, there’s a feeling that a better world must be possible.
For many of us a Labour government with a healthy majority would be a very good start, but it’s not at all clear who will win the next General Election.
UKIP has thrown a spanner in the works but, even without the Kippers, the Right has a strong support base among traditional churchgoers: many of whom not only agree with the Coalition austerity program but say the cuts should go even deeper.
It’s against this grim political backdrop that a new and greatly extended edition of Faith in Dark Places tinyurl.com/k2fw87g (SPCK) has hit the streets.
Combining moving stories of people living in poverty with a fresh approach to the Gospel, the book explores the revolutionary idea that the good news of God’s love is being spoken to a divided world by the most unlikely of people: the poor.
The miracles of Jesus are revealed to be highly subversive acts with huge social and economic implications; the story of the prodigal son shows us something remarkable about marginalised women; and the Lord’s Prayer suddenly snaps into focus as a highly political prayer for the poor.
It is often said that Jesus lived in another age and another culture and that we cannot simply transpose his words into our 21st century world. But in many respects Jesus lived in a situation very similar to our own: a world of widespread poverty, oppression and injustice. And of government propaganda.
Which is why the book argues that the reason Jesus was crucified was because he hated paint: the way the poor and vulnerable are demonised and ‘painted’ as worthless by the rich and powerful. Ian Duncan Smith please note.
We on the left are often accused of politicising the Gospel. But the fact is that, from beginning to end, the Gospel is profoundly political. Jesus died a political death for political reasons, for causing political problems.
Attempts by the institutional Church to neutralise the potency and impact of the Gospel have been remarkably successful. The cross and the call to discipleship have been so ‘spiritualised’ that Christianity has become synonymous with the status quo. Jesus was raised from the dead, but we have succeeded in burying him again. It’s been a public relations triumph for the vested interests of the powerful.
Why read this book? Because it makes accessible crucially important new thinking (or maybe very old thinking) on the Gospel and the Incarnation. It honours those who are dishonoured every day in the right wing press and in Parliament. And it challenges the knee-jerk voting habits of church-going Tories in the run up to the most important General Election since 1945.
Faith in Dark Places (£9.95) is written by David Rhodes, a member of Christians on the Left. He blogs at www.turbulentbooks.co.uk and tweets @RhodesWriter