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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Pullman Punches

Philip Pullman is having a good time. His new book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is out, and of course, launching it bang up against Easter, the holiest week of the year for Christians, he is getting good press - which means sales. There's something tacky about that marketing stunt, like when Antichrist was launched on DVD at Christmas, which is not heroically atheist, but just capitalist-secular-shabby. Pullman, of course, is getting credit for shooting sacred cows (or fish) in a barrel.

Surely, every theology student, and every teenager, has whimsically speculated on the possibility of a dark side to Jesus - a theme explored in The Last Temptation of Christ, for instance, to good effect. Nor is the idea that the Church wickedly betrayed the Jesus message new either - Dostoevsky made it the cornerstone of the Brothers Karamazov, one of the greatest of 19th century novels.

Only in the UK in the 21st century does it not seem anachronistic to have a donnish God-is-dead Lite message heralded as the bees knees of Zarathustrian wisdom. I am sure this is a good book, but Pullman's stance is a little dull. Further, his comfort zone is so big (he is after all a member of a privileged educated elite in a rich Western nation) he risks almost nothing for his stance - unlike my hero, author of Christology, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who paid for his life at the hands of the Nazis, for bravely defending the right to pray to a living god.
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