Friday, May 29, 2009

"A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story" by Diana Butler Bass

This book was, in a word, Magisterial!

Diana Butler Bass succeeds and them some with her goal of telling the story of Great Command Christianity over and above what she calls "Big-C Christianity." The latter is what she says most people know about the history of Christianity, even if they don't know much, that is; Christ, Constantine, Christendom, Calvin, and Christian America. Big-C Christianity is the version of power and triumph that does not always take into account the life and love that the man Jesus of Nazareth taught. It is not as though Diana Butler Bass thinks there is no validity to Big-C Christianity, it is more that she wants us to hear the voices and wisdom of those who are often overshadowed by the leaders of Big-C Christianity.

On the other hand, or to borrow from the subtitle, Diana Butler Bass tells the other side of the story from the perspective of both men and women who have appeared throughout church history, some names we know and other names that are less familiar. The name for this "other side of the story," that is, Great Command Christianity comes from Luke 10:25-27 where "a lawyer approached Jesus and asked him, 'Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus responded, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and love your neighbor as yourself.'" Most of "A People's History of Christianity" focuses on those who lived up to the command of loving God and neighbor, even if it meant doing so without being "in power."

The scope of the book runs from the Early Church Fathers and Mothers into Medieval Christianity, Reformation Christianity, Modernity and on down to our contemporary situation. I was able to pick this up at the Twin Falls Library and if you take the time to read these 300 pages you will be awakened to the wonders of Christian Spiritual Practices as well as an appreciation of the length, bredth and depth of the Christian Witness throughout 2000 years of humanity. As I said before, and I'll say it again, this book is impressive and a wonder to behold. I highly recommend that you take the time to read it, especially if you are interested in Church history and more importantly if you are interested in the people who have made the church what it is.

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