- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press (May 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807067547
- ISBN-13: 978-0807067543
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 53 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire
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In the best tradition of theological inquiry, Saving Paradise provides a history and a theology that helps us engage the pressing problems of the world. . . . In Saving Paradise, Brock and Parker have brought forward a bright thread of the Christian tapestry that had been in the background, largely ignored. In so doing they have made accessible rich and vivid theological resources. —Margaret R. Miles, Christian Century
"This humane and often beautiful study of faith, loss and hope straddles the boundary between historical discovery and spiritual writing." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Saving Paradise offers eye-opening explorations of the mixture of spiritual vision and myopia that marked many of the great figures of Western Christianity. Its rich text and the additional material in its notes should spur readers to examine both the darkness and the light that can be found in all of us." —Darrell Turner, National Catholic Reporter
"Brock and Parker urge readers to see church history in a new light, with an eye toward social justice. . . . By re-emphasizing early Christians' focus on paradise, on the kingdom of God on Earth, the authors are convinced they are reclaiming authentic 'traditional' Christianity. It's a controversial thesis, deserving of debate and study."—Douglas Todd, Religion News Services
"This powerful, unprecedented, and compelling book brings real Christianity out of the shadows."—George Lakoff, author of Don't Think of an Elephant!
"Only rarely is a single book an event. This book is such a rarity."—Professor Daniel C. Maguire, author of A Moral Creed for All Christians
About the Author
Rebecca Ann Parker was President of and Professor of Theology at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, until 2014, and coauthor of Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us and Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire. An ordained United Methodist minister, Parker has dual fellowship with the United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Association. She currently serves on the board of an interfaith think tank focused on progressive religion and politics called Faith Voices for the Common Good.
Rita Nakashima Brock is Research Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, Ft. Worth, Texas. She is author, with Gabriella Lettini, of Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War and author, with Rebecca Ann Parker, of Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us and Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire. She lives in Oakland, California.
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This is not a book for a pew-warmer. But if you are serious about studying the Christian faith, it's a wondrous resource. However, I'll caution you again: it will change your emphases. I have not, since reading this book, been able to recite the Nicene Creed, for example. I know it by heart, but I also understand its political origins now. Nor have I had the same enthusiasm I once had for stigmata; I'm not sure what the phenomenon means, but I'm fairly certain that it does not mean what I once took it to mean.
What if we found that Christianity had been like our reconstruction during its first centuries?
This intriguing book explores the roots of Christianity through some of its earliest writers and posits that, as the subtitle indicates, the religion began with a thorough love of the paradise that is this world but redefined itself when it became a servant of political power in Charlemagne's time. This redefinition coincides with a shift in Christian art to a focus on the crucifixion in all its gory detail and a shift in rhetoric toward a justification of violence against heretics and unbelievers.
The book introduces us to a remarkable array of theologians over the past two millennia, and many readers will no doubt want to learn more about Macrina, Cyril of Jerusalem, Heloise, and other thinkers whose writings have kept alive the vision of paradise in the here and now. I would have liked the book to have a bibliography so that I could more easily add to my reading list.
Their concept of paradise in the here and now is intriguing: "Paradise is human life restored to its divinely infused dignity and capacity, and it is a place of struggle with evil and injustice, requiring the development of wisdom, love, nonviolence, and responsible uses of power." Accordingly, what Christians should aspire to is something that they call "ethical grace". "Ethical grace is full-bodied life in the present - attuned to what is beautiful and good and responsive to the legacies of injustice and currents of harm."
This book will be of particular interest to Progressives with a Christian, social-gospel background. It may even bring lapsed Christians back to the fold. The authors' vision of Christianity harmonizes with the Progressive goals of peace, social justice, and environmental sanity. Indeed, the authors seem to be Progressives who happen to be Christian rather than Christians whose faith has led them to Progressive values.
How important is Jesus to this concept of "ethical grace"? Can people from other religions or even, shudder, non-theistic backgrounds arrive at the same vision? I think so, though the authors may beg to differ. It is an interesting question.
I have been concerned for many years at the increasing obsession in Christian theology with the crucifixion of Christ and the concept of heaven as an afterlife, despite the many statements in the gospels in which Jesus insists that the realm of God is here and present. This book is a magnificent verification that this second focus is the true reality of "Immanuel" - God with Us - as the primary teaching of Christianity. It was sustained for the first 10 centuries of Christian belief, and as the authors insist, the ongoing presence of God's Spirit culminating in Christ and continuing in this world is essential idea.
This book was brought to my attention by my favorite author, Kittredge Cherry, in her "Jesus in Love" blog a few weeks ago. Since I know her theology to be totally congruent with my own, I was completely certain that I would find this book an absolute gem, and I am certainly not disappointed. The authors' use of both art from ancient churches and appropriate scripture quotations adds beauty and power to the narrative.