This weeks's issue of the New Statesman (left leaning current affairs weekly) has the obligatory suggested holiday reading list, but with a difference. Not the usual list of worthy biographies or the latest in political science but oldies that are worth (re)reading. I was glad but not surpised to see among the de Beauvoir, Marx & Engels, Orwell, Dickens, Gaskell, etc etc, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - a must-read, if ever there was one.
The surprise came at book 4 - The New Testament. "If ever a man appeared today who preached pacificsm, who urged setting no store by status, told the wealthy to sell everything they have and give the proceeds to the poor, and freely associated with those respectable people considered outcasts, we would consider him a radical." The article recognised that, almost inspite of the church, the New Testament has inspired many left-wing politicians more than theoretical socialist texts. The New Statesman speaks no more than the truth. The New Testament tells a radical story and the teaching of Jesus calls for a radical response.
Unfortunately, the churches have often failed to live out all four of those qualities listed - supporting war rather than peace; being obsessed with hierarchy and status; amassing wealth; excluding those who don't fit. The New Testament has been used to support an unjust status quo rather than drive transformation. On an individual level the New Testament has been abused by those who agressively proclaim faith yet who are so unsure of the love of God that they are fixated on their own personal salvation.
The New Testament as holiday reading - perhaps even (especially) for church people? Safer to stick with the romance or thriller, no danger of anything radical there.