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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-balanced and rounded portrait of a fine Christian man, albeit politically unaccountably naive., 15 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson (Hardcover)
This is the only biography of the Red Dean I have read but I can say that it has a clear ring of truth about it throughout. For all Hewlett Johnson's political naivety in his mostly unquestioning advocacy of the Soviet system in general and the record of Stalin in particular - and his refusal to modify his views even in the face of an abundant flow of dark evidence emanating from the USSR, not least Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in 1956 - and later from Mao Tse-Tung's China, what comes through it all is the sheer humanity and warmth of heart of the man. His dedication to his family, his determination to confront and expose the misery and indignities of the labouring masses under insufficiently regulated capitalism, and the failure of so many prominent Christians to take a principled stand in the light of the very clear teaching of the Founder of their Faith about caring for the needy and downtrodden, come across vividly and sometimes devastatingly. In particular his vignettes of his Chapter and archi-episcopal colleagues often raise an eyebrow, including his skirmishes with the Headmaster of the King's School where I was a pupil in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During those years I was fortunate to have occasional direct encounters with the Dean, and the warmth of his greetings and presence, and the energy he radiated despite the fact that he was already well into his 80s, left an abiding impression of a fine Christian heart who, notwithstanding his political blind spots, believed in love in action and in fearlessly and tirelessly confronting injustice. Very strongly recommended.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most extraordinary reads of 2011, 8 Dec. 2011
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This review is from: The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson (Hardcover)
An extraordinary read by one of the great figures of the 20th century.

Whilst Hewlett Johnson's carping canons took refuge in the United States, Johnson was on the roof with his virgers and gardeners defending his cathedral from Hitler's incendiaries raining down on the cathedral.

His deanery - a sanctuary for the oppressed and his table open to all - his properties (he had several) all rented out to the needy on peppercorn rents.

I have discovered over the years the extraordinary thing about great priests and great men in general is that they all have rather large flaws. I also discovered the flawless are by definition.... boring..... Hewlett's flaw was to be conned by his friend Stalin right to the end.....

But his greatness as both a priest and human being far overshadowed his few shortcomings...

One of the great reads of 2011 - No wonder Rowan Williams chose it as his book of the year in The New Statesman.

A book one cannot put down .... once opened.....

An essential buy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A REMARKABLY FINE BOOK, 1 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson (Hardcover)
This is an outstanding book on a truly fascinating subject.
The author, John Butler, presents a most balanced account of the life of this great, compassionate but naive and flawed man.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stalin's little helper, 2 Jan. 2012
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W. A. Featherby (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson (Hardcover)
This is a first-rate book about a deeply flawed man. John Butler approaches his material dispassionately and lets his subject's appalling lack of judgment speak for itself. The central question asked by the book is what led Hewlett Johnson to behave as he did, not only in the 1930's when anyone of intelligence could see where Stalin was taking Russia and its empire, but through the 1940's and 1950's when Stalin's tyranny and genocide were well known. Was Johnson a malicious traitor in the pay of Moscow or just plain stupid? Butler lets the reader decide for himself. Given that Johnson was evidently a man of compassion who achieved much for disadvantaged people in Manchester and then Canterbury, the inevitable conclusion must be that he lacked the sense and judgment to denounce Stalin for the monster he was. After Krushchev's speech and the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956, Hewlett Johnson must have clung to his claim that communist Russia was some sort of paradise out of little more than bone-headed stubborness. Lenin would have called Hewlett Johnson a 'useful idiot'. It is possible, just, to be a Christian and a communist, but it is surely impossible to be a Christian and a Stalinist. This book is a very good read for anyone interested in where the Church of England started to go badly wrong in the early and middle parts of the twentieth century, losing sight of its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities and giving priority to secular, political fashions of metropolitan intellectuals.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 23 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson (Hardcover)
Excellent read
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