7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Dazzling Darkness - a very peculiar book?,
This review is from: Dazzling Darkness (Paperback)
Who could resist a book which brings together Greek philosophy, atonement theory, gender stereotypes and poetry? The owner of our local bookshop wasn't so sure, though. When my husband went to collect the copy I'd ordered, she interrogated him to make sure it was the correct book. `There are several Browns who have ordered stuff,' she said, `So I just need to make sure it's the right one. You see, I read the back cover, and it does all sound rather.... peculiar!'
If Rachel Mann's Dazzling Darkness is considered too much for residents of rural Aberdeenshire to cope with, it's their loss, as it sets out an understanding of the real message of Jesus which is far more genuine, generous and life-affirming than many theological tomes which are twice as long. As Rachel stresses - in a completely non self-pitying way - Jesus didn't come for the respectable folk but society's outcasts, the `freaks, the half-mad, the second-rate yet glorious bunch' as Rachel describes them, as they have no vested interests and are prepared to take the risks needed to create the kingdom of Heaven on earth. Her own journey from spaced out hippy to committed priest is told with complete honesty; she discusses her mistakes, her hormonal mood swings, and her ongoing accommodation with the nastier aspects of Crohn's disease quite dispassionately, thankfully sparing the reader the `misery memoir' type of gory detail. Her focus is not on the problem but the solution. Hers is the liberal, generous and imaginative version of Christianity which is so attractive to those of us who love Jesus but don't care for the church much, especially when it gets its teeth into the nasty stuff about atonement theory, which Rachel rapidly sees off without a backward glance. She is equally effective at zapping all the other pernicious rubbish which passes for `Christian' belief: homophobia, misogyny and that entire `bag'.
If it is to survive in a wholesome form, Jesus' message in a post-Christian world needs more people like Rachel to tell it out. I am convinced that so many of us turn away from the traditional churches because we don't see others there like ourselves. We do see there the conventional, the traditional, and the rule followers, who (assuming they are truthful about their actions!) may be very nice people but have nothing to say to those of us who rage against the injustices of the world, who challenge, question and wonder. Even worse, many of these `nice' people are quite happy to consign those of us who don't accept their own rigid and cruel take on Christianity to eternal damnation - a church local to me even states this openly on its website. They see themselves getting into Heaven on a free ticket - but won't they be surprised when they get there to see Rachel and her friends have arrived already and are enjoying the party! I hope Rachel's work continues to grow and develop for as Jesus would put it `hers in the kingdom of Heaven'. If you thought Jesus' message was all about not doing things and toeing the party line, Dazzling Darkness will quickly disabuse you of that one!
As an ex-university lecturer who is forever grumbling about the decline of literacy standards, I was delighted to find I never needed my red pen on this text - the book is beautifully written and expresses complex ideas in simple and elegant form, as you might expect from a poet. My only minor quibble is about the slightly weird cover design. It might be intended to represent alpha and omega, but as my (admittedly unpoetic) husband pointed out, it rather looks like a pink florescent toilet, and for a book which refers to the challenges of living with Crohn's disease this is possibly not the best image! But ignore the cover and enjoy the book!
Dr Mary Brown
Freelance Education Consultant