BOOK Review

Diarmuid O’Murchu’s latest book, Christianity’s Dangerous Memory, is the authors attempt to put the teachings of Jesus in the context of Palestine as an empirical colony of Rome. The subtitle, A Rediscovery of The Revolutionary Jesus, suggests that Jesus was a radical who set about to make all things new and it takes Him off of the patriarchal pedestal on which he was placed by Constantine.

After discussing parables about the Kingdom of God and other themes, O’Murchu uses his own rap-like poems to drive home the revolutionary messages he claims are hidden in all the teachings of Jesus. O’Murchu uses the language of poems to say some radical things about characters in gospel stories.

In one of his poems, the woman at the well is given a name and words to tell her side of the story.  Since suppression of women was so common in Jesus’ time the gospel writers reflected the common practices of the times rather than Jesus’ new message, hence the need to hear from the woman herself. The miracle of the woman with the hemorrhage is treated similarly.

O’Murchu digs into the Aramaic language to offer a new understanding of the Greek phrase The Kingdom of God by referring to it as Companionship of Empowerment.  His understanding of this new phrase is used to re-interpret the parables and miracles of Jesus.

An impressive number of references to current studies on Jesus are used to support O’Murchu’s thesis that Jesus was a radical who followers tried to turn into a King in the mode of the patriarchal climate of the day. He claims that subsequent church leaders and practices have forced a false identity on to Jesus which has obscured his real nature as a subversive fighting against the colonial rule of Rome.

One has to be in a deconstructionist mode to appreciate the radical nature of the approach taken by the author.

It seems that the message of this book is that the patriarchal and empirical atmosphere of the time of Jesus is still present in our world today and the need to push back against the forces of oppression is as great today as it was in Jesus’ time.

Christianity’s Dangerous Memories is a good source for telling the parables and miracles of Jesus from the other side, from the side of women, the outcast and the powerless. That’s why the stories are dangerous, they force us to leave our comfort zone, our personal, feel-good spirituality, for a place where there is no special privilege, no gender discrimination, no inequality, and no one left out.

This book is a challenge to our safe old image of Jesus in which his death is given more importance than his message. It requires the reader to take a radically new approach to understanding just why it is that Jesus came among us.

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