Author Diarmid O’Murchu, keeping up his one-book-a-year pace with the publication of On Being a Postcolonial Christian, continues to challenge adult Christians to practice spirituality and live faith with the same critique now being applied to all values they experience in modern life.
In this book he uses a postcolonial critique to explore the origin of long-held myths which have guided Christian belief for thousands of years including the doctrine of atonement.
Although postcolonial criticism has been applied to politics, feminism and power and domination in general for several years, this book is one of a few which use the postcolonial optic to analyze Christianity today.
Patriarchal power, imperialism, violence, co-dependency, domination, indoctrination, oppression, divine right, and the colonial mindset (the divine right to control and conquer) in general are the targets of O’Murchu’s appraisal.
He describes empires from Roman times to the present day as reflections of religious notions including our images of God. He concludes it was within these dominating political structures that key religious values were developed especially things described as “mystery” to hide the power drives of those in leadership positions.
O’Murchu claims the colonial mindset gave us the “Sky God”, a distant, fearful judge which kept the masses passive and subdued and kept the believers in a childlike mode. Rather than a message of liberation, Christians were given devotions of consolation with the promise of better times after death.
His postcolonial critique leads O’Murchu to re-interpret the life and parables of Jesus as stories about the oppression of the Roman Empire. The characters in the parables, widows, the sick, the blind and especially women are not accepted as physical healing but rather as subversive messages about the oppression suffered under colonial powers. Rather than Jesus as King, O’Murchu sees Jesus as a subversive who was killed for this reason. According to the author even the origin of the feast of Christ the King has colonial origins.
O’Murchu translates the expression “Kingdom of God” as “Companionship of Empowerment” which he thinks better illustrates the community in which Christians are liberated, the basic message of Jesus.
In the book the recent selection of a new Pope is given as an example of how the colonial mindset is still very much present in Christian faith: a group of old men in royal dress met in secret to select a new leader in an age in which access to information is readily available and in which collaboration and equality are held in high esteem.
The real value of this book is O’Murchu’s ability to bring together anthropology, psychology and history to help explain why modern educated people continue to question patriarchy and power as having anything to do with God and the message of Jesus.