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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

Promise & Poison: the Story of Emerging Christianity

by John Van Hagen

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism



In Promise and Poison, psychologist and former Catholic priest John Van Hagen argues that the long-standing Jewish hope for the history-changing intervention of YHWH and the cursed, shameful crucifixion of Jesus were two elements from which emerged new moral communities whose members were soon called Christians.

While the history of Emerging Christianity appears fraught with battles about what to believe (Orthodoxy), what often goes unnoticed in the intense struggle to live a virtuous life (orthodoxy), what often goes unnoticed is the intense struggle to live a virtuous life (orthodoxy), what often goes unnoticed in the intense struggle to live a virtuous life (Orthopraxis). In their desperate efforts at self-definition, communities demonized outsiders and held insiders to unrealistic standards of conduct.  That insistence on living a highly moral life was also fueled by the promise of a new afterlife on a transformed earth. The religion’s moral struggle in ancient times is also a challenge for us today.  Can we establish boundaries which are as necessary for an identity as a moral community without demonizing those outside of ostracizing those inside who are perceived to be different? The United States still struggles with this question.

 

The author states:” Focusing on spiritual practices but minimizing the importance of doctrine, I now appreciate religion as a context for our own finite efforts of facing the challenges of leading a moral life. How to navigate between the twin values of self enhancement and self-sacrifice? How to balance both conformity and change? How to prepare for one’s own future while contributing to the future of others? Of course, traditional religion is not the only context for addressing such dilemmas. Appreciating that bleak context makes the contributions of family, friends, and members of any worshiping community even more helpful and inspiring.”

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