March 18, 2011

Compassion and Solidarity - Gregory Baum

"In these lectures I have been discussing a new movement in the churches, one that binds Christian faith to the yearning for social justice."

"All who love justice, therefore, of whatever class, must support the poor in their struggle for liberation."

"Today, almsgiving is no longer enough. Love of neighbour calls for social justice, for a transformation of society, so that the victims will be delivered from their crushing burdens. In our day the love of neighbour generates a passion for justice."

"... despite it all, and in the face of it all, even though we see no immediate solution, we resist, and in this resistance we are consoled by God's presence and God's promise."

I don't normally write in books, but it is for the sake of books like this one that I keep a pen in my bedside table. The above are just a sampling of passages that I have underlined in this book.

There is a bit of a story behind my reading of this book. I picked up a copy 4 years ago (I think) because the topic is one of my passions, but then it sat on my bookcase through several moves without being read. Then I picked it up at Christmas time, deciding that it's time had come to be read, and after finishing the first chapter, I promptly left it behind at the Toronto airport when traveling to visit my family. So I re-ordered a copy, and finally had a chance to finish it this week.

This slim volume is a transcript of the Massey Lectures from 1987. The Massey Lectures were set up in 1961 in order to "invite a noted scholar to undertake study or original research in his field and present the results in a series of radio broadcasts." I have previously enjoyed listening to Stephen Lewis and Jean Vanier in their series of lectures, but this is the first time that I have read the transcripts.

I'm glad that I was reading the lectures rather than listening to them. The material was so thought provoking that I could stop and pause and think about an idea before continuing on; as well as flip back and forth and cross-reference one idea off another. Even though the book is short (106 pages) and has only 5 chapters (each of the 5 one-hour lectures), I could only read one chapter per day in order to absorb the information and reflect on it.

The ideas presented, as you may have guessed from the quotations above, have to do with social justice, liberation theology, and the faith-and-justice movement in the churches. Gregory Baum is an ex-Catholic priest (who left the priesthood over a disagreement with his order rather than a crisis of faith), so the book is presented from a Catholic viewpoint, but is very ecumenical in scope. Some of the references are a bit dated (computers as a new and emerging phenomenon in the workplace!), but so many of the themes are relevant today, maybe even more so than when the lectures were originally given.

I had so many thoughts and ideas while reading this book that if I were to try and write a full review, it would probably be as long as the book itself! I loved the fact that the overall tone was one of optimism - yes there are bad things in the world, and yes it can seem overwhelming to think about effecting change, but societal transformation is possible. And this is something that I have experienced and something that I believe strongly in. (Around the same time as I bought this book, but long before I read it, I wrote an essay - also for the CBC - along similar lines but much shorter of course. If you want to read it or hear me read it, it is still available online here.)

So an excellent book, and one that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in social justice and liberation theology.


TheMakings said...

From one bookworm to another, just want to say, keep up the good work :)

Anonymous said...

Can't. Wait. To. Read!
- dada s

Kate said...

TheMakings - Thank you!

Dada S - You can borrow my copy if you don't mind all of my underlinings and margin notes...