Greg Sheridan
Christians: The urgent case for Jesus in our world
Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021
ISBN-13: 978-1760879099

Book Christians

 

 "Written as a follow-up of sorts to his 2018 book, God is Good for You, Sheridan - who by day is the foreign editor of The Australian newspaper, says the latest work came about after a friend remarked to him following the release of God is Good for You that he didn't get a strong sense of the 'living Jesus' from the Gospels - remarks that led Sheridan to spend 'a year or two inside the New Testament'."

Christians, from the earliest days of the church, have always been an eclectic group of people. Greg Sheridan's latest book, Christians, certainly shows that to be the case as he profiles the lives of Christians from the ancient past and the contemporary world.

Written as a follow-up of sorts to his 2018 book, God is Good for You, Sheridan - who by day is the foreign editor of The Australian newspaper, says the latest work came about after a friend remarked to him following the release of God is Good for You that he didn't get a strong sense of the "living Jesus" from the Gospels - remarks that led Sheridan to spend "a year or two inside the New Testament".

Out of that comes this latest book which, divided into two parts, broadly looks, firstly at the character of Jesus and the earliest Christians - including Mary, Peter and Paul (whom he refers to as 'Christ's Lenin', a statement he goes to some lengths to explain) - and then, secondly at some more modern-day followers of Christ.

The latter include some whom have made an impact in popular culture - everyone from Fred Rogers to JRRR Tolkien - along with some whom Sheridan has personally encountered - a number of Australian Christians who have founded NGOs or mission organiations as well as politicians such as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose Pentecostal faith is well-known, and former Governor-General Bill Hayden, whose late life embrace of "Catholic Christianity", as Sheridan calls it, is less so.

Sheridan saves some of the best till last - it's only in the final chapters of the book that we find an interesting chapter on Christianity in China today (Sheridan was the first ever Beijing correspondent for The Australian in the mid-1980s) and the Chinese view of religion as well as conversations with Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Alpha creator Nicky Gumbel and Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli.

While he's known for expressing some strong political views, that is not the focus of this book - 

Sheridan, who is a Catholic, has - as will already be clear, deliberately taken a broad approach in looking at what Christianity looks like today, covering in the book stories of people from a broad range of Christian backgrounds (he, for example, expresses his admiration for the Pentecostals - "their energy, their openness and their enthusiasm about their faith".

It's an approach also seen in a juxtaposition he makes between two London churches in Kensington - Holy Trinity Brompton, the Anglican home of the Alpha Course, and the nearby Catholic Brompton Oratory.

"It seems that HTB and the Oratory next door are poles apart, but I don't think that at all..." Sheridan writes. He says that while the music played at the two churches is different, the Christian communities strike him as "not much different at all on the things that really matter".

"One, with its ancient Latin liturgy, looks shockingly counter-cultural. The other, hip and groovy, seems to be riding the wave of ctemporary culture. But the worship and the music in both churches are based squarely on the words of the Bible, Old Testament and New, and the message of the Christianity is essentially the same. Both forms of Christianity are growing, in London and elsewhere."

There's a lot to ruminate on in this book and each chapter is worth taking your time over. The book's title is an apt explanation of what it's about - Christians - but despite the subtitle, The Urgent Case for Jesus in Our World, this is not so much an apologetic work (although there is some of that, particularly in the first part of the book). Rather the strength of Christians is the more personal exploration of the lives of those, both in the ancient past and in the world today, who profess to follow Christ and what that looks like for them.