Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Book Notes: "Communism and Christianity" by Martin Cyril D'Arcy

Communism And ChristianityCommunism And Christianity by Martin Cyril D'Arcy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In 1956, the Reverend D’Arcy was writing at a time when the Soviet Union was still regarded as a direct threat to capitalism and indeed, Christianity, and this work needs to be taken in the context of the times. One should not expect the Reverend to deliver anything short of an apologia, and in this he does not disappoint. While it was not uncommon for some, especially in the post-Stalin era (Stalin having died in 1953), to remain intellectually interested in the great socialist experiment, D’Arcy sees such entertaining of Communism as a direct threat to Christianity, in that Communism, in its Soviet guise, was regarded by some as a ‘religion’. D’Arcy makes the point of comparing Christianity and Communism as, ‘properly’, “faiths”, rather than religions. Extensive comparisons are drawn between the ideal societies which each proposes exist in the future, including some interesting views of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth versus the spiritual realm, some extensive coverage of the overlapping jurisdiction of Church and State in the temporal and spiritual realms, and a great deal of whitewashing of the history of the Christian Church, in many cases as if to say “we were intemperate in our youth but we have since matured”. What really stands out for me is the Orientalist attitude of the book – not in its Orientalist approach but in its lack of the Orient at all – stemming from the author’s monocultural view of the world including a belief that all that is good in civilisation stems from the West. The numerous biases made the final arguments quite tedious to read, but it is worth the effort nonetheless. For instance, the unpacking of the socialist aims of both Soviet-Communism and Christian Socialism provide much food for thought, as do the numerous references to other great works, albeit used in place of empirical evidence, but a useful compass for further exploration of the great works of famous authors. What I found most disappointing, however, was the lack of distinction between the Soviet-style Communism and the Marxian-style Communism (both are lumped together while being ‘cherry-picked’ ad nauseum to suit the author’s biases). Similarly, the Christian Church is portrayed as a monolith until it suits the author to criticise non-Catholics for their ‘erroneous’ views of the world. Despite my frustration with this work – it was a difficult read not because of the language but because of the agonisingly obvious biases supported by manufactured evidence – I have learnt a great deal from the synthesis the Reverend D’Arcy attempts to provide in bringing together the extremes of the materialist and spiritual realms into a shared space which neither occupies often enough to enable such comparisons to bear the fruit which D’Arcy arguably produces from amongst the rocks and sand of this polemic.



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