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Getting Religion

Getting Religion: Faith, Culture and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama by Kenneth L. Woodward

A book spanning faith, culture and politics from a noted Newsweek Religion reporter for many years is bound to stir up the pot.  And yet, Kenneth Woodward’s new book, Getting Religion, is as much about understanding how far we’ve come in unlearning overly dogmatic things and relearning what it means to bring faith to the public square.  However overwhelming the task may be to cover such a broad swath of themes in a lengthy numbers of years, this book is really a good synthesis of the last 50 or so years.

One of the key movements that took place that affected faith and culture in the past century was Vatican II.  Woodward remarks that his interest was mainly in the foundation of the reforms that were past, especially the books and thinkers that helped shaped the changes (Rahner and others).  One thing that Woodward pointed out was that, “I was deeply impressed by the mutual respect, camaraderie even, between the Catholic and Protestant veterans of the Council (75).”  Even an outsider and Evangelical stalwart such as David F. Wells contends after the council that, “It also has placed on Protestants an obligation to revise their thinking about Rome (76).”  No longer heeding to the call of Pope Pius XII that only the church of Rome is the people of God, the Council sought to bring together the worldwide church and its various members. 

Much of the changing landscape of religion in our times is due to the posture we have towards certain religious documents, most notably the Bible.  Woodward draws us into some key movements that took the Bible seriously but also took issues relating to women seriously too.  Woodward writes, “Written, edited, and translated solely by men, the Bible could be read – and dismissed – as the religion of patriarchy…The most influential feminist scholars – were determined to reclaim the Bible as a user-friendly text for women’s liberation (240).”  Reuther and Fiorenza to name two, devoted their life to making the Bible match their concern for the oppression of women, and looked at their liberation.  Their ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ was very much in line with the modern historical-critical method but their bent was toward the major texts that prized women and eschewed the one’s that hinted at male dominance. 

Overall, Woodward does an excellent job at painting the religious landscape of the past decades.  You won’t want to miss this book.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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