Reviews – October 2021
Getting Away With Murder(s)
Directed by David Nicholas Wilkinson
Certificate 15, 175 minutes
Released 1 October
The industrial extermination of the Holocaust included most infamously some six million Jews but also smaller numbers of other groups including Poles, gay men, the disabled and political dissidents, some 11 million people in all. It remains a stark reminder of the evil of which human beings at their worst are capable.
Getting Away With Murder(s) is a consistently compelling documentary which approaches this atrocity from an angle we’ve not really seen before: why were 99% of the perpetrators never held to account for their crimes?
The filmmaker David Wilkinson takes his camera to the sites of specific events, from the Auschwitz death camps then through France, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Austria and, obviously, Germany. He travels to England, to his own county of Yorkshire in an attempt to understand the sheer numbers killed – Yorkshire has a population of 5.4 million.
One explanation for the small number of prosecutions is that the Third Reich effectively suspended many of the ideals of the biblical Ten Commandments underpinning Christendom, allowing state employees to kill in its name.
Immediately after the war, there was no legal concept of ‘crimes against humanity’, which was only brought in for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, 1945-6. (The film is released on the 75th anniversary of the end of the tribunal.)
Where the East German Communist state hired completely new public functionaries – judiciary, teachers and so forth, the west retained many from the Third Reich. Thus, the Nazified West German judiciary was often sympathetic to the murderers.
Austria had similar issues. In 1986, it elected Kurt Waldheim as president, only for the US to declare him persona non grata when the US Department of Justice produced evidence that he had participated in Holocaust crimes.
The advent of the Cold War in the late 1940s made the Allied powers more concerned with the pressing Soviet threat than hunting down Nazi war criminals.
The reasons are many and complex. And troubling. A shorter running length would not have adequately explored them. As it stands, however, this three-hour film shines a welcome light into a dark area of modern European history. Highly recommended. Ask your local cinema to screen it.
Jeremy Clarke is a film critic. His work is available at jeremycprocessing.com
The Holy Spirit and Worship: Transformation and truth in the theologies of John Owen and John Zizioulas
£17 direct from the author including postage
Elizabeth Welch would not have taken so long completing this thesis had she not been so conscientious about her immediate pastoral and ecumenical commitments. But then she could not have written so convincingly about conciliating different traditions and people had she not practiced this in the establishment of an ‘ecumenical cathedral’, Christ the Cornerstone in Milton Keynes, guided the United Reformed Church through sexuality debates, been active in the World Council of Churches, chaired the International Reformed Anglican Dialogue and led the Society for Ecumenical Studies to which I also belong. When she writes about the 17th century Congregational theologian, John Owen, and the contemporary Greek Orthodox theologian, John Zizioulas, she writes with authority gained even before undertaking her PhD.
As an experienced preacher, Elizabeth writes clearly so that anyone with any interest in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, Pentecostal Churches, worship and these two famous theologians will find the book easy to follow. First, she tells us what she is going to say, then she says it, and finally tells us what conclusions she has reached. Alleluia! Orthodox and Reformed can be united in faith! Being centuries apart is irrelevant since, as Barth and Gunton insisted, there is no past in the Church. Calvin and the Cappadocians are still with us and many still read John Owen and none dare admit being ignorant of Zizioulas’s classic Being as Communion.
Her conclusions are convincing. We know that Owen’s Reformed heir, Professor Colin Gunton, once her tutor, worked closely with John Zizioulas in rediscovering The Forgotten Trinity. When Zizioulas writes about ‘the gathered church’ or ‘Christ’s priestly ministry’, it is as though he had read the Congregationalist Normal Goodall or the Presbyterian T W Manson – to add two books she doesn’t cite to the impressive 500 she does.
So what keeps Reformed and Orthodox apart? Ask Zizioulas. Could it be that the Revd Dr Welch is a woman? If so, there is much more to discuss. Before that let’s all sing, ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ (Rejoice and Sing, 751). Written in the 9th century, it predates our tragic divisions.
Donald Norwood is a retired minister working in Ecumenical Research at Oxford. To buy the book, email email@example.com
Living Faithfully in the Time of Creation
Kathy Galloway and Katharine M Preston
Wild Goose Publications
In Autumn 2020, the Iona Community’s ‘Common Concern Network – Environment’ was formed with the intention of giving voice and encouragement to community members and others across four continents, who are alert to the issues of climate emergency. The postponement of the COP26 conference in Glasgow until October of this year immediately sharpened the focus of the network’s task.
Consequently, and in record time, they have produced a remarkable anthology of resources for reflection, worship and action. From Africa, Australia, the United States and Europe come stories, songs, liturgies and challenges which can be used as the basis of prayer and reflection right through the period from September until Advent – or at any time while the climate emergency persists. Despite being gathered around a single theme, the varied experiences of a range of contributors successfully maintain both freshness and immediacy.
The musical element of the anthology from John Bell and others is characteristically thoughtful and readily singable, and includes lyrics that have stood the test of recent decades.
This is an anthology to dip into often and to use for single items or ready-made liturgies. Here the reader will find concern and lament, unsurprisingly, but also hope and delight – not least in ‘grubby potatoes and funny shaped carrots … the glossiness of conkers … and the kiss of a dog’s wet nose’!
Ian Fosten is book reviews editor for Reform
Faith for girls
Girl Got Faith
ISBN: 978 0 2810 8510 1
Girl Got Faith aims to help girls on their journey of faith and was founded by Emma Borquaye, who is married to Guvna B, a well-known Christian rapper.
This book is quite interactive with lots of different things to do; for example, a tick box list of things that make you happy, writing a letter of encouragement to someone, a testimony writing activity, and a Bible verse to colour. There is also plenty of space at the back of the book for notes and doodles.
There are three main sections to the book: In (Who am I?), Up (Who is God?), and Out (What is my purpose?). There are lots of interesting interviews included throughout the book with a variety of people who talk about their experience of faith, and a helpful glossary explaining words such as salvation, repentance grace, mercy and faith.
The layout inside is colourful and attractive with lots of pictures and illustrations. I found it quite an easy book to read as you can pick it up and look at a little bit at a time, thanks to its many different sections. It is a book you could keep coming back to rather than just reading once and then leaving it on the shelf. If I was struggling with something and wanted a reminder, I could go back and look at a part of the book for some encouragement. I will definitely be going back to the section on Bible study that looked at how to do Bible journaling, which is something I would like to do.
At 19, I am at the older end of the target audience as it is aimed at teenage girls. But I do feel that that it would also be useful for young adults and for anyone who needs a reminder of who they are in God, and I don’t think they could have done it any better. The book says it is ‘your interactive guide to navigating faith, identity and purpose’ and that’s exactly what it is.
Abbie Sturman is a student at the University of East Anglia
A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues
Martin Hodson and Margot Hodson
The Bible Reading Fellowship (Revised edition. Originally published 2015)
The world is not short of books about environmental issues, so what is the purpose of a Christian guide? Perhaps there was a greater need in 2015 when this book was originally published, but even in 2021 it does no harm to connect Christian faith with the climate and ecological emergency. Especially in such safe hands as Martin and Margot Hodson, who have an exemplary record as environmental activists and writers.
Team Hodson make good use of their complementary skills (as, respectively, scientist and Anglican vicar) to bring a Christian understanding to the multi-faceted environmental crisis. Their book is very readable – highly anecdotal and with lots of subheadings.
As a guide to ‘environmental issues’ the book covers all the main topics, rightly placing climate change as the most serious threat to the planet, alongside other pressing issues such as biodiversity loss, pollution, and increasing population. It has interesting chapters on soil, water and food. The environmental side of the book is certainly the equal of ‘secular’ books on the subject and makes it worth reading, even without the theological reflections.
The added value as a ‘Christian guide’ is less satisfactory. While the authors make a strong link between environmental issues and Christian ethics, the reflections on biblical texts are theologically conservative and disappointingly basic. Readers who share a similar theological understanding may find this side of the book helpful. Readers with a more exploratory theological approach may miss both the nuance and the range of other contemporary writing about ecotheology.
The Hodsons have provided a short, readable, introduction to environmental issues, providing some useful insights to both the faith and environmental aspects. While much of this is available elsewhere, it is helpful to bring it all together in a single volume, particularly for those at the beginning of their exploration of the appropriate ways for Christians to respond to the environmental crisis.
Peter Skerratt is a member of St Andrew’s URC, Ealing, West London
This article was published in the October 2021 edition of Reform