Reviews for ‘Monday, Monday,’ ‘Mere Christianity,’ ‘Great World Religions: Christianity,’ and ‘A Very Short Introduction: Catholicism’

Monday, Monday

This is a graphic novel set in the Rivers of London series. I liked how low-key this one was, and how well structured it was. This graphic novel told the same story, but from different perspectives. Each perspective revealed a little more information each time, telling a slightly different story. It’s different chapters featured detective Stephanopolos, Nightingale, Peter and finally Abigale. This takes place after the most recent book in the series, ‘Amongst our Weapons.’

I think this might be my favorite Rivers of London series story, due simply for it’s supremely competent execution. To summarize the plot, the cops are tailing a robbery/fencing gang, but each and every time they get close to catching the criminals, they lose their trail. Eventually Peter and Nightingale are brought in to sniff out any supernatural mojo going on, and sure enough a werewolf is turned up.

To summarize why I liked it, every protagonist has their own character arc.

  • Stephanopolos has to deal with the entirely mundane gang of robbers. Eventually she clues into the fact that there might be a mole, and sniffs him out with cleverness.
  • Nightingale is stuck in the past, regretting his past actions. As ever, he’s dealing with PTSD with events surrounding WW2. He fought werewolves in WW2, and now he’s forced to confront his past. I liked how he experienced character growth, learning the value in love.
  • Peter has a BAD day. He’s taking part in the investigation, until his dad has a heart attack, derailing the entire plot. This was a great storybeat, because it forced all the other characters to step up.
  • Abby has a girl’s day out with Foxglove. While out on the town, they capture the werewolf.

Seeing the same day’s events, but told from different perspectives, really did a LOT to drive home the different characterization of the different characters. Stephanopolis’ sternness, but also her softer home life. Nightingale’s PTSD, but also him growing into his complete self, having learned from the mistakes of the past. Peter is a new father in this story, barely staying one step ahead of his twin babies; he’s happy, but overwhelmed… at least until his dad nearly dies. And finally, we get to see some antics from Abigale and Foxglove. Abigale has to take on the role of a mature adult, for a change, when Foxglove gets them into trouble… and incidentally they solve the case in the process.

5 stars. Well done to the people who concepted this.


Mere Christianity

I heard so much good news about this one, but it was a bit of a disappointment. ‘Mere Christianity’ is C. S. Lewis’ apologia defending the Christian faith. I was unimpressed with his arguments. One critic of Christian apologia pointed out that Christian apologia come in two flavors: either arguments for the case of Christ to non-Christians, or arguments for the case of Christ to fellow Christians. This apologia is of the second category, a narrative meant to convince Christians that Christianity is the one true religion. I am not a born-again Christian, so the arguments made herein fell on deaf ears.

Simply put, this book was written to give Christians an easy to understand philosophical underpinning to their faith, but without truly engaging with the intellectual heft of real Christian philosophy. It didn’t discuss Plato, Augustus, Luther or the other greats, save in a reduced form. The purpose of this is to help people whose faith is wavering to find their faith again; this isn’t meant to find converts.

Some of the arguments made in this book were ‘fluffy.’ I spotted a few ‘no true scottsman’ arguments. The narrative made a lot of declarative statements, such as by declaring that ‘modern sexual freedom is bad,’ without providing sufficient data to back it up. Lewis also argued against the Eastern-style philosophy of a cosmic Brahman/Buddha nature/Universal Force, but Lewis never engaged with the Eastern Philosophy on the merits, making him look poorly researched. Further, the conversational tone the author struck came off as casually insulting on more than one occasion. Lewis came away looking like he had a lot of strong opinions, but nothing to base those opinions upon.

These sorts of arguments would never hold up in a real intellectual discourse on the subject. Apparently Lewis ran this book by 4 ministers/preachers before publishing it, to make sure it was theologically sound. I feel he needed to run it by a few non-Christian philosophers, to put the screws on it’s arguments.

(Additionally this is not a modern book; reading this from a modern lens, it contains racist, sexist and religiously intolerant language. I’m inclined to forgive it due to it being 80 years old.)

I really wanted to like this. It was well written, and at points Lewis made really convincing points. But there simply wasn’t enough intellectual heft. The burden of proof wasn’t met. I don’t recommend this unless you’re a Christian already.


Great World Religions: Christianity

On the other hand, this was a wonderful exploration of the faith of Christ. It was not an apologia, but instead explored the social and historical history of Christianity. It talks about the major faiths (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism) as well as most of the major sub-faiths (Anabaptists, Methodists, Presbyterianism, etc…). It was not perfect; it neglected speaking about Mormonism in any detail, as well as the Nestorianism and the forms of Christianity popular in the East.

I personally enjoyed how the lecturer discussed how the faith transformed with time. It began as a religion barely held together by the efforts of Paul, using what felt like shoestring and good intensions. But the early church made up of interlinked chapels gradually grew and changed, becoming the Catholic Church, then the Orthodox + Roman Catholic Church, then Protestantism + Roman Catholic + Orthodoxy. It explained the seven sacraments, and how the Lord’s Supper gradually transitioned into the modern Mass. It talks about some of the desert fathers/mothers, asceticism, as well as the gnostic movements. It focuses on Love, and how we as a people often fail to live up to the example set for us by Jesus.

The big flaw in this is that it didn’t speak about how Christianity was weaponized by the European powers in their conquest and colonization of the whole world. To paraphrase Napoleon, “The firmest support of order and authority is organized religion.” You can’t talk about Catholicism without talking about the New World.

Of course, ‘Christianity’ as a topic is huge, while this lecture series is a short 6 hours long. It obviously doesn’t cover everything. If you’re a non-Christian, this is a good place to start.


Catholicism

Another good addition to the ‘A Very Short Introduction’ series. As a part of my education on the subject of Christianity, I wanted to read a precis on the topic of the largest Christian faith. This got the job done. It discussed Catholic history, rites and traditions. It also briefly mentioned some scandals, but never got into any details. I feel more well-informed now that I’ve read it. No comments further.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s