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Own Affairs redux

14 August 2017

There are lots of Internet discussions about racism going on at the moment, and one that particularly concerns me was on the “Ask an Orthodox Hipster” group on Facebook. Facebook groups are good for quick questions and simplistic answers, like soundbites, but they are not good for more nuanced discussions, so I’m writing about it here, partly in the hope that I can clarify my own thinking, and partly hoping that others may contribute useful insights.

There are several links to other sites and articles in this discussion, and I’ve included some in the texts, and put others at the end.

The core question that concerned me was this:

Maximos Williams: I think loving ones own people first and foremost is admirable.

Me: And what constitutes one’s “own” people? Surely our “own” people are our fellow-citizens of the kingdom of God who are joined with Christ and us in baptism. See 1 Peter 2:9-10. If we think that “blood is thicker than water” (the water of baptism) then we sell our heavenly birthright for the pottage of this sinful world.

I should also say where I am coming from.

I lived through the entire apartheid period in South Africa, where the concept of “own people” was at the core of government thinking and the policy of the ruling National Party. For 46 years they tried to indoctrinate the entire population with the notion expressed by Maximos Williams, and I saw the results of that policy, and the results were evil. Not only were the results evil, the thinking behind it was evil. Apartheid was not just a good idea that was badly implemented. It was a bad idea. Full Stop. Period. <EOT>

And when apartheid was crumbling, and even the National Party had agreed to negotiate for a different future without it, one group of diehards who wished to retain apartheid thinking went around putting up posters saying “Own People, Own Land.” It was probably translated from Afrikaans by people who did not realise how ambiguous it is in English (Eie Volk, Eie Land), but as Paolo Freire pointed out in his Pegagogy of the Oppressed, the oppressed internalises the image of the oppressor, and those apartheid chickens are coming home to roost in the Black First, Land First movement.

During the first 20 years of apartheid it was criticised by some Christian leaders because it was unjust and oppressive. But there was usually the underlying thought that a juster, kinder, less oppressive form of apartheid might be acceptable. But they had not really examined the presuppositions on which it was based. One of the first theological critiques of the ideological underpinnings of apartheid was from an Anglican priest, Trevor Huddleston, in his book Naught for your comfort, where he pointed out that it was incompatible with the incarnation of Christ. It was only in 1968 that a significant number of Christian leaders concluded that apartheid was worse than a heresy, it was a pseudogospel. Its premisses were not merely un-Christian, but anti-Christian. They did this in a public document called A message to the people of South Africa.

We, in this country, and at this time, are in a situation where a policy of racial separation is being deliberately effected with increasing rigidity. The effects of this are seen in a widening range of aspects of life – in political, economic, social, educational and religious life; indeed, there are few areas even of the private life of the individual which are untouched by the effects of the doctrine of racial separation. In consequence, this doctrine is being seen by many not merely as a temporary political policy but as a necessary and permanent expression of the will of God, and as the genuine form of Christian obedience for this country. But this doctrine, together with the hardships which are deriving from its implementation, forms a programme which is truly hostile to Christianity and can serve only to keep people away from the real knowledge of Christ.

There are alarming signs that this doctrine of separation has become, for many, a false faith, a novel gospel which offers happiness and peace for the community and for the individual. It holds out to men a security built not on Christ but on the theory of separation and the preservation of their racial identity. It presents separate development of our race-groups as a way for the people of South Africa to save themselves. Such a claim inevitably conflicts with the Christian Gospel, which offers salvation, both social and individual, through faith in Christ alone.

In other words, the ideology of apartheid (and not merely its implementation) was based on the premiss of a pseudogospel, a false offer of salvation, salvation by race and not by grace.

I give that explanation of where I am coming from because I am aware that I might be overreacting to Maximos Williams’s statement. The phrase “own people” may carry a lot more baggage for me than it does for him.

But nevertheless the core question remains — who are our “own people”?

And if they are anything other than our fellow-members of the Body of Christ, then where do our fellow-Christians come, if not “first and foremost”?

Do they take second, or third, or fourth place?

Newly-illumined servants of God in procession around the font and Epitaphios (funeral shroud of Christ). One Lord, one Faith, One Baptism, One Holy people of God, black, white, coloured, Asian, Bulgarian, Greek, Russian, American.

And if so, is this not idolatry — because if God’s people are not “first and foremost”, then surely God himself is taking second place. “You shall have no other gods before me” — but if we put God and God’s people in second or third place, or lower down, that means we have made an idol of ethnic or racial identity, and that is the very “phyletism” that was condemned by a synod in Constantinople in 1872, whether you call it a council or not.

Another contributor to the Facebook discussion said:

Christopher Dane: I understand the nuance Maximos Williams is trying to discuss. I’ve said it three times here.

I think there needs to be serious discussion about the difference between preferential and violent racism vs identity politics. I haven’t seen a single mature conversation on that topic yet.

Now I’m not sure what “identity politics” is, or how it differs from “preferential and violent racism”. I think “identity politics” may be something peculiarly American, so I’m not qualified to say much about it, or about the “maturity” needed to discuss such a topic. Perhaps that kind of maturity is peculiar to Americans, and the rest of us should back off.  But it is Americans who like talking about “American lives” and denounce the idea that “all lives matter” — and isn’t that a kind of “own people” thinking again?

So I think that, regardless of the difference between “preferential and violent racism” and “identity politics”, the core question is who one’s “own people” are.

The original question, that Maximos Williams was responding to, was “What is the Orthodox position on racism and white supremacy?

And someone responded with this cite from the Synod held in Constantinople in 1872:

We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which “support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.”

I don’t know whether that is an accurate quotation or translation of what the Synod said, but it seems similar in import to what South African Christian leaders came up with 96 years later in the Message to the people of South Africa.

And who are “our people”?

But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may shew forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy (I Peter 2:9-10).

Early Christians thought of themselves as a “third race”, regarding every foreign country as a homeland, and every homeland as a foreign country.


Farewell to an old friend

8 August 2017

Just over a month ago we visited old friends Martin and Wendy Goulding. A month later Martin died.

Martin & Wendy Goulding, Melville, Johannesburg 29 Jun 2017

Martin told us something about his health problems. He was taking pain-killers every day, and had to have medicine for diabetes more than 20 times a day. He was regularly seeing an oncologist about cancer.

And today we attended his funeral.

St Francis Anglican Church, Parkview, 8 August 2017

And my mind went back more than fifty years, when four of us, all students at the University of Natal, took off for a long weekend travelling around seeing friends. We were Martin Goulding, Isobel Dick (now Beukes), Pam Taylor (later Trevelyan, now dead) and me.

We were driving from Piet Retief to Ladysmith on a beautiful spring day in September 1965, with the hills around Paulpietersburg green with new grass, and we started singing eschatological hymns. One of them was Light’s abode, celestial Salem, vision whence true peace doth spring.

When we had sung it a couple of times Martin said that his favourite verse of the hymn was this one.

O how glorious and resplendent,
fragile body, shalt thou be,
when endued with so much beauty,
full of health and strong and free,
full of vigour, full of pleasure
that shall last eternally.

I hope he has now discovered what that means.

More memories of Martin Goulding (and other old friends) here.

Spies Tell Lies. | The Shrieking Man

5 August 2017

With the reopening of the Ahmed Timol inquest, and seeing it live on TV, this post from last year may have renewed interest

In South Africa, of course, the police spy was necessarily tied in with the apartheid state, and to be called an “impimpi” was as much as one’s life was worth (provided that one was weak, unprotected and unarmed — ideally an elderly female whom the brave young lions could boldly burn to death).The exception in the West is the middle-class perspective on the political police spy. Of course Verloc in Conrad’s The Secret Agent is an unattractive figure — but then he is an agent provocateur, and working for the Czarist government whom Konrad Korteniowski necessarily disliked. But in a lot of cases the attitude is more that of I Was a Communist for the FBI — focussing on the courage of the political police spy in betraying the spy’s friends and allies on behalf of the centres of power. The same was true under the apartheid regime in South Africa, when police spies were honoured (except by those against whom they were used) — except that some felt that there was something a little problematic about them, not that anybody in authority minded.

Source: Spies Tell Lies. | The Shrieking Man

Ahmed Timol was not, of course, the only defenestration victim of the apartheid Security Police. Names like Looksmart Solwandle and Phakamile Mabija spring to mind. I wonder if anyone is planning to reopen their inquests.

Phakamile Mabija was someone my wife Val had met, and he was a youth worker in the Anglican Church, at the time of his death in detention in Kimberley, so I rather hope that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa might take up his case, just as I hope they might take up the case of the Epinga Martyrs.

Literary coffee klatch: witchcraft, demons, and war

4 August 2017

Yesterday we gathered at Cafe 41 in Arcadia for our monthly literary coffee klatsch. Tony McGregor had a book, The mystery of the solar wind, by Lyz Russo, which is currently free on Smashwords. Tony said it was about pirates in the 22nd century, which reminded me that I had just finished re-reading Swallows and Amazons, which is about children camped on an island in a lake playing at pirates.

In my review of Swallows and Amazons I noted that as a child I preferred books about children being captured by real pirates, rather than playing at being pirates, and compared their island camp with that in Lord of the Flies, though that was really written for adults. But I had also been reminded of another book about children and pirates, which I had also read 50 years ago, A high wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. That book had helped me come to terms with the culture shock I experienced on first going to England.

David Levey then joined us, and we continued the discussion on witchcraft in literature and life from the previous meeting.

David was asking about the difference between witches and wizards, and other terms for similar phenomena. Books like the Harry Potter books and others in the genre have helped to reinforce the impression that wizards are male and witches are female, which can be misleading. I don’t really have much to add to what I wrote here 20 years ago Christian Responses to Witchcraft and Sorcery:

But what are witchcraft and sorcery? Anthropologists like to distinguish between them, and use them as technical terms. They regard “witchcraft” as the supposed power of a person to harm others by occult or supernatural means, without necessarily being aware of it. The witch does not choose to be a witch, and the supposed harm does not necessarily arise from malice or intent. Sorcery may be learned, whereas witchcraft is intrinsic. A sorcerer may use incantations, ritual, and various substances in order to do harm, while a witch does not (Hunter & Whitten 1976:405-406; Kiernan 1987:8). While this is a convenient and useful distinction for anthropologists to make, normal English usage is not as clear-cut, and the terms have often been used interchangeably (Parrinder 1958:18). In newspaper reports of recent witch hunts in South Africa, for example, the terms “witch”, “sorcerer” and “wizard” are often used to translate the Zulu umthakathi or the Sotho moloi. And English speaks of “witch hunts”, rather than of “sorcerer hunts”, though very often those who are hunted would be technically described by anthropologists as sorcerers rather than witches.

If one makes the anthropologists’ distinction, then witchcraft is similar to belief in the evil eye, which is found in many countries around the world, and is common among people in the Balkans. Val recalled that when we visited Albania in 2000 there were lots of recently built houses still under construction, and as soon as they reached roof height teddy bears and other soft toys were nailed to them to ward off the evil eye. There were many different kinds, not only teddy bears, but Disney characters and and an occasional Pink Panther. To non-Albanians they seemed rather spooky and scary, and many visitors remarked on them. They were called dordolets. Greeks also believed that one should never say complimentary things about someone’s new baby, as that could put the evil eye on the child, and one would have to spit three times to ward it off if one inadvertently said something nice about the child.

In most traditional African cultures evil is attributed to human malice. Under the influence of Christianity the concept of an evil spiritual realm, of demons and the devil, has intruded. Witches may be male or female. The anthropologists’ distinction between witchcraft and sorcery is based on some African cultures that make such a distinction, but many others don’t.

This is illustrated by a discussion between a Christian missionary and an African diviner (Kirwen 1993:53):

The issue of the symbolization of evil as witch or devil divided us. For Riana, in a very real sense, everyone potentially is a witch. The witch is ‘you who are immoral’. This refined moral sensitivity of the Africans should be a revelation to Western theologians who have tended to see traditional religious morality as impersonal and taboo-oriented. The fact that the witch is potentially any person shows how African morality is grounded in relationship within the human community, and how it stresses, immeasurably, the moral responsibility of each and every individual. There is no ‘The devil made me do it’ excuse in the African world. The devil of the Christian religion is part and parcel of the two-world cosmic vision of Christianity. The devil functions as the evil link between the two worlds, reinforcing the belief that the ultimate solution to evil takes place outside this limited human existence.

There is often confusion among white people between a witch and a witchdoctor. The witchdoctor is not the same thing as a witch, but rather someone who specialises in detecting and curing the problems caused by witchcraft. The Zulu isangoma is a diviner, or soothsayer, a diagnostician. One who specialises in smelling out witches is an isanuku. Of course it is possible for a sangoma to “go over to the dark side”, as it were, just as a security guard can be in cahoots with burglars.

David also asked about the concept of the “good witch”, but I believe that arises from confusion with a herbalist. The Zulu word for that is inyanga, which is someone who has a specialist knowledge of healing herbs, and also, of poisons. So the inyanga too can “go over to the dark side”. The inyanga is a pharmacist, and in Galatians 5:20, among the sins listed is witchcraft, a translation of the Greek pharmakeia.

The English word wizard is of quite different derivation, and essentially means a wise person. David commented that in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings there were both good and evil wizards — good ones like Gandalf and evil ones like Saruman. But in theological terms the “wizards” in Middle Earth were not humans, but Istari, who were angelic beings, though in the Quenya language “Istari” means wise ones. And in the Arthurian legends Merlin the wizard is of mysterious origin, not entirely human, and some say at least partly demonic.

We didn’t exhaust the point of the nature of wizards in literature, especially in pre-modern literature (ie not Harry Potter, Dell Comics, or The Wizard of Oz) but moved on to demons.

In the Christian worldview demons held much the same place as witches in traditional African worldviews. For me it called to mind the contrast between Christian experience in South Africa and England 50 years ago. When I went to England in 1966 to study theology the first essay I was asked to write was on “Jesus and the demons”. I read my essay to the principal of the college, and at the end of it he said “But you haven’t told me whether you think the demons exist”, and I thought that was as irrelevant as someone, having just been run over by a bus, debating whether the bus existed. Someone I discussed this with later, back in South Africa, said, “Yes, it doesn’t matter what the demons are. What matters is that Christ has the mastery of them. This is the brief version of that anecdote; if you’d like the details, see Of babies and bathwater: English theological and ecclesiastical reformers | Notes from underground.

A demon or daemon (δαίμων) in ancient Greece was a lesser deity, and in Christian usage the term came to be applied mainly to fallen angels. of whom the devil or satan was the chief. What they are and how they operate can be conceived in many different ways. In the New Testament some people were oppressed by demons, and quite a large part of our Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry was taken up with casting out the demons and setting people free from their influence (the topic of my essay, mentioned above).

But there are also corporate demons, demons of groups of people, and nations. In South Africa one could see racism and apartheid as demonic powers that oppressed people and needed to be driven out. Some have come up with the concept of egregores, a kind of spiritual power or group mind that arises from a group of people doing something together, so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Janneke Weidema said that Quaker meetings could be seen in this way. A group of people gather, and the gathering becomes more than the individual people who compose it.

I’ve also written more on the topic of egregores and angels here Of egregores and angels | Notes from underground and here Angels and demons and egregores (book review) | Khanya.

Janneke Weidema told us the story of the Flying Dutchman. There was a ship’s captain who wanted to sail on Good Friday, and when the mate remonstrated with him for that he tossed the mate overboard, and vowed to sail even if he had to sail forever, and he was indeed doomed to sail forever and never make port. The captain of the ship seemed to create his own demon that drove him to evil.

She also told us about the importance of St Martin in the Netherlands. St Martin is said to have given his cloak to a beggar, so Dutch children go around asking for gifts on his feast day. That reminded me of St Martin’s role as the patron saint of conscientious objectors, and Janneke promised to tell us more about Quakers as our next meeting.

Best books you’ve read this year

2 August 2017

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year? With our literary coffee klatsch coming up tomorrow, I thought this was a good question asked here Book Geeks Anonymous – I cannot live without books. – Thomas Jefferson:

This list started with a question asked on Twitter:

I chimed in with my response, but today, I thought I’d elaborate on the answers I gave. And because I found it too hard to pick only one book, I decided to name one from each of the three main genres.

And, like the book geek, I didn’t like to think of just one book, so I thought I’d list a few of them.

  1. That hideous strength Lewis, C.S.
  2. The moon of Gomrath Garner, Alan.
  3. The Chapel of the Thorn Williams, Charles.
  4. Captain Corelli’s mandolin De Bernières, Louis.
  5. The kite runner Hosseini, Khaled.
  6. The silver chair Lewis, C.S.
  7. Elidor Garner, Alan.
  8. Inside Prince Caspian Brown, Devin.
  9. I didn’t know you cared Tinniswood, Peter.
  10. Adam Bede Eliot, George.
  11. Kim Kipling, Rudyard.
  12. The Night Ferry Robotham, Michael.
  13. Young romantics: the Shelleys, Byron, and other tangled
    Hay, Daisy.
  14. The life and times of Michael K Coetzee, J.M.
  15. Teach Yourself Writing for Children and getting published Jones, Allan Frewin; Pollinger, Lesley.
  16. Borderliners Hoeg, Peter.
  17. Disgrace Coetzee, J.M.
  18. The owl service Garner, Alan.
  19. The Grand Sophy Heyer, Georgette.
  20. The subtle knife Pullman, Philip.

Those are probably not objective evaluations, just how much I liked them, and in compiling the list, I was surprised to see that 8 of those 21 were books I was rereading, some for more than the second or third time.

The Book Geek divided them into genres:

So what were the best books you have read in the last 12 months?


Love the sinner, hate the sin

27 July 2017

I was once chatting with a couple of friends, two of us were Christians, and the third was a catechumen, exploring the Christian faith for the first time, and she had lots of questions. She had been told that Christians should give thanks to God for everything and in all circumstances, and that puzzled her.

“How can you give thanks to God for Mr Vorster?” she asked.

Without thinking, I replied, “You can thank God for giving you Mr Vorster to love.”

And immediately I wondered, where did that come from? Why did I say that? Did I really say that?

I thought perhaps it may have been the Holy Spirit, what St Paul calls “a word of wisdom” (λόγος σοφίας) in I Corinthians 12:8. It was directed to me as much as to my friend.

Back then, in 1965, Balthazar Johannes Vorster was the South African Minister of Justice, and he was responsible for the repressive legislation that was turning South Africa into a police state. He was responsible for a great deal of evil — how could one love him? And yet, in putting those words in my mouth, God was telling me that I must.

And the answer could be summed up in the aphorism, Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Judge not, and ye be not judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned” (Luke 6:37). Clearly, he was speaking there of judging and condemning people, not actions, for he also said “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement” (John 7:24).

If we were to judge with righteous judgment, then Mr Vorster’s actions were undoubtedly evil, but it was not our task to judge Mr Vorster. “‘Vengeance is mine’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay'” (Rom 12:19), and St Paul urged “Bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not” (Rom 12:14).

If we are to judge with righteous judgment, then the important question to ask is not who is wrong, but what is wrong. We are to love our enemies, even Mr Vorster.

And when I became Orthodox this was stressed even more strongly: before receiving holy communion, one must forgive everyone. We pray to our Lord Jesus Christ “who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first”. If we think that other people deserve condemnation for their sins, then we’ve missed the point: we need to begin with ourselves.

But then a friend referred to the following article. I normally try to avoid stuff on the Patheos web site, but this one, whose conclusion counters everything I’ve learned over the last 50 years and more, caught my attention.

Let’s Be Honest… “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” is Really Just Hate

Ask anyone on the receiving end of being loved while their sin is hated. They will tell you it’s the same as being hated – for the exact reasons Gandhi wrote: because it’s virtually impossible to love someone but hate their sin.

We get caught up in judging them, and we feel self-righteous compared to them, we won’t just let the issue be, leave the issue between them and God, but continue to bring it up and try to change it… and so the poison of hatred spreads in the world – just as Gandhi said.

I read it, and it struck me that what it said was evil, very evil indeed. There is so much magnificent truth wrapped up in such appalling falsehoods that it smacks of perversity even to attack its perverseness.[1] And the conclusion is altogether evil.

If one takes that article at face value, then it means that:

  • One cannot love a corrupt politician without loving corruption too
  • One cannot love a police torturer without loving torture too
  • One cannot love a rapist without loving rape too

And going back to the 1960s and 1970s there were lots of people who argued in that way. When people spoke of the injustices done in the name of the government policy of apartheid, some said that yes, justice is important, but we must have reconciliation too. By this they often meant that those who supported apartheid and those who opposed it needed to be reconciled and therefore good and evil needed to be reconciled.

In 1965, when we had the discussion I referred to above, we were members of an Anglican church in Pietermaritzburg (where we were then students), and one of the priests (who eventually baptised my catechumen friend) used to read from a book, The will and the way by Harry Blamires, which he used to point out the errors of such behaviour. He pointed out that for many Christians the Christian God had been replaced by the god of twentieth-century sentimental theology:

Are we faced with evil whose roots reach down to the depths where angels and demons are locked in mortal combat? Don’t worry, a word of prayer to the god of sentimental theology and we shall be granted the dubious capacity to meet all comers, friend and foe, with the same inscrutably acquiescent grin.

No, saying that “‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ is really just hate” is thoroughly dishonest, and thoroughly evil.

It seems to belong in the same category of other weird American ideas that lack all logic and indicate a broken moral compass as those who say that saying “All lives matter” is evil and racist. But I’ve discussed that in another article here: How antiracism became racist: all lives matter.

No, if we are Christians we must love the sinner but hate the sin.

We must

  • Love the oppressor but hate oppression
  • Love the corrupt politician and businessman, but hate corruption
  • Love the warmonger but hate war
  • Love the exploiter but hate exploitation

If we hate the people, we will become like them. And if we love the deeds, we will also become like them.



Notes & References

[1] Blamires, Harry. 1957. The Will and the Way. London: SPCK.

About 30 years ago I lent my copy to someone who never returned it, so all quotations are from memory.


This also works the other way round.

When people say good things, it doesn’t really matter who said them, but what they say is more important. The saying “Live the sinner, hate the sin” has been attributed to St Augustine of Hippo and Mahatma Gandhi. That doesn’t matter so much — what’s said is more important than who said it, and it succinctly expresses an important aspect of Christian ethics.

The other quote, in the graphic is attributed to a guy called Phil Robertson. I know nothing about him, but I suspect that he may be a character in a US TV show where the characters look a bit like monks but aren’t. But even if he isn’t a monk, it’s the kind of thing a monk could have said.

Shadows of Shadows of Ecstasy: An Irresponsible Suggestion about Charles Williams’ First Novel | A Pilgrim in Narnia

25 July 2017

Brenton Dickieson’s first reading of Shadows of ecstasy has produced an interesting reaction:

I have not yet read most of Grevel Lindop’s definitive biography of Williams, or Sørina Higgins’ work on Shadows of Ecstasy at the Oddest Inkling. So it is absolutely irresponsible of me to give the conjecture that I’m about to offer. Still, I wanted to offer it while it is fresh in my mind and I am absolutely naïve of what critics have said about this book.

Source: Shadows of Shadows of Ecstasy: An Irresponsible Suggestion about Charles Williams’ First Novel | A Pilgrim in Narnia

My summary of the book after a second reading nearly 20 years ago, now) was:

In a novel set in the 1920s, African armies overthrow colonial rulers throughout the continent, and then launch aerial bombing attacks on Europe. Nigel Considine, a wealthy London financier, appears to be connected in some way with the African forces and their demands, which appear to be that African values take the place of the Western ones of Enlightenment rationalism and empiricism.

Brenton Dickieson doesn’t mention much of that in his review, which I think shows tht Charles Williams’s books strike different people in very different ways.

In some ways it is my least favourite of Charles Williams’s books, and perhaps I should read it again. From my memories, some of which were reawakened by Brenton Dickieson’s review, it seems in some ways prophetic — the capture and enslavement of a Zulu king by a British financier in the book parallels the capture and enslavement of a Zulu president by a Trinity triumvirate of Indian financiers in real life 90 years later.

What struck me in both my readings was that the book starts off being interesting, and shows promise of being an interesting story, but then gets lost in long passages of Nigel Considine’s ideological claptrap which serve the same function (and are almost as boring) as John Galt’s speech in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But it certainly serves to illustrate what C.S. Lewis said (before Hannah Arendt coined the phrase) about the banality of evilon the surface, great designs and an antagonism to Heaven which involved the fate of worlds: but deep within, when every veil had been pierced, was there, after all, nothing but a black puerility.

I thought that the most authentic character in Shadows of ecstasy was the African priest, but he disappeared about a third of the way through, and we heard no more of him.