Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Review: Penguins Stopped Play

Alongside plenty of theological reading, I have a particular fondness for humorous travel writing. Travel writers take you to places you can only ever visit through their pen, and if they're a good guide with plenty of wit and humour, so much the better. Penguins Stopped Play is such a book, only instead of just travelling, you're invited to go on tour with a village cricket team playing on every continent of the world.

Harry Thompson is a brilliant guide - the stories are hilarious as he relates his very amateur cricketing career over a quarter of a century; the pen portraits of his friends, colleagues and opposition are great, so with an economy of words you feel as if you've known his friends all your life; and the situations he finds himself in are unbelievably funny.

There were very definitely laugh out loud moments - to the extent that I had to stop reading it at points because I couldn't even see the words on the page! You'll be entertained as you read, and the three hundred pages seem to go far too quickly.

Along the way, there were a couple of interesting asides and stories which touched on religion, and Christianity in particular. The one I want to focus on for a moment or two concerned his visiting a Hindu temple with its vibrant colours and ornate decor:

Christianity, of course, presents a much more visually austere face to the world, but the faded murals of the early Church, and the scraps of faint terracotta plaster that adhere to the base of crumbling columns, would suggest that the West, too, began its spiritual life in a riot of kindergarten colours. our austerity, perhaps, is cyclical, feeding on a faded image of itself; maybe the Indians remain truer to the original concept of a place of worship as a dazzling, enticing entertainment for impressionable eyes.

Within that short paragraph there seems to be a number of assertions and assumptions that simply aren't true - that all religions (including Christianity) are basically the same, and all started out the same, as a visual riot of colour and entertainment; that the church is crumbling because it has turned away from its roots; and indeed that the church is crumbling.

For a start, we don't have places of worship - our temple is in heaven, where the Lord Jesus reigns; our meeting houses and 'churches' are places to gather together to hear the word - faith comes from hearing; plus, to devote attention to images and such life sails dangerously close to inviting idolatry.

The theological aside, this is a riot of a book, well worth reading - and don't worry if you don't understand cricket, you'll pick up enough to get by and enjoy the funny stories along the way!

No comments:

Post a Comment