Prolific writer and prodigious traveler McKenna (Breaking the Word: Reflections for Lectionary Readings Cycle B, 2012, etc.) reimagines the Gospels for the 21st century.
Written from the viewpoint of a socially progressive Roman Catholic, the book is a call to action as much as it is a call for reinterpretation. The author begins by arguing that the church has been misreading the Gospels for centuries, looking past their radical purpose and inserting lukewarm theology in its place. Here, McKenna seeks to do three things. First, she restates what she believes to have been the purpose of each Gospel (Mark is about discipleship and leadership, Matthew is about violence and inhumanity, etc.). Second, she reinterprets each Gospel for modern times. Third, she introduces new gospel concepts for our present-day sociopolitical problems (Gospel of Peace, Gospel of the Earth, etc.). McKenna’s views are based in a solid understanding of church history, a somewhat irreverent view toward Catholic doctrine and practice, and a widespread experience with the world’s cultures and with other religions. Though certainly not a master storyteller, the author gladly shares tales from across the world, both truth and legend, in order to make her point. The results are mixed, as some stories drive home her argument while others cause readers to meander through the flow of the author’s thoughts. McKenna’s book is overly ambitious and, as such, has a tendency to be dense and unfocused. However, she also expresses valid concerns with modern Catholicism and Christianity. For instance, in condemning rules against divorced Catholics, she states bluntly, “The Eucharist is not a reward for being good.” The reform-minded will stand and cheer.
Alternately thought-provoking and dull but certainly from the author’s heart.