Faith and Freedom, Teresa Forcades, Polity.

Faith and freedom may be thought of as opposites by those critical of religion, but this is certainly not the case for a thinker such as Martin Luther, who thought that only faith can free us from slavery to our self-interest, and it is not the case for Spanish nun and activist Teresa Forcades.

She suggests that the early church took some time to reconcile itself to the concept of a God who does not restrict, and she notes the differences in Near East creation narratives, in that the Israelite God, unusually, gives rather than demands something. Additionally, God radically allows for the chance of subversion by human beings, who are given freedom to accept or deny what God offers. So Christianity begins not with conformity but with release.

The monastic tradition and freedom may also seem contradictory, but for Forcades, the life of a nun removes many impediments to communion with God and with others, particularly an attachment to possessions. As a nun, she is free to serve others, as it were, which spills out into the world via her activism in the areas of social justice and the fight against rampant consumerism, discrimination, disparities of wealth, our dependence on global pharmaceutical companies and the erosion of democracy. Much of her short book is concerned with such matters.

She writes that she was a feminist before she was a nun, and that her introduction to theology was through liberation theology. Her faith and what one might term her radicalism inform each other, they are two sides of the same coin.

Turning inward, she finishes her book with a meditation on forgiveness, a profound act that can only spring from freedom, and which, she says, is at the core of our experience of faith.

(Reviewed for the Uniting Church in Australia)


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