Book Review: Pursuing Peace in Godzone: Christianity and the Peace Tradition in New Zealand, edited by Geoffrey Troughton & Philip Fountain

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_pursuing_peace_in_godzone.jpgThe active pursuit of peace is something we probably all aspire to. As New Zealanders, we might like to think we are a peaceful nation. But do we actually engage in peacemaking? This book looks closely at the activities involving a wide range of Christian groups, in the pursuit of peace. From a local to a national level, there are active groups working towards peace in our time since the Second World War.

This book follows Troughton’s earlier title, Saints and Stirrers: Christianity, Conflict and Peacemaking in New Zealand, 1814-1945. Most of the 16 chapters are developed from papers delivered at a conference in 2015. Perhaps this is what makes the book so readable. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of the issue and so varied styles, focus and passion are part of the writing. The book may be read in chapters to allow time to think and even discuss the ideas presented. I was so taken by the content that I read the whole thing over a day. My family have indulged my interest by joining in discussions about the ideas presented. My own family tradition is very much Catholic Social Justice and this book follows many of our experiences, from Springbok tour, to Nuclear free, from Parihaka to Quakers.

Elizabeth Duke writes about the ongoing work of the Quakers in the pursuit of peace. She outlines the background of the group and how healing the wounds since WW2 is part of their experience. Penal reform and an active part in the Defence inquiry are also included. She writes honestly and shows the personal experience as well as the group focus.

Perhaps most interesting for me, was the story of the Taranaki Cathedral by the former Dean Jamie Allen. New Plymouth is the site of much early Māori-Pākehā contact. The Taranaki Wars and the Parihaka conflict are on the doorstep. This chapter speaks of reconciliation between Māori and Pākehā in the establishment of the cathedral in 2010. It is a personal story that resonates with all New Zealanders. It moved me to tears.

Pursuing Peace in Godzone is a real treasure. The role of Christians in bringing peace to all is described beautifully in the 16 diverse chapters. Peace studies are an important part of the Senior School Curriculum and this book would support students in many ways. It also lends itself to wider community discussions about the role we each play in being peacemakers. Sometimes it is good to read something different, something that makes us look at or own lives and ask how we can be better. This is the book.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Pursuing Peace in Godzone: Christianity and the Peace Tradition in New Zealand
edited by Geoffrey Troughton & Philip Fountain
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776561827





Book Review: Sacred histories in Secular New Zealand, ed. Geoffrey Troughton and Stuart Lange

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_sacred_histories_in_secular_nzThis is an interesting collection of scholarly articles on the history of Christianity in New Zealand. I think it will be of interest primarily to scholars in the field, but also to those concerned about the apparent decline in religious observance and practice amongst Christians. It’s the work of lecturers and scholars in religious studies at particular universities and bible colleges in New Zealand. There is only one woman in the mix.

I detected a little bit of historical defensiveness, particularly in the chapters on Christian beginnings amongst Maori, and the one on William Pember Reeves. However that serves to make the reader think and consider the work of our major historians.

Various other chapters address the sectarian rivalry of the military chaplaincy during the First World War; the work of two novelists who wrote passionately and from a deeply-held belief in God, but whose works are now largely forgotten. The writer, Kirstine Moffat, comments at the end of her piece “We may not share …(their) beliefs…….but their refusal to settle for the status quo epitomizes and energy and a utopian striving that is admirable”. Perhaps the increasing secularisation and permissiveness of society at large is not necessarily a good thing, but that’s for each reader to decide.

Peter Lineham’s piece on the interweaving of culture and religion surround Christmas observance will be of interest to many readers, as it draws together the various practices which surround Christmas and gives their history – much of it not in the least Christian in origin!

Overall, I think this is a useful addition to work on spirituality and religion in New Zealand. It draws together essays which might not otherwise be easily available to the lay person. I would be very interested to see similar writing on the history and development of observance in other religions in New Zealand.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Sacred Histories in Secular New Zealand
ed. Geoffrey Troughton and Stuart Lange
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776560950