Book review: Cause for Hope

Cause For Hope by Bill Phipps
Copper House, 232 pages: $24.95
(Canscene) — For may years now, I have ceased to adhere to any formal religion and the recent Ontaro election hubbub over the public funding of religious schools gave me he willies


I believe that religion is an individual, family and community matter and should be taught completely outside the public education system. I deplore the fearmongering of fundamentalists and my hackles rise at the way religious leaders on both sides of a conflict bless their own armed forces.

But Cause for Hope by a highly religious man has moved me greatly because its author would no more consider me a sinner than he would a devout follower of a specific religion.

The book was written by The Very Reverend Bill Phipps, a former moderator of the liberal United Church of Canada.. Subtitled Humanity at the Crossroads. the book serves not just as a warning, but a guide to the way we should live if humankind is to survive At the crossroads are environmental abuse, war, globalization — and Bill Phipps’ way. He is a Christian who rejects dogma and believes that:

“People who are afraid are more easily controlled and manipulated. Unfortunately it’s not just governments that know this. Religions know it too. Old Story Christianity is fear-based. Fear of going to hell has given the religious establishment all kinds of levers with which to manipulate people. Some expressions of faith rely on fear and guilt to extract money, as well as promises and specified behaviours, from people. It is difficult to believe in a God of unconditional love, grace, goodness and generosity when his or her agents dwell on guilt, angry judgment and the ‘badness’ of people”

Phipps says concerns equal to to his own are to be found in the basic ideals of all religions and he emphatically includes the beliefs of aboriginal peoples and their reverence for nature.

“ When I moved to Alberta in 1983, I began to learn about the long struggle for justice of First Nations peoples and about Aboriginal spirituality.Through travels in the North and the Lubicon Cree struggle I met wondeful people who taught me about the colonial history of Canada and about the staying power of First Nations spirituality. As moderator I was deeply involved in the tragedy of the residential schools, the United Church response by way of apologies, the Healing Fund and First Nations governance.”

Phipps never lectures and his prose is always clear and convincing that here is a true man of goodwill. Whether your personal concept of the nature of God coincides with Phipps’ own, or differs as mine does, you will find this a fascinating guide to an ethical way of life.

You can read Cause for Hope in less than a day but it’s the kind of book you’ll want to dip into again and again.

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