Some books deserve more than one review. At the Heart of the Gospel: Reclaiming the Body for the New Evangelization, by Christopher West, is one such book.
I reviewed it for the Patheos Book Club a few weeks ago. I’m reviewing it here as well because I already feel like it’s one of the best books of 2012.
I’ve been following Christopher West’s work for some time, but his latest book brings something new to the table.
For one thing, he ties in two of my favorite topics–Theology of the Body and the New Evangelization–together in a way that is nothing less than brilliant.
For another, I can feel, in this text, how Christopher West has matured and grown as a writer, speaker, and man. When I first started listening to him and reading his work, he had one or two kids. Now he has five and he’s been through some fire and brimstone for his work.
You can feel that in this work. While it is very powerful, it steps back from some of the emotion I’ve read in his writing before. This work is more scholarly-feeling than what I’ve read of his work in the past.
If you were looking for a place to start with TOB, I’d suggest this book as the ideal place. West quotes his previous writings, John Paul II’s work, and many other works. (My to-read list is completely out of control after looking at the bibliography for this book.)
What I loved about this book, more than anything else, though, is the enthusiasm behind it. West’s love of God shines through, and he has pulled together resources and insights that are needed for us right here, right now.
At Mass a few weeks ago, our priest mentioned that the word enthusiasm has its root in a Greek word which means “with God.” In At the Heart of the Gospel, I saw that, despite many years of being immersed in not only the work of study, but also the nastiness of misunderstanding and being misquoted, West is no less enthusiastic–with God–than he was in the early days.
At the Heart of the Gospel is a guidebook for each of us, and it helps us reconcile the apparent contradiction we face in our culture. “Evangelization should begin with an affirmation of humanity’s fundamental and original goodness, rather than a declaration of our sinfulness,” West writes. Here’s hoping that we can all work together for this ideal in our work in the New Evangelization.
My copy is dog-eared and marked, and the cover, sadly, did not stand up well to being dragged all over creation in my attempt to read it in every spare moment. I may lend it to a friend, but more likely, I’ll encourage them–as I highly encourage you–to purchase their own copy. It’s an investment worth making.
Copyright 2012 Sarah Reinhard