Fingerprints of Fire, Footprints of Peace: A Spiritual Manifesto from a Jesus Perspective.
By Noel Moules. Circle Books, 2012.
This is truly a gem of a book, which speaks of a refreshingly simple spirituality, stripped of religiosity and ‘as natural and essential as breathing’, something which is ‘common ground shared by every living person.’
The author has a remarkable gift for communicating ideas in way that is accessible, and rooted in the reality of everyday life. His use of personal anecdotes and stories from a wide variety of cultures is highly effective and engaging.
The book begins with an account of his experience on a train journey, when a group of drunken football fans crowded into his carriage. Most people in that situation would probably shrink into a corner and hope not to attract attention, but by the end of his journey the author had engaged the whole carriage in a group discussion of God, religion, and all manner of profound subjects. Having read this book, I can understand how that unlikely scenario came about. The author takes subjects often considered the territory of academics and theologians, and makes them accessible and relevant to everybody.
The book is written with warmth, sincerity, and a very winning blend of humility and authority. The authority comes from the obvious wisdom and learning the author has acquired through study and experience, but his extensive knowledge of faiths and scriptures is worn very lightly, the book never becomes heavy or ponderous.
Humility is manifested in the style and format of the book, which is written in fourteen chapters, each consisting of several short sections. At the outset the author makes clear that he doesn’t expect every reader to start at the beginning and read through to the end: he is happy for us to dip in and out of the book as we please. He treats the reader with respect, not saying ‘listen to me’ but asking ‘what do you think about this?’ And in the ultimate guarantee of accessibility, he provides an email address by which people can contact him personally if they have any questions or comments.
The author writes about Jesus in a very vivid way, as someone he knows well. He uses the phrase ‘from a Jesus perspective’ rather than ‘Christian’ in order to get people to ‘look at things with fresh eyes through a liberated understanding of the person of Jesus’. This gives rise to a spirituality or faith that consists of ‘life-giving values not restrictive rules’.
Whilst the book is centred on Jesus, it is in no way narrow or limited, embracing all faiths and cultures. The author affirms, ‘I believe we can speak of universal core-values and of a ‘primal morality’ embedded deep inside every human heart, irrespective of culture. Jesus and most world spiritual teachers make this assumption; their hearers from across different cultures accept this also, so we have every reason to do the same.’ These values, he believes, ‘are part of our shared spiritual DNA’
When these life-giving values are applied to contemporary issues of war, peace, economics and the environment, they produce radical and inspiring answers which may be very thought-provoking to the growing numbers of people who are disillusioned with conventional politics. The Biblical concept of Jubilee, for instance, is intriguing when considered in the light of our current economic problems.
At a time when many people see religion and spirituality as narrow, restrictive and divisive, this excellent book illustrates, with great charm, how spirituality can be a unifying, liberating force, and how looking at the world from a Jesus perspective can be joyful and life-enhancing.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to people from any background. No prior knowledge is required. Short extracts would be excellent starting points for group discussion, but reading it could also be a deeply personal experience.
© Bernadette Meaden has written about religious, political and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.