Our parish is abuzz over the book Joshua by Fr. Joseph Girzone. Is this a good book to read?
We won’t make a judgment on taste, but if it’s orthodoxy you’re after, you may want to stay away from Joshua. The book tells of a man by that name who begins to preach in an anonymous American town. The implication is that Joshua is Jesus reincarnate on earth.
This Joshua gathers a following of people attracted to his goodness and gentle spirituality. In a book written by a priest, you’d think Joshua (Jesus) would send these followers straight up the steps of the nearest Catholic Church, but he doesn’t. He visits a Catholic church (and is treated rather unkindly by the priest), as well as a synagogue (where he impresses the congregation with his knowledge of Hebrew) and a variety of Protestant assemblies, blessing them all and giving special favor to none.
Joshua preaches a suspiciously simple gospel, one that emphasizes social justice and inner spirituality over ceremony and dogma. He speaks disparagingly of “religions” which “bind” people in fear with laws and doctrines instead of teaching the simple message of God’s love. Sound familiar? Finally, in a most extraordinary incident, he is called to Rome to answer for his actions to the all-seeing, all-knowing authority: the pope, who, we are supposed to believe, consider this small-time American holy man a threat to his dominion.
This is nonsense, of course, but it makes sense when you realize that Fr. Girzone is a well-known dissenter from the “institutional” Church, and in Joshua (and its sequels) has found a vessel to spread his heterodox views.