Book that takes an honest look at Christian history wins top prize

A book that asks “would the world be better off without Christianity?” has won the 2020 Australian Christian Book of the Year award.

For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse Than You Ever Imagined, published by the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX), is written by Dr Natasha Moore, with contributors John Dickson, Simon Smart and Justine Toh.

“We wanted to have a candid conversation about the history of Christianity” – Natasha Moore

The Australian Christian Book of the Year winner is an accompaniment to a series of documentary films released in 2019. The CPX team also produced a 90-minute cinema adaptation and resources for small group discussion.

The award, which recognises and encourages excellence in Australian Christian writing, is organised by SparkLit and was announced in an online awards ceremony tonight.

The judges chose For the Love of God from a short list of ten books – an especially strong field this year.

Judges of the award said For the Love of God was “a bold yet balanced appraisal of the impact of Christianity that examines both the best and worst of what Christians have done over two millennia”.

“Natasha Moore and her collaborators confront the failure of those who claimed to follow Christ but were responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition and the abuse of children. The ease with which Christians through the ages have ignored both the teaching of Jesus and the dissenting voices of contemporary prophets is a caution.

“The authors also show how — when they obey Jesus — Christians have contributed to what is beautiful and beneficial in culture and society. In a time of social media echo chambers, fact-free opinion bubbles and divisive culture wars, this sort of fair and generous commentary is invaluable.”

On accepting the award, Moore said that researching the material contained in the book had made her realise just how fundamental the Christian faith has been to the way we all think today, whether we are Christian or not.

“It was a little bit traumatic, the research,” she said. “But overall it was so heartening.”

She said she had loved discovering ordinary Christians who had done things which had incrementally changed the world. Or, Moore clarified, “people who were ordinary until they’re not” – such as Florence Nightingale.

Moore noted that today is 110 years since Nightingale’s death and paid tribute to her as a woman who “could have been an upper middle class socialite” but who “felt so strongly, even though it wasn’t done by women of her day and class, to go and work” – and even in nursing, “a dodgy profession”.

“That she so strongly felt God’s call on her life to do that, and even though she didn’t feel particularly capable, she just felt compelled. She’s a total kick-ass Christian I really admire,” said Moore.

When For the Love of God launched, Moore told Eternity: “We wanted to have a candid conversation about the history of Christianity. It’s important to be honest because people should understand that it’s not possible to have a conversation about all the good stuff that Christianity has brought unless we own up to all the terrible things people have done in its name.”

Moore has recently published a new book: The Pleasures of Pessimism from a new Re-considering Series by CPX, that is available for pre-order.

Another winning written work for the evening was Through Smoke and Flames, whose author, Phoebe Worseldine, took out the Australian Christian Teen Writer Award.

Daniel Li was awarded the award for Young Australian Christian Writer for his work, Being Mulaney.

If you haven’t read For the Love of God book, now is absolutely the time! Buy it here and use the code ACBOY2020 to get 20 per cent off, if you order it before midnight tonight.