A Swedish pastor by the name of Olov Hartmann has written a book called Holy Masquerade and with it has set off considerable excitement in Sweden. There are those who bitterly criticize the book, but there are as many who report the reading of it as a liberating experience. The book has a lot to say about the kind of Christianity practiced by some in the environment of the Swedish State Church. But it clearly has a message that reaches beyond the borders of Sweden.

The big question that the book asks is the old one about whether a man practices what he preaches. The material of the book is taken from the parsonage of a preacher who happens to be married to an unbeliever. The unbelieving wife keeps a diary. The diary is the substance of the work. The mistress of this manse turns out to be a shrewd student of her husband’s words and his deeds. In her diary she unmasks her husband as a preacher whose words are empty of accompanying life, whose sermons are full of compromise and are really mere form without content.

She is a careful listener to every sermon. Then she surveys her husband’s life from the perspective of his pretty homilies. She claims to be making an earnest search for identity in his preaching and his life. She fails to find it. So she sets out to show that the Christianity she hears preached is worthless. She wants to know what her husband means when he talks about the “presence of Jesus Christ” in one’s life. And she wants to know what her husband really does believe when he tells her that one must not construe the dogma of the church too literally. Meanwhile she watches her husband being caught up in the details of organizational work and in the subtleties of making a career for himself. She suspects that her ...

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