Paul Collins reviews 'New Jerusalem' by Paul Ham

Paul Collins reviews 'New Jerusalem' by Paul Ham

New Jerusalem

by Paul Ham

William Heinemann, $45 hb, 375 pp, 9780143781332

The link between fundamentalist religion, violence, and madness is well established. The conviction of absolute truth becomes especially toxic when believers are convinced that the end of the world is nigh. This is exacerbated in times of major socio-economic change and political instability, such as during the Protestant Reformation.

Paul Ham’s New Jerusalem vividly illustrates this. It tells the bizarre story of the most radical of the Reformation’s reformers, the Anabaptist sect that seized the city of Münster between 1534 and 1535. What started as a peaceful apocalyptic movement transmuted into a religious monstrosity. Much more than a heretical sect, they ‘stoked civil unrest’ and were, as Ham says, ‘a deeply subversive political and economic movement’, which helps explain the ferocious vengeance that was afterwards wreaked upon them.

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Published in April 2019, no. 410
Paul Collins

Paul Collins

Paul Collins is an historian, broadcaster and writer. A Catholic priest for thirty-three years, he resigned from the active ministry in 2001 following a dispute with the Vatican over his book Papal Power (1997). He is the author of fifteen books. The most recent is Absolute Power.  How the pope became the most influential man in the world (2018). A former head of the religion and ethics department in the ABC, he is well known as a commentator on Catholicism and the papacy and also has a strong interest in ethics, environmental and population issues.  

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