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Book Review

Shirley Williams

God and Caesar

Personal Reflections on Politics and Religion

ISBN 0-8264-7103-X

Continuum, 2004, £7.99

(price at publication of review)


Reviewed September 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2005

Shirley Williams writes as she speaks, with clear values based on her Christian convictions. As a practising Catholic with a political edge she is ready to challenge some of the ethical traditions of her Church; as a Christian politician she challenges her colleagues both in Britain and America.  Her personal track-record adds considerable strength to her calls for change.  Her experience as a politician has taught her that  a holder of a cabinet position - or even whole governments - cannot in themselves cause effective change.  Between the lines of this refreshing book is the belief that 'the only lasting achievement lies in changing people… (and) what changes them, as Jesus repeatedly told us, is love' (p. 145).

In eight very readable chapters, Williams explores the relationship between Christian teaching, the Christian churches and public life in the modern world.  She tidily explains her conviction in favour of the European Community, argues her belief that the Americans would have been wiser to have defined the war against terrorism as against 'crimes against humanity', and is deeply concerned about the poverty of the world and spread of AIDS.  Through these and many other contemporary issues in which Shirley Williams has first hand experience, the reader is led into the real world, where statistics are used helpfully and there are no false promises.

Shirley Williams fought ten General Elections and served for sixteen years as an MP, for five of them as a Cabinet Minister.  'I am neither a moral philosopher nor a theologian', she declares, claiming to speak with 'only the authority of experience'.  From her place in the House of Lords, as a vice-President of CAFOD, and as an accredited lecturer in America, Russia, South Africa, she has gained a world of experience. 

Damian SSF


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