By Michael Green
The title, though not the content, of this book was suggested to me by the Reith Lectures for 1967. Dr Edmund Leach, Provost of King's College, Cambridge, called them A Runaway World? in order to draw attention to the fact that the world seems to be getting out of the control of leading scientists and politicians. I have adapted the title in order to draw attention to an equally obvious feature in contemporary society -escapism. The everquickening rat race, the political double talk, the almost compulsive addiction to (and conditioning by) television, the endless preoccupation with sex, the glossing over the ugly fact of death are some of the ways in which our generation tries to 'get away from it all'. But the greatest unreality, the most comfortable mirage of our day, is commonly thought to be religion. Christianity, if it can hardly be accused any longer of being 'pie in the sky when you die' (for the churches, too, have grown dumb when it comes to talking realistically about death and what lies beyond it), is at any rate regarded as escapism by many people. 'It's all right for those that like that sort of thing', one hears it said; 'but I'm not the religious sort.' In other words, Christianity is the religious man's form of escaping from reality; it is his private way of 'getting away from it all'.
I believe this charge to be largely though not entirely false. Certainly we live in a runaway world, but for the most part it is not the Christians who are running away from reality. We have our escapists in the churches, no doubt. But this book is written in the conviction that the Christian faith itself is the very antithesis of escapism. It provides us with the most credible account of the universe and man's place in it, with the motive and the dynamic for serving our fellow men, with the ability to face the harshest of situations with realism, and with a message of urgent relevance to the many who suspect Christians of escapism but are themselves running away from truth. The issue before us in this book resolves itself into this question: 'Who are the escapists?'
E. M. B. GREEN
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