It’s a common ambition amongst our writers, faced with a home market that’s challenging in the extreme, to be published overseas. We’re a small nation far, far away with a limited population and too few mainstream publishers accepting too few manuscripts.
That limits our options and though as Kiwis there’s a strong DIY ethic here, it doesn’t quell the yearning for traditional routes to authorship. So when one of our own breaches the barrier and gets taken up by a US publisher of some repute, we’re standing by to cheer him on.
Yes, Bryan Winters has achieved just that, not with a novel, biography or self-help title (all of which he’s done before), but with a timely work of some depth: The Bishop, the Mullah and the Smartphone.
A dedicated Bay of Plenty surfer, who has lived, worked and travelled in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Winters presents us with a brave and engrossing discourse that’s stirring up global interest. He urges us to reconsider how humans remember, copy and spread ideas – and demonstrates the many different means by which ideas have historically been communicated, and how this is being changed by the instant messaging of modern technology.
He relates this specifically to understanding how Christianity and Islam have been forced over the past decades to retain followers and encourage converts by explaining and defending their own beliefs, while attempting to negate the beliefs of others.
Critic and reviewer Keith Newman says, “Winters as visionary, historian and bridge-builder, steps aside from the controversies that cloud and confuse the various shades of Christianity and Islam, revealing that both are having to reinvent themselves in the midst of a great defection.”
This, Newman asserts, will lead to a productive dialogue between faiths, a matter of great importance today. Yet though Winters refers to controversies – hardly to be avoided when discussing religion – he’s careful to remain neutral on what we might call the comparative values of Christianity and Islam.
He’s more interested in their historical growth and development and how, today, they’re being forced to adopt new methods and new means to convey their message. The immediacy of the Internet and social media has both a positive and a negative influence, and Winters’ explorations invite further discussion and debate.
Occasionally visionary The Bishop, the Mullah and the Smartphone is also down to earth, wryly ironic, well-referenced and brimful of interesting ‘case studies’– and heartily recommended as an engrossing discourse for those interested in religion, social history, philosophy or technology.
(2015) WINTERS, B. The Bishop, the Mullah and the Smartphone: Two Religions Journey into the Digital Age. USA, Resource Publications/Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4982-1792-7. Follow Bryan Winters on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wintersb
JENNY ARGANTE: Jenny Argante has featured on the Tauranga literary scene for 15 years. She is President of Tauranga Writers, New Zealand’s longest running self-help group for writers and Editor in Chief of Freelance – Writers Helping Writers, the country’s only magazine for creative writers of all kinds. Jenny is a freelance writer and editor and has taught creative writing for over 30 years.