Mere Christian: Stories from the Light by Michael Coren (Castle Quay Books, 172 pages, $19.95 ) Review by David BoltonWhen asked to review the latest offering by writer, TV, and radio personality Michael Coren, whose column occasionally appears in The Interim, this writer was a little wary. What if I hated this little volume of essays? Could I afford to offend the man who is probably The Interim’s best-known columnist? However, my editor-in-chief let me know that all he wanted was an honest opinion, and after all, that is what a review is, a reviewer’s opinion.

Well, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend this slim volume for anyone who would like to know what Coren believes and stands for.

Coren first came to my attention about 10 years ago when he was a commentator on Toronto radio station CFRB. At that time, Coren came across as something of a right-wing radical who had a tendency to rant against those liberal attitudes and behaviours that were so offensive to those of us who have a more socially conservative bent.

It was Coren’s take on modern life that led this writer to become somewhat of a “fan.” However in the last few years I – and other social conservatives – have felt that maybe Coren has softened his stance on a lot of issues and has been moving more to the left of the political and social-moral spectrum

Well, it turns out the reason Coren seems to have changed from being what some “lefties” have called “fascist” to being a more compassionate and seemingly liberal thinker is his conversion to Christianity.

Although Coren sometimes comes across as a little self-righteous in his TV show, Michael Coren Live (seen on CTS nightly at 10 pm) and in his columns in the Toronto Sun and other publications, including this one, it is only because he is truly attempting to live as Jesus taught us.

This may sound harsh, but I had the feeling that Coren, prior to his conversion, had an attitude of hating not only the sin but also the sinner. This attitude came across mainly in his feelings about homosexuality. Lately, Coren has softened his attitude toward homosexuals and deals with the subject with a more Christian stance of “hate the sin but love the sinner.” We must admit that more of us social conservatives could practise this attitude.

In Mere Christian, Stories from the Light, Coren has taken a number of his columns and expanded them into a series of essays explaining his beliefs on a number of subjects. These include: faith, family, life issues, sexuality, politics and religion, amongst others.

One of the best essays in Mere Christian is the one entitled “Conservative,” in which Coren attempts to separate politics from the social and moral.

Coren explains that, although politically, Christians can follow any one of a number of philosophies, when it comes down to basic beliefs, social-moral conservatism is the Christian way. To quote Coren, “There is no explicit and distinct credo around which social conservatives gather, but there are certain principles and unchanging ideas and ideals which help to illuminate social conservatism.”

Amongst the essays on life issues, Coren tackles abortion and euthanasia, along with an essay on the eugenic philosophy of H.G. Wells – on whom Coren wrote a full-length biography.

In some of the more poignant essays in Mere Christian, Coren discusses his own family, his father, grandfather and a real tear-jerker concerning his relationship with his sister.

Before Coren came to Canada, he was best known as a biographer of literary figures such as G. K. Chesterton and H. G. Wells. More recently, he has written biographies of J.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. In Mere Christian, Coren has essays on Tolkien and Lewis along with an essay on the Earl of Longford, Frank Pakenham, a British social conservative politician who was Coren’s godfather.

If I have one complaint to make about Mere Christian, it would be the price. For a slim volume of only 172 pages in relatively large type, $19.95 is a little steep. But then, as a voracious reader, this writer believes that books in general are overpriced.

I recommend this book for readers who would like to get inside the mind of one of Canada’s most interesting commentators and authors. Coren, for all his faults, is truly attempting to live as Jesus taught we should.