New book gives momentum to readers running their own race to outdistance sin

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

3/13/2014

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Photo courtesy Brian Kennelly, Saint Benedict Press

Race with the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love by Joseph Pearce. Saint Benedict Press (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2013) 264 pp. $22.95.

It might come as a surprise that one of today’s most prolific Catholic authors, Joseph Pearce, spent the early years of his life writing articles and editing a magazine for the sole purpose of inciting a race war.

It probably doesn’t come as surprise, however, that Pearce — author of 19 Catholic titles — is not the first sinner to find redemption through Jesus Christ and his Church.

St. Peter cracked three times in his denial of Christ during the Passion before becoming the solid rock on which the Catholic Church was built; St. Paul the Apostle went out of his way to persecute Christians before traveling thousands of miles on foot to spread the Good News; and St. Mary Magdalene, once possessed by demons and sin, faithfully stood by Jesus at the cross and was the first to see Him after his resurrection.

With these Scriptural examples of redemption in mind, a reader can navigate with some degree of optimism through the troublesome early chapters of Pearce’s new book, Race with the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love. In these passages of the book, Pearce recounts a childhood devoid of true faith. An empty spiritual life eventually led him to become an anti-Catholic, agnostic intent on inciting racial hatred as a white supremacist. The talent for creating inspirational prose that God bestowed upon him was certainly not used for good at the beginning of Pearce’s life.

In September 1977, at the age of 16, Pearce launched a youth magazine titled Bulldog, a publication that he says now, had the ultimate purpose of inciting racial hatred. The magazine was published by the National Front, a white supremacist organization that demanded the removal of non-whites from the United Kingdom. As the controversial magazine’s writer and editor, Pearce found himself in the national spotlight and became one of the most widely known members of the National Front.

Within a year, Pearce’s aggressive Bulldog grew from several hundred copies per issue to several thousand, and he began working full time for the National Front.

Pearce’s quick ascension through the ranks of the organization gave him reason to believe his life was moving in the right direction.

“I was now living every young radical’s dream of being a fully paid, full-time revolutionary, giving his life to the ‘Cause,’” Pearce writes in his book.

By January 1982, at the age of 20, Pearce was sentenced to six months in prison for publishing material deemed likely to incite racial hatred under the United Kingdom’s Race Relations Act. Four years later, Pearce again would be charged with that hate crime, and this time would spend 12 months in prison, including six months in solitary confinement.

During his second imprisonment, Pearce describes what he perceived as his descent into a tunnel whose light was not yet visible. He now sees it as his personal experience with the “dark night of the soul,” about which St. John of the Cross wrote in a poem and treatise by the same name 400 years earlier. In his works, St. John discusses confusion, fear, and doubts about his faith on a journey that ultimately leads him to a closer union with Christ.

During Pearce’s jury trial, someone gave him rosary, and he held onto it. During his first days of his imprisonment, Pearce found himself fingering the rosary, though he had no idea of the prayers associated with the beads. As best he could, he began to mumble his own prayers. Pearce said this was the first time in his life that he had prayed. He also began attending Mass in prison.

Though still a long way from spiritual conversion and being received into the Catholic Church in 1989, these were the first steps Pearce took on his long road to redemption.

In the latter chapters of Pearce’s book, we begin to witness the light of Christ through the author’s eyes. The reader is in Pearce’s shoes when he truly begins to open his eyes to witness God’s grandeur. We can relate when he discovers the magnificence of uncountable stars in the sky or the brilliance of a full moon that lights up the night. Like Pearce, we often become too swept up in our hurried lifestyles to notice God’s everyday miracles. As a reader, we are also there with Pearce as he encounters special people who give witness to Christ simply by the way they live their lives and offer help through love and compassion.

The greatest inspiration of all from the book is that no matter the severity of our sins, if we truly are sorry for our past transgressions and follow Christ, we can be forgiven. It is with both a sense of anger toward Pearce and sadness that we accompany him on his journey before Christ enters his life. Our feelings turn toward hope and admiration later when Pearce devotes himself to the Lord. The transformation shows us the enormous power of God and his redemptive love.

In opening up his life to Christ, Pearce began to read the works of Catholic writers and intellectuals, including G.K. Chesterton. He mentions Chesterton several times in his book and dedicates an entire chapter to the Catholic theologian and apologist. In Chesterton, Pearce said, he found “a new friend who would become the most powerful influence (under grace) on my personal and intellectual development over the following years.”

After his conversion to Catholicism, Pearce went on to write biographies of Chesterton, another English writer J.R.R. Tolkien, Irish writer Oscar Wilde, and Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, along with many other titles that reveal the spirituality and souls of their subjects. He has also written books exploring the affiliations of William Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis with the Catholic Church. He is currently writer-in-residence at The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and co-editor of Saint Austin Review, an international magazine dedicated to Catholic topics.

In his book’s postscript, Pearce writes, “My sinful life and the lessons it taught had led me to the foot of the Cross. My path was that of Mary Magdalen. She and I were miserable sinners, forgiven by Christ, and invited by Him to become his disciples.”

Pearce tells us that even though he has found God, his journey is not over. “I have my dragons to face and my sins to be forgiven,” he writes. Again, what reader is without sin and cannot relate to the conscious decisions we must all make on a regular basis to avoid our demons and grow closer to God?

“Although my reception into the Church was the end of the journey from racial hatred to rational love, it was not the end of my life’s journey. I am still a miserable sinner, and the race with the devil is anything but over,” Pearce tells us.

The author leaves us not with a storybook about life that has a happy ending, but with a story about life that can have a renewed beginning through Jesus Christ.

See Also

Author Profile: Author Joseph Pearce learned from other Catholic writers to keep looking up

Pearce-Headshot-BUTTON.jpgThe next time you’re away from the city lights on a cloudless night, take a glance skyward. There in the heavens will be an endless universe filled with countless stars. It’s a miracle we can witness just by opening our eyes. As author Joseph Pearce began his journey away from hatred and toward love of his fellow man, he saw the wonders of the night sky as one of many magnificent signs of God’s presence.

Race-with-the-Devil-Cover-BUTTON.jpgRace with the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love by Joseph Pearce. Saint Benedict Press (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2013) 264 pp. $22.95.

It might come as a surprise that one of today’s most prolific Catholic authors, Joseph Pearce, spent the early years of his life writing articles and editing a magazine for the sole purpose of inciting a race war. It probably doesn’t come as surprise, however, that Pearce — author of 19 Catholic titles — is not the first sinner to find redemption through Jesus Christ and his Church.

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