The `R’ Word: Discussing the World’s Most Controversial Topic Reviewed By James Broderick of
James Broderick Ph.D

Reviewer James Broderick, Ph.D: James is an associate professor of English and journalism at New Jersey City University. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he is the author of six non-fiction books, and the novel Stalked. His latest book is Greatness Thrust Upon Them, a collection of interviews with Shakespearean actors across America. Follow Here To Listen To An Interview With James Broderick.

By James Broderick Ph.D
Published on January 27, 2012

Author: Denny Hundiak

Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN:  9781432783938

Follow Here To Purchase The 'R' Word: Discussing the World's Most Controversial Topic

Author: Denny Hundiak

Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN:  9781432783938

Like most people, I suppose, I’m all for dialogue among individuals with differing opinions about the big questions in life. Perhaps naively, I think that an honest airing of differences can often do much to reveal common ground – and perhaps serve as a stepping stone toward greater understanding. It sounds schmaltzy, but if talking about our differences can help eradicate those differences, then pull up a chair and let’s get chatting.

But my faith in the value of dialogue as a meaningful bridge has been seriously challenged by The `R’ Word: Discussing the World’s Most Controversial Topic. The promising title of this work lures the reader with the prospect of an insightful, informed exchange of candid opinions. Instead, what one finds in its almost 300-pages is an often smart-alecky, shallow, and occasionally vulgar conversation among a dozen contributors who ostensibly represent a variety of religious perspectives.

OK, give author Denny Hundiak points for ecumenicalism. He’s got Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Unitarians, Atheists, and even Pagans as part of his roundtable. Unfortunately, much of the book-length conversation seldom rises above what one might expect if you pressed your ear against a dorm room on Friday night, the acrid scent of cannabis adding the illusion of depth. The book jacket says The R Word was “written to appear as an ongoing dialogue,” so it’s not even clear whether these people were all talking to each other or if their answers have been carefully spliced into place. Either way, what they have to say often provides little insight. Here’s a sample of the rather flippant tone of much of the book:

Renee: In a religion, they don’t tell you to stop talking to your family. In a cult, they want you to forget about everybody else. (Pause) And to drink the red punch.

Denny: I like red punch.

Renee: Stay away from cults then. Their punch doesn’t tend to end too well.

Tony: Yep.

On the subject of evolution, we get this pearl of wisdom:

Tony: I’ve found the Missing Link. His name’s Harry. He lived with the Hendersons for a while, but they had to let him go back to his natural habitat. He smelled like wet dog shit. They’d leave the house, and they couldn’t get the smell out of their clothes. They had to kick him out. Plus he ate their cat. He was kind of a dick.

Ok, the vulgarity is perhaps to be expected among a group of twelve people predominantly in their 20s. But isn’t the younger generation supposed to be a bit more astute about matters of cultural sensitivity than to give us such dialogue as “I know Hindus smell like curry…Tell me they do not smell like curry! I hate curry,” or “I don’t see how much fun hanging out with 72 virgins for all eternity would be. One virgin? Five virgins? Maybe. Seventy-two is a pretty big number. Not to mention virgins are really needy and clingy.” And have you heard the one about Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

Tony: Jesus couldn’t keep it in his pants. You know: Like father, like son.

Renee: Maybe Jesus did love her. Or maybe he was looking for some fast ass.


(In Hundiak’s defense, he does caution the reader with a “disclaimer” that “This book contains offensive language; this book contains offensive subject matter; this book describes offensive subject matter with offensive language.”)

The book ranges wildly over doctrinal differences among religions. But often, those extended discussions end with simplistic pronouncements and disappointingly narrow interpretations: “Nearly all religions and their gods would welcome a Christian into their Heaven because, even by their standards, Christians are good people. I mean, think about it: in the bigger known religions, would a follower of Christ be good enough for them, even if it turned out Christianity wasn’t true? Of course he would be. However, the same cannot be said about a non-Christian. Non-Christians do not accept Jesus Christ…they will be denied Heaven when the time comes.”

The R Word does indeed fulfill the literal promise of the subtitle: “Discussing the World’s Most Controversial Topic,” but if this book is any guide, I’m beginning to think that discussion as a pathway to enlightenment might just be over-rated.

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