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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
In his stimulating work The Obelisk and the Cross, Tony Sunderland undertakes the academic’s most daunting challenge: to convey without ponderous explications or brittle simplifications the entire history of a subject – in this case, the evolution of religious thought – as it pertains to a rather focused primary objective – to bring insight to the fundamental trilogy of religious inquiry: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die? Beginning with the oldest of religious symbols – the obelisk – and its strange appearance in the center of the world’s most enduring religious location – the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square – something that should denote a kind of sacrilege has been appropriated from antiquity and made a center-piece for modern theological supremacy. This prompts the author to ask a natural question: Why?
Tony Sunderland’s attempt in The Obelisk and the Cross to bring some clarity to a subject rife with diametrically opposed beliefs, opinions, conjectures, and unwavering, documented certainties as provided by almost every genre of inquiry known to man is nothing less than extraordinary. The writing is perfectly concise, incredibly inclusive yet relentlessly focused, and unerringly directed. There are so many ways this book could have jumped the track. That Mr. Sunderland takes the reader from here to there without a single extraneous side trip or excessive plodding, and yet manages to include every historical detail necessary to his purpose, makes for a fast and highly satisfying read. The reader realizes he is missing massive amounts of information, but never that this book suffers for the omission. Instead, as with any stimulating work, one feels impelled to search for further knowledge elsewhere. In turn, Mr. Sunderland meets his challenge here superbly. He gives the reader exactly what he promises at the start. And that is an amazing accomplishment.