Monday, October 22, 2007

secular books with Scriptural themes

Hi all:

I've been over at Tia's website, Fantasy Debut Blogspot and she commented that there are a lot of books with Bible themes being published by secular publishing houses. Including Wind Follower of course.

Wonder why?

I'm not as up on the novels and religions of other cultures so I can't say if there is a universal resurgence in books based on Scripture. Offhand, I can only think of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which was connected to the Koran. Honestly, I don't know if there's even a resurgence in North America. Many folks around the world are religious or philosophical...after all. But the Holy Bible is a great book and has some issues that will connect to atheists and religious folks alike.

The first is the nature of suffering. Mark Ferrari's, The Book of Joby, deals with this. And what better Biblical book for an author to play with than the Book of Job!

You know the story: God and Satan get into a wager and use Job as a pawn. (Of course there are many different ways of interpreting how they even got into this battle. Some word-of-faith Christians say Job got himself in that mess by speaking wrong words over his life....he removed the hedge God had put around him. Some say linguistically, that the Hebrew implies that God didn't start the challenge at all. The "have you considered my servant Job?" statement is God's referring to a past event in Lucifer's mind. Something like, "So I see you have been thinking about my servant Job?")

Mark Ferrari takes one of the more traditional Christian views: that God can do whatever He wants to with the lives of His creations.

I've got to say from the sampler I read that this is a really good book. I had my issues with it of course. The smallest first: I didn't like it that God was so flip about human suffering. Sure he believes in Joby and in humans, but I have a thing against cold humorous tongue-in-cheek portrayals of God. That's just me, though. As seen in movies like Evan Almighty, Oh God, and other small and large or printed or digital media, some folks like doing that with representations of God. Now, I only read the first chapter excerpt. It's in PDF format so I can't give you a snippet. But you can download the first chapter here.

It's possible --probable-- that Ferrari's portrayal of God in the rest of the story will amaze and awe me. I would try to get the book and check it out. But ...well there's my biggest problem with Book of Joby. Little Joby himself.

The first chapter has some humorous moments ...and I'm sure the humor will continue. But I have to tell you. I cannot cannot cannot deal with the suffering of children. This is my own issue. I simply cannot deal with suffering children. Yep, I walked out of many a movie, stopped reading many a book, and simply stand transfixed watching the TV whenever some suffering child is shown. For instance, I loved the film, A I: Artificial Intelligence. But I simply cannot see it again.

This is a mom thing. This is a mom with a disabled kid thing. It's probably even a dad with a disabled kid thing. Joby is an innocent and we moms with disabled kids understand innocence in a way most parents don't because we have to live with that continued innocence year after year after year. It makes it hard to see innocence wounded or hurt. Honestly, as I read the sample chapter, I kept anticipating all the struggles this little Joby was going to go through...and frankly it comes way too close to home. So, I have no intention of going out and buying the book. Again, I say this is entirely my issue. But I suspect mothers and dads (and brothers and sisters) of wounded children won't be able to read it without feeling a heartfelt pain.

Yes, yes, I know. All great books push some painful areas of our souls. But when it comes to kids suffering I just can't "go there."

The second book coming out is God's Demon and it's about the nature/possibility of redemption. Here's an exceprt.

There was the Fall. And no one was permitted to speak of it, or of the time before or of the Above. But it was the Fall that established many things in Hell, not the least of which was the distribution of territory. The future wards of Hell were randomly determined as each Demon Major, on his own sizzling trajectory from the Above, plunged headlong, meteoric, into the unknown wilds of the Inferno. Some impacted far apart, setting up their realms in relative seclusion and safety, while others, less fortunate, found themselves in close proximity, able to see the rising smoke of their neighbor’s arrival. These close arrivals began plotting and campaigning as soon as they could gather about them enough minor demons to form a court. The fratricidal wars that erupted lingered for millennia, occasionally flaring up into major conflagrations. These were the volatile times of Settlement and they were never forgotten by the survivors. Many of Lucifer’s original Host were lost, but those that remained, the strong and the cunning, established powerful kingdoms that would grow and prosper.

You can read the prologue and first chapter here

In this novel, the author Wayne Barlowe takes Milton's idea of Pandemonium and runs with it. (In Paradise Lost, the demons build Pandemonium and basically said, "I'd rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.")

There is a mass case of selective memory, building, and worldbuilding going on in Barlowe's hell. Who wants to remember how low they have fallen? Besides, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand long, can it? There are a lot of demons out there who are seriously peeved that they were deceived into rebelling against God.

Both these books deal with demons. And both these books deal with demons who rebel against God. Perhaps that's why their authors were intrigued by them. Rebellion against God, rebellion against authority. Rebellion against goodness. We still live with the effects of the Romantic Era. Rebels are seen as romantic. But I don't think so. In these stories, the rebels will be seen as having been wrong-headed, unknowing, limited in their demonic thinking. Very conservative thinking that. Father DOES know best.

But there is something else here...something very much like soul.

I remember reading Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire -- years before she returned to the Faith-- and thinking.... "this woman understands the need for a saviour. Most atheists don't understand it to such an extent. Or else they wouldn't be so snide, cruel and arrogant toward Christians." (Especially to poor innocent sickly black women like myself who never did them any harm.) When I read her books I saw something very much like soul. Well, these guys have something like soul.

Not that we Christians are the only ones who have the longing for a saviour or a loving understanding incomprehensible God. All nations look toward the Desire of Nations. It is only the Christian who knows that God not only understands suffering but that he came as a man of sorrows ACQUAINTED with grief (GOD-WITH-US suffering even as we suffer), and that God's love depends not on our righteousness or good behavior but on his mercy, the He is able to reach even into the depths of hell to save a repentant sinner who longs to be saved by him. -C

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