Saturday, June 16, 2012
I have a friend who is a Christian. When he saw the Avengers movie, he remarked about the line when Captain America says there's only one God. And when he saw Prometheus he remarked about the cross that the girl who played Elizabeth Shaw wore. He claimed the character was a Christian and I remain skeptical. Yes, the girl wore a cross and this is the symbol of Christianity.
But I want to see something more in the depiction of a Christian or what it means to be one. Something more like this. Why, yes, that is almost the picture of a cracked pot.
In both cases, my friend made me a little sad. He's so used to any kind of faith being deprecated on the Hollywood screen and he seems like a starving man grasping at crumbs.
Now, you can find movies where faith is not just mentioned in passing, but a central part of the narrative. I don't like them much. They are often heavy handed.
I like my religion kept between the lines like they did in the Lord of the Rings or the Narnia movies. The narrative doesn't tell you about deity or our moral obligations as much as show you Frodo and Samwise doing rightly.
The word Evangelical implies some overt sharing of one's faith, and commonly Evangelicals are exhorted to witness. But this is all too rare, because Evangelicals too often preach instead. Witness means to relate one's own experiences. E.g. I witnessed the bank hold up and I saw three men wearing masks, et cetera. Preaching means to assert propositions generally on the basis of authority.
In writing, we're told "show don't tell" and that's like the Evangelicals' exhortation to witness, not preach. Thus I prefer Lord of the Rings because Tolkien is showing Christian living instead of telling it to us.
The story begins with a setup. A bunch of communist atheists with Islamic-sounding names from somewhere-i-stan in the former Soviet Union colonized a planet a few generations back and they do what socialists generally do: make a hash of it and run out of other people's money.
Meanwhile back on Earth there's a second Reformation and a bunch of Calvinists want to start a colony, but all the planets are already taken. They can get a deal on buying an undeveloped hunk of land on the planet of the communist-atheist-space-nazis. They call their colony New Geneva.
Things go well for a couple of generations as the Calvinists' work ethic creates a ton of wealth while the communist-atheist-space-nazis creates envy. As you'd expect, after a purge of the moderates in the bad guys' government, and some ethnic cleaning in their own country, they decide to invade New Geneva.
All of the place-names in New Geneva will be familiar to the student of the Reformation. Many of the characters surnames are those of old-school Princeton divines.
The hero is a young man in a mechanized suit of armor named Knox and his dad happens to be the governor of New Geneva. So, after everyone in the regular army is overrun, Knox starts a resistance movement behind enemy lines.
Now, if this were David Drake writing the story, the good guys would be Satanists and the bad guys would be Baptist Brethren. Everything is turned upside down and the Calvinists are the good guys for a change. I liked to see that change. The story even makes reference to Thermopile. The pattern of the war follows that of the ancient Greeks vs Persians: free Greeks using their wits and initiative to defeat a much larger force of enslaved Persians. So far, so good.
I liked the setup, but around midway through the story, the author had to start preaching. Not in a heavy-handed way, but it wasn't as graceful as C. S. Lewis in Narnia. His heroes are good, and his villains are evil, and we get a nice redemption story. But the preaching to witnessing ratio was off.
The story's end was suitably dramatic, but it lacked the almost pornographic aspect of good guys you really love just putting it to the bad guys you really hate. There's a pattern I've grown to expect in military science fiction that was missing here. The good guys need to have an ace in the hole, a plot device that visits wholesale destruction and mayhem upon the bad guys. In this story, the good guys and bad guys just punched each other to exhaustion. Maybe this is more realistic, but I missed the amazing technological gizmos that laid waste to massively overwhelming numbers of bad guys.
I so wanted to love this novel, but I have to admit that I only liked it a lot. 4 of 5 stars.