Sunday, February 22, 2009

More on Books and Faith

Last week Cindy K. Green asked about inspirational romance's potential for leaving the reader emotionally satisfied at the end of the book. Readers commented on favorite inspy authors and why they liked those authors.

Today I'm going to ask a question along the same lines. Have you ever read a book from the "mainstream" of publishing and found an unexpected message of faith in it?

I have, of course. Otherwise this would be an awfully short entry. One of the most remarkable examples of that comes from author Terry Pratchett. I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Pratchett's beliefs but if I were to guess, I'd say he was an agnostic or possibly even an athiest. And yet his Discworld books often have remarkable messages of hope in them. I commented last week that my favorite type of book is the kind that makes you laugh and then makes you think. The Discworld books are my supreme example of that. One book in particular is a favorite for re-reading during Lent, which begins this week.

Acording to the Discworld and Pratchett Wiki "The main themes of the book are theism, atheism, morality and ethics. One of the more important messages of the book is: do good things, simply because they are good and not just because a god demands it. This might not sound too funny, but the messages are hidden in a rather humorous story...about Brutha, a novice priest of the church of Om. It turns out that Brutha is the only believer who really believes in Om. Everyone else is just believing in rules and rituals. After happily ignoring his believers for ages Om decides to take a look at things. However, since the power of gods on Discworld is proportional to the number of real believers he finds himself changed into a rather powerless tortoise. Om and his only believer Brutha now try to restart the belief in Om...His (Brutha's) essentially simple nature meant that he never questioned any of the Church's commandments, until he actually met his god face-to-face and discovered that perhaps the scriptures weren't as accurate as he had once believed. The experiences of man and god alike resulted in a complete reshaping of Omnianism (with less smiting), and a resurgence in faith for the god."

(Warning - spoilers from here on)I can't say that I agree with all the conclusions that are made, but I do end up thinking about the issues that lead to them. The most powerful scene for me was at the end when Brutha, now a very old man, dies and finds himself, in accordance with Omnian beliefs, at the edge of a desert. It is said that they must cross the desert and their judgement waits on the other side. Brutha sees a huddled, miserable figure nearby. It turns out to be Vorbis, the villain of the book who used Brutha for his own political gain, then attempted to have him tortured and murdered so he could not tell anyone the truth. On his death Vorbis realized how truly evil his actions had been and was thus too terrified to cross the desert.

When Brutha sees him, he offers him a hand, helps him up and begins to lead him across the desert. Death, who has escorted Brutha's spirit thus far asks if Brutha realizes that this is the man who had so horribly wronged him in life. Why would he help him now?

Brutha replies that he's not helping Vorbis because of who Vorbis is, but rather because of who he (Brutha) is. I'm reminded of Matthew 5:43-45:

"As you have heard that it is said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

What about you? Have you ever found an unexpected message of faith in a "mainstream" book?

Happy Reading,

Kara Lynn Russell
"No heart is safe."
The Wild Rose Press


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great discussion Kara!

I found SO MUCH of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne to be backed by Scripture.

Many Christians shun the book for numerous reasons, but personally, I found that it broadened and deepend my understanding of many scriptures.

Julie Robinson said...

I agree Pamela. I won't say more for fear of being burned at the stake :-)

Cindy K. Green said...

Oh yes this is so true. I've had this happen to me several times. I can't think of any at the moment. All my books are still packed up from the move. But even a couple of Grisham's books. There was one about a missionary I believe.

Kara Lynn Russell said...

Was that The Testament?

Kara Lynn Russell said...

I've had a couple of people request that book at the library but I havent' read it myself. Maybe I'll have to check it out.