A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Angels, Demons, and Bad Fiction

The Christian publishing market is a rapidly growing one, so they say. I am particularly pleased to note that in the wake of the Tolkien-Lewis revival (and, dare I suggest, the wake of Pottermania?) Christians have finally begun writing fantasy novels: you can find many of them at Edenstar Books. Forgive me if I've mentioned this before: as a fantasy fan, I am very happy to spread the news about this store. To tell the truth, I still feel that secular fantasy is generally of better quality than Christian fantasy, but it seems to me that some of the more recent books are improving in quality. Ted Dekker's White, Red, and Black trilogy is a fine example.

There are also Christian thrillers available, though the "thrillers" still tend to be Peretti-esque spiritual warfare, in which angels and demons fight invisible battles. I used to think this entire genre was passe and perhaps even dangerous, in as much as the "life" of the angels doesn't seem to accord with what has been revealed about them. Angels in the Bible sometimes look human, but they also (famously) look quite bizarre. Where are the many-eyed seraphim with wheels in the Spiritual warfare books? And what kind of angelology is being promoted, when all these fictional angels do is fight? One might gather, from other parts of the Bible, that the primary task of angels is to worship God, rather than to do battle. Admittedly, some spiritual warfare books do make mention of the time angels spend "before the throne" in adoration, but this almost always takes place off-stage, and it never seems central to their work.

Recently, however, I read Wormwood, a book in which the angel Raphael actually walks around as "God's assassin," killing human beings, and I realized that the Peretti-esque treatment of angels may in fact be much safer than the alternatives. Somehow, Taylor's Raphael did not at all strike me as a minister of God's healing.

For those who want to read about the adventures of Raphael in a less violent text, I recommend the book of Tobit. The Raphael found in Tobit has very little resemblance to the Raphael of Wormwood. Raphael in Tobit is a friendly, helpful chap with a sense of humor, who likes to make puns. He is also a healer and a matchmaker, who manages to talk Tobias into falling in love with his cousin Sarah before even meeting her. Indeed, a large part of Raphael's mission is making sure that poor Sarah is actually able to consummate her marriage, instead of having her husband killed on the wedding night. True, the tale has its Peretti moments, in that getting Tobias and Sarah together involves capturing and binding the evil demon which is in love with Sarah, but curiously, Raphael does not do this on his own. He gets Tobias to help him, through the use of a stinky fish. (What, you mean humans can assist angels through more than just providing "prayer cover"? No way!) Once Tobias expells the demon, Raphael is able to bind it. And then Tobias and Sarah are able to. . . well, let's just say that they do what young people are supposed to do on their wedding night.

Come to think of it, there could be a very interesting Christian "fantasy" novel to be written based on the book of Tobit. I grant that not all Christians consider the book to be inspired or canonical, but one can hardly deny that it's a good story. It's got everything readers could want: romance, suspense, an evil demon, a good angel, a faithful pet dog, and a happy ending. Sounds more fun than my dissertation, anyway. . . you think Zondervan might be interested?

Whether I could actually write a sustained work of fiction in a readable style is something I don't know, but I think I can guarantee that my angel novel wouldn't be full of comma splices!


Blogger janeeyreish said...

Love the way you fit in that comment: "Sounds more fun than my dissertation, anyway. . . you think Zondervan might be interested?"

10:26 PM  

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