Why We Fear Violence

March 19, 2009

The Problem with BoneMan’s Daughters

bonemans-daughters-2I was on the phone with a ranking member of the establishment recently, a gatekeeper for a major retailer in CBA who was giving me his lowdown on BoneMan’s Daughters.

“Deeply moving,” he said. “The best from you in years in my opinion. I couldn’t put it down.”

I chuckled. “You liked it, huh?”

“I did, I really did…” There was a pause. “But it’s definitely not for everyone.”

My smile vanished. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, the intensity. It’s…” He chuckled. “The violence is going to raise some eyebrows. I’m sure I’ll have my share of Naysayers around here.”

“But did you get it?’

“Oh, I got it. Beautiful. It’s a love story, isn’t it? A beautiful love story. But… well, not everyone will see it that way.”

“But you got it, right?” I asked looking for approval. “How could anyone NOT get it?”

“Well, they will. They just might not approve.”

I had to ask myself afterward why this approval was so important to me. I mean, no novel of mine has been as well received before publication as BoneMan’s Daughters. Some are bound to trash it, sure, on the grounds that it is written by a so called “religious” writer and everyone in New York knows that all religious writers are hacks of the highest order. The old guard there still scratches its collective head when they hear of the enormous success of certain projects—case and point, The Passion of the Christ.

Yet, while New York’s opinion is important to me, nothing hits as close to home as the opinion of those who should know what makes story so powerful. I should ignore both, I know, I know. I should have a skin thicker than an elephant’s by this point in my career. But I do care, and in particular I care what CBA thinks. It’s in my blood. I need to know that readers, particularly readers who should know better, understand what it is the story is saying, which in my opinion, can only be said using the kind of veracity often missing from stories today.

Keep in mind that this is being written by me, a guy whose parents left the relative safety of an American Church and took me into an extremely dark and brutal jungle where cannibals killed missionaries; death was on all sides. Why would they subject me to such horror? For the hope and light they would bring into that dark, violent world. Too many of us are afraid to do the same and our fear shows in our stories. Perhaps it begins with them, after all, stories shape culture, the sub culture called “Church” being no exception,

So here it is, in black and white…

My response to those who I can already hear crying foul when they read BoneMan’s Daughters and uncover a somewhat brutal treatment of the Father’s heart for his children.

Let me be clear, BMD is violent in parts. Readers will find themselves in one of three categories.

One. A minority, perhaps 5% will be deeply disturbed by the book. A few will throw the book across the room as they have previous novels of mine, When Heaven Weeps, my most violent novel to date being a prime example. One or two may even march back into their trusted source for books and demand it be taken off the shelves. I was saved from ugly thoughts, you will say. The last thing I want to do is allow anything that is less than holy in my head.

To those who fall in this category let me suggest you not read this or any of my novels. There are plenty of other novels to pick up and neither I nor those who understand my writing are looking for a battle from our own kind. You might want to also avoid large portions of holy scripture while you’re at it. They too are deeply disturbing and full of ugly thoughts.

Two. A significant number, perhaps 65%, will read BMD and wonder where the offense lies. None of my books have bothered you much and you will cruise through this one without stumbling over any passages. The story will hopefully impact you as intended, but you won’t be joining any campaigns to burn Ted’s books.

Three. The remaining 30% (and yes, these numbers are scientific) will read BoneMan’s Daughters and be disturbed, as you should be, and you will be moved as was the Gate Keeper at the top of the blog, and you will wonder what you should do with all the feelings this book evokes. This blog is primarily for you.

Let me suggest that you are meant to feel bothered, not as much by the violence but by the fact that you are so disturbed by the violence. When all is said and done, as you know and as BMD so clearly points out, perfect love casts out fear. The goodness and wholeness that we find in our own salvation takes the sting out of death, does it not? Rather than skip over it, we can walk right through the valley of death and fear no evil.

Or is that just a cute saying that makes for nice rhyming lyrics in a Sunday school song?

The fact is, most gate keepers in the CBA applaud story that depicts uncompromising truth in stories which rip the façade off of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, showing that wolf for what it is in all of its ugliness; stories which then soundly defeat said wolf with a passion that equals the greatest of all passions, that is the passion of the Christ.

As it turns out, many in our culture have a profound fear of death, and the violence which leads to that death. Without a hope which extends beyond this life they go to great lengths to protect flesh in all of its glory. Anything that threatens a comfortable life is deemed evil; prosperity of flesh is exalted over prosperity of spirit.

Fear of death and violence is part of the human condition and it has reached as deeply into the religious establishment as into a world that claims no faith beyond what it can touch and feel. In short, it is a needless sickness that many have turned into a badge of honor.

You know you have this sickness when you see a leper or a person in terrible suffering, and back away for fear of catching their suffering. You find it difficult to fellowship in the suffering of the saints or the victims of violence, preferring to turn your head away.

You know you have this sickness when you refuse to bare the wolf for all to see, or trek into the valley of death to rescue those stranded there, or dine with deviants and prostitutes.

You know you have the sickness when you forget that the defeat of evil is a good thing and therefore something that we ought to think about. Stories which chronicle the defeat of evil in the valley of death are also good things.

So my advice to you who feel the sting of death and cringe is this: You are not alone, neither is your fear. It hurts to have your heel crushed, it really does. But fear not. Remember that in life, as in BoneMan’s Daughters, all that is ugly and violent will crush your heel (yes indeed will crush your heel) but you, empowered by an Ultimate love, will crush its head.

Whatever you do, don’t turn away from those who suffer and don’t hide from the serpent who causes that suffering. Take up the hammer and crush him.

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