26 January 2010

in justice (book review)

Alan Sears, In Justice: A Novel (Enumclaw: WinePress Publishing, 2009).

Many thanks to the folks at Alliance Defense Fund for providing me with a copy of Alan Sears' new work of fiction. Sears' heads up the efforts of ADF, and their work is greatly appreciated as a vital voice speaking for religious freedom. I have been aware of ADF since 2001, and their ongoing service reaches out to many. For those who are not aware of ADF - or think that it is not a necessary and vital organization - perhaps the scenario portrayed in this book will help change perspectives.

As I have often noted, I do not typically read fiction and do not in any way consider myself a literary scholar. Thus, I am unqualified and will not make an attempt to review this work on the basis of literature. To do so would be unfair to the author and those who actually know of such things. Rather, I want to convey the compelling nature of this book's storyline and the need for those who are endeared to freedom - Christian or otherwise - to consider the current path of our out-of-control-politically-correct culture.

The story begins in 2015, a date which appears to be carefully selected to distance itself from individuals or organizations presently active, but which conveys the urgency that such a course of events could quickly arise from our present socio-political climate. The plot opens upon an old minister, wearied by the demands of ministry in a shrinking congregation while holding out hope in the gospel which he has served for so many years. An unfortunate and coincidental series of events leads to the accidental death of a U. S. Marshal, and the old man himself. It is from here that the narrative opens up into a discussion of religious tolerance and the fruit of many years of attack on religious and political speech.

Drawn into events which never escape the shadow of the accidental shootings, the story follows the paths of two prominent men: Pat Preston, a megachurch pastor who must sacrifice everything for his public commitment to a kingdom message; and John Knox Smith, a rising star in the Justice Department who is using his political power as a means of silencing any speech or activity which is determined to be 'bigotry' and intolerant.

What makes this particular story so powerful is that it weaves together threads that are already in existence today, taking current legislation, debate and popular sentiment within our political system and drawing logical next-steps of possibility. In other words, the possibility of losing our opportunity to exercise free religious speech may be closer to probability than we care to recognize. The world which this book envisages might not be so different than what we have today.

Of special note for those of us who are in full-time ministry is the situation in which Pat Preston finds himself: unable to exercise his peaceable faith, but unwilling to compromise his commitment to the kingdom of God. By following his journey, the reader is confronted with all of the 'what-ifs' and 'what would I decides' which should be present in any discussion of faith and culture. This fictional pastor must learn the sacrifice of his faith, something that (sadly) many Western believers are able to handle. (This last point makes the response of so many other pastors in the narrative so believable - they balk in their message at the first sign of government opposition, watering-down instead of standing boldly.)

There is plenty of room for discussion throughout this story. One should be prepared to think as you read, for this is not a simple story about churchgoing. Instead, the reader is confronted with the real-life policies, agendas, laws and arguments which are clearly developed from the world of non-fiction. This is a book designed to make you think, to ponder, to move . . . and to pray. The intensity of these pages is heightened when one considers the actions of our government in our overly-politically-correct culture, for we are moving all-too-quickly into a time of decision of commitment that will demand the entirety of our lives.

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