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Fearful evangelicals

Books | Angel slogs from paranoia to absurdity

Issue: "'To stay is to be killed'," Nov. 29, 2008

Christians break away from the United States and create their own society in Appalachia with fascist theocrats known as Bar Elohim in charge. They drug communion wafers so that people will keep attending church. They mandate illiteracy and make everyone watch their vidpods. They don't allow towns with populations of more than 3,000. They stone some dissidents and turn others into slave laborers. They loose vicious dogs on those who try to escape. They set up around their territory an electric fence topped by barbed wire and surrounded by a half mile of cleared land with electronic devices and cameras.

Is this a fictional nightmare conjured up by Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris? Nope-weirdly, it's the setting for Broken Angel (Waterbrook, 2008), a new novel by Sigmund Brouwer, an evangelical publishing veteran with about 90 children's books and almost 20 adult books to his credit. The convoluted plot hinges on an escape attempt by a former scientist from "Outside" and his genetically transformed daughter, along with the pursuit of them by a brute who rivals Simon Legree of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

A couple of characters indicate that Christianity is actually a freedom-embracing faith, but they are also cardboard figures. Broken Angel starts out as a page-turner but ends as a slog through absurdity, with writing that becomes increasingly florid as the paranoia becomes nuttier.

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By Matthew P. Ristuccia

Jerry Sittser's Water from a Deep Well (IVP, December 2007) is a good book for a time when some evangelicals seem intent on de-rooting themselves from their family tree. Sittser surveys Christian spirituality from early martyrs to pioneer missionaries, and in between opens up the lives of desert saints and medieval mystics, monastic leaders and Reformation heroes. Each chapter echoes the distinctive voice of a particular era, with emphases such as witness, community, ordinariness, word, conversion, and risk.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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