Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lutheran Book Review: Fiction and Film




Keating, Ray. Murderer's Row: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel. Manorville, NY: Keating Reports, 2015. 364 Pages. Paper. $15.99. (Kindle version: $6.99.)  www.pastorstephengrant.com  http://smile.amazon.com/Murderers-Row-Pastor-Stephen-Grant/dp/1514137615 (LHPN)

Goodlett, Paula and Gorg Huff. 1636: The Barbie Consortium (Ring of Fire book 18). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2013. Kindle e-book. $4.99. http://www.baen.com/  http://smile.amazon.com/1636-Barbie-Consortium-Ring-Fire-ebook/dp/B00PB7JTHC/ (N) 


Flint, Eric, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff. 1636: The Viennese Waltz (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2014. 427 Pages. Kindle e-book. $9.99. http://www.baen.com/  http://smile.amazon.com/1636-Viennese-Waltz-Ring-Fire-ebook/dp/B00OKE7PRI/  (N) 
Flint, Eric and Charles E. Gannon. 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2014. 624 Pages. Kindle e-book. $9.99. http://www.baen.com/  http://smile.amazon.com/1636-Commander-Cantrell-West-Indies-ebook/dp/B00KDGKZEW/  (N) 

(The books above are available in digital and paper formats.)

Grantville Gazette, Volumes 51-63. Moore, OK: 1632, Inc., 2014-2016. Digital downloadable file (various formats). Subscription rates vary. http://www.grantvillegazette.com/ (N)


Who Is John Galt? Atlas Shrugged III. Atlas Productions, Inc., 2014. Special Edition 2-disc DVD set. http://www.whoisjohngalt.com  (N) 


I love sitting down to a great novel or a fun movie. Here are a few candidates for those descriptions.

We first visit LCMS Pastor Stephen Grant.



Keating's fictional character Grant, a former Navy SEAL and CIA operative and a current LCMS Pastor, is the subject of five novels.  The latest, Murderer's Row pits Grant against politicians and terrorists in the midst of murders and minor league baseball in New York.

I miss Tom Clancy. Keating fills that void for me. Yes, I understand that the bad guys will use colorful metaphors, yet toning down their language wouldn't ruin Keating's plausible, realistic scenes. Keating deals with timely issues like political corruption, abuse of eminent domain, terrorists who sneak into our country, the consequences of bad decisions, the after effects or real violence, and the need for good people to stand for truth, protect the weak and innocent, and proclaim the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

My favorite of the series is still the debut novel, Warrior Monk, but this novel is still a solid entry in the series and only whets my appetite for more.

Recently, Atlantic District Pastors paid us a visit in the Wyoming District for a second Koinonia Conference. If you look closely at the participants in the shooting sports event, you might even spot a smiling Rev. Stephen Grant.




And now, for something completely different:
 
Our next four titles take place in an alternate universe where West Virginians from the year 2000 have made a major impact on life in Germany and Europe as a whole in what was the Thirty Year's War. They saved the life of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, now also Emperor of the United States of Europe in this new timeline. I love the series because Lutherans have big roles.


The Barbie Consortium is one of my favorite titles in the series to date, though I think of the adventures of these young women under the title Other Peoples' Money, since that may more accurately describe the impact of a group of Grantville teenage girls in economics, industry, finance, and the stock market. You can learn a lot about entrepreneurship and the way money works in this title. 


The Viennese Waltz is as close to a sequel to the previous book as you can get in the 1632 universe, so read Barbie first. The economic story of central Europe is expanded as a 17th Century national leader makes a deal to buy a 20th Century race car. All involved, from central bankers and royalty to American mechanics and teen investors "waltz" to avoid economic disaster and a terrorist attack. Perhaps Austrian Economics could be a title for a collection of their further adventures.


1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies really gave me a sense of the "butterfly effect." This is the idea that small changes early on can lead to unbelievably large changes as time passes. About four years after their arrival, the projected future history of the Caribbean, North America, and South America is going to be radically different. Readers will appreciate the military adventures of the title character as well as the romantic and political ramifications of his marriage to the daughter of a king (not a princess).


Finally, this reader really likes to see the middle ground between official publications by Baen, publisher of the main 1632 titles, and fan fiction. Visit https://grantvillegazette.com and marvel at the aggressive publication schedule of this creative, multiple-volumed, well-researched, and very successful experiment in publishing. I'll admit my bias. My favorite story is about the appearance of Concordia Triglotta in this new timeline (https://grantvillegazette.com/wp/?s=Concordia) at the Rudolstadt Colloquy. I watch for appearances of THE Johann Gerhard as well.



We conclude this set of quick summaries with our film, part three of Atlas Shrugged.



We've reviewed parts one (http://lhpqbr.blogspot.com/2011/04/noted-review-what-if-atlas-shrugged.html) and two (http://lhpqbr.blogspot.com/2013/04/at-movies-atlas-2.html) in previous posts.

I wanted to like this film. "From each according to ability, To each according to need" does not work in practice. "I was only following orders" is no excuse for horrific behavior. There is a lot about forced redistribution of wealth and critique of socialism that the film gets right.

I must admit disappointment. Galt's monologue just didn't work in the abbreviated form portrayed in the film. Granted, it's far too long in the novel for many and would be nearly impossible to get right in another medium.

Fans of Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity smiled to see their cameos, but we once again had a new cast for the main characters of Rand's tale. Laura Regan played Dagny Taggart, Kristoffer Polaha was John Galt, Joaquim de Almeida portrayed Francisco d'Anconia, Eric Allan Kramer gave us Ragnar Danneskjöld, and Rob Morrow was Henry "Hank" Rearden. This was confusing. Trying to put the best construction on this "three casts for three parts" idea, it could have been intended to show the timelessness of these characters. If so, it didn't work. There's a difference between recasting for Star Trek and low-budget dystopian fiction.

Further, the production values seem to be best for part two.  Part three fell short and strained credulity, especially in the "rescue scene" near the end. Without intending to, that scene seemed to be a parody of itself. And, as a substitute "crucifixion" scene, it also fell short.


With the trilogy now complete, I must say that I am thankful that more people know this story. I can appreciate a secular attempt to wake up America to the fact that you eventually run out of other peoples' money to spend. From a Christian perspective, I mourn the selfishness of Rand's worldview. I cannot in good conscience, take the oath "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

Repeating what I have written before in my previous reviews: 
The book and film are decidedly anti-vocation. The Christian doctrine (and practice) of vocation is that we are blessed in order to be a blessing to those around us. A Christian's First and Foremost relationship is with the Triune God. That relationship is all about what God in Christ has done for us as Savior and Deliverer of His Gifts. Second, we are born into (or adopted into) a human family. We honor father and mother and other authorities as long as we are not in conflict with Scripture. "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). The marital bond is nourished for its own sake, as well as children in the family. Third comes our "vocations" as in the typical secular sense, our jobs, careers, etc.  Fourth, we find our hobbies, avocations, sports, and even our service to our Lord. Theologically and practically, this should help avoid any semblance of "works righteousness. I have often met "burned out" Church volunteers and even Church Workers. At times, we all have forgotten that Christianity is more about what God does for us than what we do for Him. Works may not be necessary for salvation, but they are necessary, as the hymn sings: "For faith alone can justify; Works serve our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living" (Lutheran Service Book 555:9, "Salvation unto Us Has Come," by Paul Speratus).

The major difference between property and "helping the less fortunate"  in Communism/Socialism/Marxism and Christianity is that the "isms" of a State compel compliance. Christianity is Gospel-motivated, not expecting repayment. Christians share because they want to. A Marx-dominated government forces its populace to do so.
This is a message for our day and our nation. In fact, it may help us see the ridiculous of the 99%/1% narrative of recent years. If we are honest, ALL Americans are part of the global 1% AND the 1% wealthiest of all human history.

Too often selfishness is allowed to pass for self-reliance. May I offer a different solution? The doctrine of vocation! Christ came to to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. We cannot accomplish our own salvation, nor the salvation of others, but we are given to serve our neighbor in a Christlike way. That is a vocational responsibility Christians dare not shrug off.

Watch the film if you remember Ayn Rand from your college days. Manage your expectations. Remember the insights you valued back in the day. And teach others a better way than Ms. Rand: Christian vocation.

Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School and Immanuel Academy, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, District Education Chairman and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. He is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music.