We're highlighting Lost Mission by Athol Dickson in this Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour, and the book has stirred unrest among the ranks. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
My first post for the tour was just a brief introduction to the basic plot, which is very much carried on the backs of the characters whose stories Dickson weaves together in fluid strands. It is masterfully done, and is one of the few modern examples of omniscient point of view that I actually enjoyed reading.
Though some reviewers didn't quite take to the story's movement between the present and about 250 years in the past, I like it when an author is capable of telling an engaging story in an unusual way. I may not like real-life roller coasters, but I am always game for the literary version of a good ride. And Lost Mission did not disappoint.
However, being a work of fiction by a Christian author, and possessing themes centered on faith, the book is bound to cause debate and disagreement. Hey, we're human, and ain't none of us truly sees eye-to-eye with anyone. But in the friction there is fire, and where there's fire there's light, and in that light we all may see a little clearer the world around us.
One of those points of contention has already been raised by other reviewers: Is it ever right to do the wrong thing? Is it ever right to break the law in pursuit of God's work?
In Lost Mission, two of the characters cross the US border illegally, one to find a job so he can send money home to his family, the other so she can be a missionary to a nation in need of God. A minister steals money and possessions in order to provide for the poor and the illegals in his neighborhood. Another man, wealthy beyond my imagination, endeavors to build an all-Christian community in order to protect families from crime, ugly influences, and undesirable elements.
Far in the story's past, a trio of Catholic priests and a contingent of soldiers set out to plant a mission in California. The eldest priest is controlling, the youngest priest is rebelling, and Fray Alejandro is caught between them, often sympathizing with the younger's passion and compassion but respecting the elder's authority.
Every one of the main characters is a person of faith -- but in himself, or in God?
Each begins his (or her) journey with good intentions, with noble purpose; how that journey is traveled reveals what he truly believes.
Lupe follows a sign and is given a gift to help her on her journey. Of all the characters, she seems to be the one with the greatest faith, but does she ask for God's help in getting to the US a different way than sneaking across the border? Ramon relies on his family's savings to pay a "coyote" to lead him across the border. Del, too, relies on money -- his own -- in order to accomplish what he thinks is God's will but is really a weapon for his own revenge. Tucker has no money, so he takes what's left unguarded. Everyone justifies his own actions, because -- after all -- isn't he doing good? Isn't he accomplishing God's will?
Real life isn't easy, and often comprised of shades of gray. There are times when black-or-white is difficult thinking. Difficult guide to making decisions. Right and wrong are not always perfectly knowable.
That is why the Book of James tells us, "If any man (or woman) lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally." Sure, circumstances look bad. There's no money. There's a law that keeps us out or hems us in. There's no vehicle, no way of escape. There's no map, no food, no shelter. There's no apparent way to fulfill the tasks we've been given by God.
So, then, exactly how big is God? How capable is He of helping those He loves? Those He sends?
Faith without works is dead, but works do not make faith. We show our faith by our works. Many of the works done by the characters spring from reliance on themselves rather than faith in God. Sounds like us, doesn't it? Fretting, nagging, stressing -- trying to do everything in our own limited strength, using our own fallible logic. How often to do we ask God to step in and guide us, or to provide the right means to an end?
I know what I ask. I am the main exhibit in the "Museum of Stupid Mistakes", and fit just as well into the "Hall of Thinking Too Small" or the "Gallery of Going My Way". I've justified my actions, argued my logic, been too proud to admit my mistakes. Like Del, I've used "Christianity" like a weapon, and -- like Tucker -- I have taken what isn't mine because I thought someone else needed it more than its owner did. But Robin Hood, as charming and swashbuckling as he may be, is still a thief.
In Lost Mission, I see a wealth of thought-provoking material. It's a work of fiction, but it's a mirror, too. What do you see?
For further reflection (pun entirely intended):
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul