Reading Notes (11/11/09) Print
Reviews
Written by Peter J. Leithart   
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 11:04

Dean Koontz’s Relentless (Bantam, 2009) is refreshingly anti-PC.  The protagonist’s in-laws (the Booms) are demolition experts and survivalists with food and guns stored away in an underground shelter, and the villain, Shearman Waxx, is a hoity book reviewer who terrorizes the novelist hero, “Cubby” Greenwich, his wife Penny, their astonishingly precocious son Milo, and the family dog, Lassie.  Waxx is as scary as the double “x” of his surname suggests.

As the book progresses, it dawns on you that Relentless doesn’t just happen to be anti-PC.  It’s about political correctness, and the danger that bullying intellectual elites pose to civilization and humanity.  Alongside their stock of assault rifles, the Boom’s place is lined with shelves full of classics of Western literature.  The nuts, the home schoolers, the gun owners, the religious wackos, Koontz tells us, are the ones who are going to save civilization.  Like they did last time civilization collapsed, and the time before that.

Koontz’s plot disintegrates in the final chapters, but until then it’s the kind of book that keeps you up and night and wakes you up early in the morning.  Mix that with nods to O’Connor and Chesterton, and the product is several cuts about the typical bestseller.

***

Painter Makoto Fujimura was born in the U.S., but is of Japanese descent and received his MFA from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts.  He works in traditional Japanese art forms, and while waiting for his paint to dry he writes on art at his web site.  He has collected a number of these delicate essays in refractions (NavPress, 2009).

In the aftermath of September 11, he and another artist organized their studio – three blocks from Ground Zero – into TriBeCa Temporary, an “oasis of collaboration by Ground Zero artists.”  Many of the beautifully written pieces in the collection reflect on the role of artists, and specifically of Christian artists, in times of national crisis: How does a Christian artist provide glimpses of the city of God work in a city that is both Jerusalem and Babylon simultaneously?

Filled with reproductions of Fujimura’s own work, as well as that of fellow artists, refractions is lovely to look at.  It’s a book to read slowly, to savor.

***

Pacifists and just warriors have been going at it for centuries, and whatever the balance of the debate, it seems that the pacifists have scored an important PR victory: They look more like Jesus.

That’s partly the fault of just war theorists, argues Daniel M. Bell, Jr., in Just War and Christian Discipleship (Brazos, 2009).  Confronted with the common just war notion that war is the “lesser evil,” Bell asked the obvious question: Since when did Christians get comfortable choosing evil, even if it is “lesser”?  Confronted with a just war tradition that often treated the criteria of just war as a “policy checklist,” Bell wondered, What does this have to do with discipleship, or the formation of Christian virtues, or the church?

Drawing on Augustine and medieval theologians, Bell argues that a war should be justified, if justified at all, not as a lesser evil but as a positive good, a “harsh form of love,” and he presents decisions about war and war-making itself in the context of a character-based account of Christian discipleship. War for Christians is not an exception to Jesus’ command to love enemies, and war should be as much about pursuing justice, relieving oppression, and establishing peace as every other Christian activity.

Bell offers a version of just war theory that pacifists will find hard to rebut, and may even find compelling.



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Last Updated on Friday, 13 November 2009 11:00