Steven James Makes His Move with The Pawn
- Tuesday, November 27, 2007
There’s a big difference between reading someone’s resume and becoming someone’s brother. Growing up, they taught me God’s resume. But no one going’s to fall in love like that. We fall in love by finding out a person’s likes and dislikes, their wounds, what makes them laugh. I think that if God could have revealed himself to us in a three page doctrinal statement, why didn’t he? He spent 300 years writing parables and letters and poems, because that’s the only way we can get to know him. We make a mistake when we only teach people the truth about God. We also need to teach them to fall in love with the mystery of God. Part of the core of a relationship isn’t knowing the truth about someone. It’s the mystery of a relationship with them.
The plotting in The Pawn is very intricate. There are twists and turns everywhere. And I have to say, it certainly doesn’t deal with the usual Christian subjects.
When I was at this Christian booksellers event last summer, speaking about The Pawn, I told the audience, “In this book, the schoolmarm does not marry the sheriff, Armageddon does not come and everyone does not get saved.” There was a lot of nervous laughter, because it’s true.
Someone emailed me once and said, “Is The Pawn a Christian novel?” I started asking myself, “What would make a book non-Christian?” Maybe erotic sex or gratuitous violence or idolatry or people eating their children? Then I thought, “No, that’s the Old Testament!” If the Old Testament was made into a novel, most bookstores wouldn’t carry it. The Pawn tells a story about evil and truth and grace and the human condition. That’s what makes it Christian—not that we talk about Jesus or the faith. A lot of movies and books we call Christian aren’t Christian. They make it seem like, once you become Christian, life is easy and you’re happy. In Facing the Giants, we’re taught that if you pray, someone will give you a brand new truck, your infertile wife will get pregnant, you will win two state championships, and you’ll get a job. I don’t think that’s a Christian movie. These things might not happen.
You describe things very vividly in the book, and sometimes it’s quite disturbing. You have a body that is sawed in half, for example. What do you say to those who insist that The Pawn is too graphic?
I think that when we portray evil, it should be disturbing. Christianity, more than any other religion, believes in the reality of evil. Other religions, like Buddhism, would say evil is an illusion. Humanism would say that it can be overcome by hard work and education. Some religions might look at evil and say it’s real, but Christianity says, “Yeah, but so is grace.” G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy said that Christians are more pessimistic than pessimists. We say, “It may be bad now, but it’s going to get a whole lot worse when you get to hell.” But Christians are also more optimistic than optimists, too [Chesterton says], because we say that infinite joy and grace and mercy and forgiveness are all possible, beginning now. We have this strange paradox of a religion that shows us the incredible power of evil but also the incredible power of glory and grace and wonder. So the way I look at it is, when we portray evil, it should not be muted. It should be disturbing. Because, if our world is just “sort of” a bad place, then we only need a “sort of” a good savior. But if evil is as horrifying as God says, then we need a really, really good savior.
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