Didn’t post much tonight because I was finishing up book eight of The Dresden Files. Earlier in the day I Amazoned the remaining…four, I think. It’s as compelling a mythos as any I’ve known. It ranks with the mythologies of entire cultures, and he’s still going.
It’s one of the best series I’ve read. And as I’ve consumed approximately one billion words of print, assume I’ve read…several. Yesterday I praised the writer for continuing to work at improving his craft. He’s still doing it through #8, though already a master.
And the single most surprising thing about it is its treatment of Christianity. It is utterly respectful.
This isn’t Lewis’s Mere Christianity. If Jim Butcher is a Christian he’s doing indirect preaching. His omnipresent protagonist Harry Dresden isn’t Christian. And as such, he’s made deeply uncomfortable by committed ones. Which is exactly right.
But the supporting characters who are, and who contend with forces of supernatural darkness, are exactly as they’d have to be. Immensely strong, loving, faithful.
And thus, dramatically boring.
You couldn’t do the type of series Butcher’s doing while making your lead a Christian. Because he’d have to be as committed as Paul of Tarsus. There’s nowhere to go. Where’s the moral drama? You can’t explore nuances of gray behavior when your lead can’t even tell a lie to save his life.
It’s why Michael Carpenter is a supporting character.
There are great writers who hate Christianity, and I can still read their work and appreciate it. Thomas Harris, for one. Christians in his books are either brain-damaged or evil. The man who created Hannibal Lecter felt he needed a Scripture-quoting “Christian” to make Lecter the good guy. I have no problem with Christian-bashing. Christ Himself tells me it’s inevitable, so it’s not like my faith is threatened. Quite the opposite. But as a story-lover, when a writer’s issues destroy “suspension of disbelief” it’s his mistake, not mine. Harris’s hatred of Christianity makes him worse, not better.
Is this a literary or theological review? I have no idea either.
If you enjoy either fantasy or “noir” you’ll probably enjoy The Dresden Files. If you like both I don’t know how you could avoid loving it. Christianity is not its focus and isn’t even directly addressed. But it’s thoughtfully and respectfully examined.
Hmm. And Dresden Files novels are NYT best-sellers, every one. No doubt there are many, many novelists right now trying to pretend respect for Christianity. Good luck with that. Good luck fooling people who believe God commands them to be “as gentle as doves, as wise as serpents”.
Some of this blog’s readers are Christians, and some aren’t. All are welcome. No one will get “preached at” here. I’ve been in both camps and know what works on me, and what doesn’t. Lectures by hypocrites are a “least-favorite” thing.
I’m a terrible Christian. When one can be moved to re-examination by novels featuring a pagan, swearing, drinking, killing, occasionally-fornicating hero, he should know he’s been slacking off.
Here’s how carnal I am. Knowing the costs and sacrifices, I don’t even want to be a good Christian right now.
But I do want to want to be.