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Our Family of God

By Christine Sunderland

Our cities are burning. Some say civilization is collapsing. And today is the Feast of St. John Baptist. Our world needs some baptizing, some holy waters to put out the fires.

My recently released novel, Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock), is set in the midst of this cultural chaos. It is about another baptist, a hermit living in sandstone caves on the side of a mountain. He and his sister Elizabeth, who lives in the foothills, are Holocaust survivors. Elizabeth speaks out against Hitler’s eugenic, racial policies as she sees antisemitism on the rise.

In the course of the novel, the question is asked, who are we? Are we many races or one? Are we, after all, brothers and sisters? Charles Darwin claimed there were races, that some were superior. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, one of his disciples, advocated genocide of the unborn. But today, we have learned from gene mapping and genetics that we are indeed one family, one human family, children of our creator. It seems that we were intelligently designed by a loving God, designed to love one another.

Racism is not supported by science and is the enemy of faith. But as faith is banned from the public square, racism returns.

Christianity, with its Jewish ancestry of law and love and human dignity, birthed America. Today American Christian fiction writers are called to rebirth America by reminding her of this vital—crucial—law of love. We are called to remind our children to inform their consciences, to write this moral law on their hearts.

The law of love we have been given holds our world together, holds us together. It ensures peace by teaching right from wrong. It ensures respect by teaching the sanctity of life. It ensures stable communities by teaching the holiness of marriage and family. It ensures the future by informing the consciences of our children.

In Angel Mountain, I consider the chaos in a world where the faith-filled are silenced. The recent pandemic shuttered our churches and physically separated us. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent race riots shuttered hearts, dividing us. Christian voices must rise above this devastation. With pen and paper, keyboard and screen, we must remind our people there is a better way. We must point to voices of saints and sages through the centuries, stirring consciences (both individual and national) to turn toward godliness and the right ordering of our loves.

St. Augustine of Hippo (Algeria, 354-430 AD) wrote of the right ordering of our loves, a theme C.S. Lewis echoed. Moral choice is informed by this right ordering. We choose, guided by sacred authority, how to live with one another on this earth in our short span of time, keeping our eye always trained on Heaven, and with Heaven, Judgment.

St. Augustine (considered one of the august Church Fathers) wrote volumes—codices I would assume—on Christ and his mighty acts, and what this intersection of the eternal in time meant for humanity. As Augustine lay dying in the spring of 430, the Vandals, Germanic tribes, besieged Hippo. The Vandals lifted the siege after Augustine’s death on August 28 but returned to burn down the city, remarkably leaving the cathedral and library untouched.

We are under siege by narcissistic nihilism. The barbarians are at our gates. We have been invaded, burned, and laid waste. In our turning away from God, we have lost our way, and we are looking into the void.

And so I write, just as you must write. We must inform our culture with Christ: his law of love; his suffering sacrifice; his resurrection resurrecting us with him. Fiction writers—poets—offer a vision of God, the beatific vision. We don’t have the words to describe the indescribable, so we tell tales, pointing to the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of truth, beauty, and goodness. We offer a better way than to loot and burn. We invite all into our family of God, regardless of race or handicap, born and unborn.

We do this by creating characters of integrity and moral compass, characters who care, characters who wrestle with moral choice, wrestle with their own faults, wrestle with who they are and what they must do to become who they are meant to be. They discipline their hearts and minds and souls in order to love better. They know they are responsible for their time on earth and for those with whom they share that time. They love one another within the sacred sanctions God has ordained. They are not ashamed to be heroic. They are a characters of sacrifice and song.

Christian fiction writers are called to rebirth—and baptize—the world with hope. We are called to civilize our civilization with our God.

How Christian storytellers are called to banish racism and welcome all into our family of God. @Chrisunderland #ACFWBlogs #writetips Click To Tweet

Christine Sunderland has authored six award-winning novels: Pilgrimage, set in Italy, Offerings, set in France, Inheritance, set in England, Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, The Magdalene Mystery, set in Rome and Provence (all Oaktara), The Fire Trail (eLectio), set at UC Berkeley and Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock), set on Mount Diablo, east of Berkeley. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union (www.AmericanChurchUnion.com). Visit Christine at www.ChristineSunderland.com (website and blog).

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2 Responses to Our Family of God

  1. Gail Hatch says:

    It’s a high calling for all believers and we count on good literature that reflects God’s loving ways to show us again and again what it looks like to live out God’s Kingdom for the sake of our broken world.

    Looking forward to getting to know the characters and relationships in Angel Mountain.

  2. Amen. Thanks, Gail. Well said!