By Christine Sunderland
My seventh novel, Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock 2020), opens on Veterans Day, 2018. Hermit Abram awaits, surrounded by icons, in the sandstone caverns of Angel Mountain. Soon he will step into the light outside on his promontory and preach righteousness to the curious in the meadow below. He is fighting for freedom, the freedom to believe, the freedom to love righteousness.
Today, Veterans Day, 2021, we honor the brave men and women who fought for freedom, for America, for the love of righteousness.
And what is righteousness? Is not God on every side, or are not the intentions of all soldiers good ones? Did not the Nazis feel their cause was righteous? Or Stalin? Or Lenin? Or today, Xi?
What is righteousness? The love of right conduct, the love of right feeling, of right thought. But what is right and what is wrong? These are the questions the modern world no longer ponders. Many say all is relative, there are no standards but one’s feelings.
Victor Davis Hanson made a good case recently that what many see as anarchy, others see as justice. It’s all a matter of opinion, it appears. When we are canceled, it is for good reason, we are told. Any means to the end.
And so enters the Christian storyteller. Like our dear Lord Jesus, we tell stories to share our love of God, our love of righteousness, our love of right over wrong, our love of what God loves, not necessarily what mankind loves. We steep ourselves in Scripture and the tradition of the Church. We sing together and worship together and call upon the Holy Spirit to move among us, whether through screen or sanctuary. We wait on God for guidance. We confess, repent, are forgiven, and try once again to be righteous. We are in the dark, to be sure, in this world, but we are waiting for the light of dawn we know will come.
The light of righteousness. The sight of righteousness. The love of righteousness.
And so, the setting of a story – the time and place – is meant to enlighten the reader, giving greater depth to each character on this stage, as each one struggles to see. My five characters tell their stories through a close third-person POV. They tell in turn, so that the chapters weave their desires, their searches for meaning, for the light, except for the antagonist, who chooses not to see, chooses to follow the darker urges in his soul. He desires anarchy. He desires destruction.
The time setting of Angel Mountain is the present day, so that the story tells of the current shutting of the light across our land, and by extension, our world. It encompasses the ten days between Veterans’ Day, a day of heroic righteousness, and Thanksgiving 2018, the annual day of giving thanks for the founding of our nation, a nation forged in the history of righteousness forged by the Judeo-Christian tradition. The men and women who fought for our freedoms fought for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, documents that were intended to ensure the inalienable rights given to every man by the Creator.
For our people must love righteousness, in order for us to preserve our inalienable rights.
The place setting of Angel Mountain is Berkeley and the East Bay. The characters move from the chaos of the university community to the peace of the mountain that rises over the valleys to the east, my home environs, and thus familiar territory. Berkeley is also home to riots, the silencing of speech through intimidation and threat.
And yet Angel Mountain (Mt. Diablo) offers refuge and prayer, where answers lie in the coming dawn. The natural world lives and breathes, but the earth quakes and firestorms rage. Here a hermit prays for the world, looking out upon humanity dwelling in the valleys and hamlets. Here a hermit sings the psalms and soon calls pilgrims to repentance and baptism in the pool fed by the waterfall and at the foot of a tall white cross.
We are blessed souls, you and I, those of us who feel called to write of righteousness, to create men and women called too, men and women searching for the light in the darkness. It is a blessed and sweet gift given us, and we must honor and savor it. We must never forget our purpose, to tell the everlasting story of God’s righteousness within us and without us, our universal longing for the light, longing to love righteousness for His name’s sake.American Christian fiction writers weave stories of righteousness, the foundation of American freedom and character. @ChristineSunderland #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet
Christine Sunderland has authored seven 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 and is a member of the Anglican Province of Christ the King. Visit Christine at www.ChristineSunderland.com.