By Christine Sunderland
Angel Mountain is a resurrection story, so I was pleased the novel was released shortly after Easter last year by Wipf and Stock Publishers.
One of my main characters is Abram Levin, a Jewish refugee who converts to Christianity in his later years. He spends his last days in a sandstone cave as a hermit, singing, praying, and preaching. He ignores the menacing men in black that hover on the rim of a peaceful crowd as he calls them to repentance, baptism, and righteousness. He is full of a mysterious strength and power, and the listeners lean forward eagerly to hear each word as if he were sharing a secret.
Christian storytellers share a secret. It is a secret that makes us powerful. We are promised, along with all other penitent Christians who reach to touch Christ, that we will live forever. We are promised that we will be raised on the last day, when the trumpet calls. We are promised no less than eternal life.
Because of this promise, this astounding promise, our lives are meaningful. Everything we do counts. Everything we don’t do counts. Our speech counts and our silence counts. It is all recorded in Heaven’s leger, all to be reviewed at Jerusalem’s city gates.
Because of this promise, we pause before choosing. We listen carefully and reflect upon our words. We search for meaning that is true, that reflects the magnificence of God and his creation. In the midst of despair, we hope. In the midst of disbelief, we believe. In the midst of apathy, we love. We know that our choices matter, now and in the life to come.
And so, the choices made by our characters matter. Each choice sets them further on their path. Each crossroads is an epiphany, with signposts to see or ignore. Each dark forest is a time to shine the light, salt the earth, and resurrect treasure in the soul. Their wrong turnings and setbacks acknowledge a moral order and heavenly cosmos that govern mankind and the universe. Their sufferings echo the Cross and he who suffered for love of us. Their turmoil, their confessions and penitence and setting out once again on a better path, is demanded by their righteousness, and if not their righteousness, their thirst for the right, the good, the true, a thirst with which we are born.
Because of the promise of Easter’s resurrection, and thus our own resurrections, Christian writers own a glorious certainty and thus a perfect freedom. They are called to share Heaven’s glory and perfection with their readers. Like Mary Magdalene and the apostles at Emmaus, they see Christ, touch him, break bread with him. Like Thomas, they touch his wounds. This faith-filled freedom to speak the truth, about who and what Man is, and can become, offers a chalice of eternal life to our readers, quenching their thirst for God and answering their deepest yearnings.
A second character in Angel Mountain is a geneticist who supports Intelligent Design theory of evolution. When Gregory Worthington speaks to a crowded hall at UC Berkeley how science supports faith and faith supports science, he is threatened not only by Antifa but by the dean of his department. He is told to leave, unless he keeps silent. He chooses to leave.
We live in a culture of darkness, a culture of shadows and half-truths, a time when free speech is threatened by cancel culture and our history is being erased and rewritten. It is a fearful time, a time of self-censoring and self-censure. Powerful elites, seeking salvation through manufactured virtue and who control major sectors of our society, condemn Americans as guilty beyond redemption. Words written in mainstream press and publishing are edited to be “woke” when instead they are words that anesthetize, mummify, and harden hearts, putting conscience to sleep.
Christian writers and those publishers who give them voice, live on the edge of redemption. What we choose to say and how we say it will define our world to come. Our words will also define our own Book of Life, to be read and judged. We are gifted, but we are accountable for those gifts.
It is the best of times and the worst of times. Much depends upon those who resurrect righteousness from the depths of the grave, those who are brave because of Christ’s promise of eternity. Much depends upon those who uncover the jewel of great price, who shine their light on the mountaintop, who follow the Holy One in rags to Golgotha. Much depends upon our collective voice as we cure our culture of ennui and sameness and celebrate each person, not branding and herding into identity groups and victimhood.
We are like the bards of old, singing alone and singing together, traveling through our pages of prophecy and penitence, much like my hermit Abram emerging from the dim caverns of Angel Mountain and stepping into the bright sun. We sing a song of goodness, truth, and beauty in perfect harmony as we listen for the music of the spheres. We tell of a love that encompasses all loves, a love that promises eternity. This promise gives us certainty. This promise gives us strength. This promise frees us to speak.
We are not afraid to enter the valley of the shadow of death. Our shepherd is with us, and we shall not want. His rod and his staff comfort us, and he prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Our cups overflow! Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, for we know we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Christian storytellers resurrect righteousness for his name’s sake. In so doing, we resurrect America, uniting not dividing.Christian writers resurrect righteousness to redeem our culture. @Chrisunderland #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.