By Christine Sunderland
Christian writers are keenly aware of time’s seasons, and today, a few days after September 11, 2016, we remember to remember the New York City attacks, fifteen years ago. In many ways, my most recent release, The Fire Trail, recalls this tragedy in time.
Time has long been a challenge to mankind. In a vain attempt to tame time, he divided it into measured units. But he was already given seasons, those climate changes. He noticed these seasons repeated, forming years. Sowing and planting and harvesting were ruled by those seasons.
The years formed man’s lifespan, moving forward, untamed, and terrible, tyrannical time continues to draw us to our end that, for Christians, propels us into eternity. We know our true end is God, and we are unafraid for Love governs our lives.
Man could not tame time but he could see the repeating patterns within years and seasons. Sunup and sundown defined day and night; the sun’s journey defined morning, afternoon, and evening; hunger defined breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Medieval monks were naturally interested in structuring time, for they were commanded by St. Paul to pray without ceasing. They divided their days into hours of prayer, ringing bells to remind. Eventually clocks were built, and clock-towers, and mini-clock faces on wrist straps with hands that pointed and moved, measuring minutes swallowing seconds.
For Christian writers, time is the background to salvation, its staging; it is the mechanism that propels our stories of life and love, just as it propels our own lives and loves. We are saved within time so that we may live forever outside of it. The seasons of life are sacred.
My recently released novel, The Fire Trail (eLectio Publishing, 2016), is set in September of 2014, the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement at Cal Berkeley. Today free speech is no longer free at most universities. Speech not deemed politically correct is labeled hate speech, subjectively defined by the listener. Speakers of such speech are publicly shamed, branded and banned, even prosecuted. Course requirements in Western Civilization – our foundation of freedom of religion, liberty and law – have been removed in the name of multiculturalism. And so, diversity has become divisive.
I set my story in September, the opening of the school year, that starting anew after summer’s rest. And yet it is the season of dying, as leaves burn orange and gold, and fall to the ground. Winter is near. Fall is a time of storing up for shortened days, those dark months when the world lies hushed, dormant… dead.
September allows for enough daylight and warmth for my two grad students in the novel to walk the Fire Trail that protects Berkeley from firestorms in the dry grassy hills beyond. At twenty-two, Jessica is in the September of her childhood, nearing its end, just as fall nears the end of the year. She must mature, become an adult, in these last years of schooling. She must prepare to leave the nest of youth and fly on her own, into the world as a responsible, educated, caring woman.
Our civilization appears to be in its September season. Can it conserve enough to survive until its spring? Can it keep the barbarians from entering the gates? And so the season of fall seemed appropriate for the fall of Western civilization, seen in the brazen threats to free speech and freedom of religion, the rise in crime and terrorism, the dumbing down of voters with image, tweets, bread and circuses.
This sacred September season also preserves the memory of the Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, which ushered in this age of terror. Like the Holocaust of World War II, the Trade Center bombings of Nine-Eleven must never be forgotten, even in these days of our national forgetting. In The Fire Trail, each character re-collects their own experiences, on that day and year in time.
All time, all history, is sacred. All seasons are sacred. As Christian writers, we re-member the past into the present, building upon history to step into the future. We pour into these sacred seasons the life and love of God. We must not forget who we are, as Christians, as Americans, as conservators of freedom for the generations to come, and the world.
Christine Sunderland has authored five award-winning novels: Pilgrimage, set in Italy, Offerings, set in France, Inheritance, set England, Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, and The Magdalene Mystery, a quest for the true Mary Magdalene and the historicity of the resurrection, set in Rome and Provence. Her sixth novel, The Fire Trail, about the collapse of Western culture, is set at UC Berkeley. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union and Project Manager for the Berkeley Center for Western Civilization. Visit Christine at www.ChristineSunderland.com.