A Fictional Question of Faith: Iron Druid Review

I came across a really interesting statement on the status of religion in Western culture the other day, from what may be

Book cover of Hounded

Hounded, book one of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

an unexpected source – the urban fantasy novel Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

Don’t scoff. There is no better barometer of a culture than its fiction. Fiction is where authors are most free to write the truth because they can safely put it in someone else’s mouth. (However, as Salmon Rushdie can attest, sometimes even that isn’t very safe.)

Hounded is exactly the sort of fiction I enjoy reading. A clever premise, sharp writing, and a seamless mash-up of other incongruous elements make this book and the others in the series a delightful mental escape from a less-than-magical reality. The pure entertainment value of a 2,000-year-old Druid in Phoenix, Arizona who retains vampires as his lawyers and shares a universal disdain for Thor (because Thor is a jerk) cannot be overstated. What I find more intriguing, though, is how through Atticus O’Sullivan, Hearne gives us an extremely long view of Christian faith.

“Most old souls I know think the attraction of modernity rests on clever ideas like indoor plumbing and sunglasses,” Atticus says. “But for me, the true attraction of America is that it’s practically godless.”

In the Iron Druid universe, the power of the world’s pantheons of gods and goddesses comes from faith. If faith in a particular deity falls out of fashion, so does that deity’s ability to affect change in the physical world. Atticus cites Jesus as a prime example of how lack of faith, or lack of a unified faith, works.

“The Christians have such muddled ideas of (Jesus) that he usually can’t take shape beyond the crucifix form, and that isn’t much fun, so he rarely bothers. Mary will appear more often, though and she can do some pretty awesome stuff if she feels like it,” Atticus explains.

As much as I delight in Hearne’s clever writing, that paragraph breaks my heart.

Why can’t we agree on who Jesus is? A simple sounding question. Not so simple to answer. But again, it’s in the fiction. We, as self-called Christians, don’t all believe in the same Jesus because to believe in the real Jesus is to surrender power. It’s painful to believe in a Jesus who calls us to serve the poor, remember the imprisoned, take care of widows and orphans. We’d much rather leave him up there on the cross, denying the miraculous power of resurrection and the immense debt he paid off for us through his sacrifice. We deny his power in our individual lives, and thus in the world at large, through our unwillingness to let go of everything he’s given us – everything that has always been his from the start.

So, instead of Jesus as Aslan, “not tame, but good”, we give the world “weeping Jesus on the cross”, an impotent image if there ever was one.

Shame on us.

Here is my challenge to you today. Reclaim your faith. Give your worries big and small to God, and watch as he responds to your faith with answers you never expected.