Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Spiritual Heroism

SM Stirling, Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998).

My admiration for Father Gomez is unstinting. Here is a man who seamlessly blends his spiritual and social commitments. Pastor Deubel had persuaded twenty people to try to burn down Nantucket. The Pastor and two of his congregation have committed suicide. What should the Town Meeting do with the remaining eighteen? It is distasteful to hang them and too expensive to imprison them.

Solution: exile them for at least a year to gather salt on Inagua, where their staple diet will be flamingo. See image. A ship will collect salt and leave supplies once a month. How will it be known whether or when the convicted arsonists are safe to rejoin civilized society? Father Gomez will go with them, leaving his Catholic parish in the care of Father Connor! Gomez will try to reason with the prisoners and will at least be able to judge whether they have changed their thinking.

But imagine spending a year or more in exile with eighteen people like that! They will probably reject Gomez's Catholic ministry so he will be without coreligionists for the entire period of his voluntary exile. I imagine that Poul Anderson's Wodenite Jerusalem Catholic priest, Father Axor, would be capable of making a similar commitment. I would do it maybe if the Town Meeting asked/delegated me to. After all, gathering salt and watching the prisoners are important tasks and there would be plenty of time for meditation on an island in the Bahamas.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

As you said, Fr. Gomez's offer to share the arsonists term of exile to at least judge if it would be safe for them to return to Nantucket was indeed brave and admirable of him.

I would not expect most of the arsonists to care beans about Fr. Gomez's Catholic faith--unless recent events had shaken belief in Deubel's rigid form of Protestantism in some.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
To be blunt about it, since these guys followed Pastor Deubel's views, I'd worry that they might try to revive the Wars of Religion by murdering Father Gomez. Were I a member of the Meeting, I would NOT be amenable to risking a good man's life for the sake of such people.

What's the most significant difference between Deubel's followers and Islamic extremists? Little more than the NAME they give to God and the precise form of rituals they use. Their complicity in an attempt to destroy the town shows that, as it would almost certainly have cost the lives of many of the townsfolk, deprived of shelter and of any equipment and supplies also destroyed.

Note that I am myself Protestant, though largely non-practicing these days. I'm sure there are some Catholics who are just as crazy as Deubel's group.

"A PERSON is smart. PEOPLE are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it!" -- *Men In Black*

Paul Shackley said...

Yes, I think that Gomez would need 2 armed guards but he would still have the job of trying to minister to the nut boys.

S.M. Stirling said...

What's the most significant difference between Deubel's followers and Islamic extremists?

-- well, for starters they were raised 20th-century Americans; and even more important, they're now totally demoralized because the man they followed off the edge of the cliff a) lost, and b) left them in the lurch when he committed suicide (a mortal sin).

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Thank you for your recent comments. I know that a professional writer will not have as much time as the rest of us for this kind of correspondence. Mike Carey (British fantasy author) had to ask me to stop messaging him on facebook!
In Evangelical Christianity, someone who has once been saved can never be lost. If he sins, he will be punished but not by damnation, maybe just by being made to suffer guilt. Thus, even suicide or genocide are not "mortal sins," in the sense of meriting damnation. Unfortunately, vile beliefs continue to exist in every part of modern society.
Deubel's congregation are like Heinlein's "Angels of the Lord," consigned to Coventry. Some of them will probably elect a new Pastor. Others, hopefully, will begin to see some sense. They might learn at least to discuss theology with Father Gomez instead of clinging to their own dogmas.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Interesting comments by you, Paul, and Mr. Stirling! An embarassment of riches!

David: you raised what a think is a valid point, the possible danger to Fr. Gomez if any of Deubel's followers remained fanatical.

Paul: yes, one or two trustworthy men accompanying Fr. Gomez, as a just in case measure, would have been a good idea.

Mr. Stirling: yes, even fundamentalist "evangelical" Protestant Americans, by being raised in American and being after all STILL Christians, simply would not have the same world view as Muslims raised in the Koran and Sharia law. And, yes, Deubel's failure and then suicide would have crushed practically all of his followers. Islam simply does not regard suicide the same way Catholics and many Protestants do. No such thing as Christian suicide bombers, for one thing!


Anonymous said...

Kaor, Sean!

It is my understanding that Islam, like Christianity, condemns suicide, calling it an unforgivable sin. Then what about Muslim suicide bombers? Islam does approve of martyrdom, including dying in battle for Islam. There have traditionally been ghazis who fought at the fore with no regard for the risk of being killed, but they did not actively commit suicide. As the scholar of Islamic civilization, Bernard Lewis, has written, the Muslim who not only wages jihad, but straps on a belt of explosives and sets them off, is staking his soil on a very fine theological point.

Caveat: I am not a first-hand expert on Muslim doctrine or practice.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Anonymous said...

That should be "staking his soul," of course.