*Originally Posted by Frog Jones
OK, OK. This wasn’t originally an indie book; when The Second Coming was first released in 2004, it was released by Baen, which isn’t onanyone’s list of what is and is not indie. I take a lot of flak from some people simply for putting books up here that are done by small presses; I’m sure that having this up there is simply going to enrage some of you.
It’s an indie book now, though. Sky Warrior, my go-to small press, has obtained the rights from Dalmas and are doing their own release, complete with new cover art and everything. Furthermore, Sky Warrior is going to do something Baen didn’t: release the rest of the series.
It’s shaky, I know, but I really want to talk about this book, and so I’m using my ninja lawyer skills to work this one in. It’s still got some New York stench on it, but it’s now indie press. So there. No need for comments or e-mails telling me I’m cheesing this one a little bit; I’m already aware.
OK, having gotten that awkward preface out of the way, I’m now going to say something even more controversial:
John Dalmas’ book is not a religious text. But it should be.
Dalmas’ work focuses on the character of Ngunda Aran, a half-Malawi half-New-Zealander who writes newspaper columns and puts forward his own philosophies. Aran is the leader of the Millenium Group, a group of people on a mountaintop in Colorado. The title of the book tells you what else Aran may be, though he does not simply profess himself to the public as Christ.
Instead, Aran puts forward a lot of Christ’s way of life. He also talks about the Tao, an originally Chinese concept. Aran’s belief system is one of kindness and forgiveness, of turning the other cheek and of truly loving everyone and everything around him. While he does not speak much on who is and is not the Son of God, he makes a profound statement on what it is to be a good person. To Aran, being good is far more important than why one is being good.
Now, Aran may be the central character of the book, but most of The Second Coming deals not directly with Aran, but rather with the public reaction to Aran. Given that he does not talk about Christ being the only path to salvation, the majority of organized Christian religions see him as a heretic (the parallels here to the first time Christ kicked around this dirt ball are pretty profound). While Aran is espousing what it is to be good, organized religion believes the most important thing iswhy one tries to be good, not whether or not one actually manages to. Organized religion, in this book, relies on the Word of the Bible (and some religious theories they simply generate themselves), to tell us that Aran is evil.
Meanwhile, the secular response to Aran is just as misguided. Instead of looking at what Aran is teaching, secularists look at Aran and see yet another cult leader. How he is teaching, to them, is more important than what.
Thus, Aran is panned from every angle, by just about every facet of society.
The really, truly fascinating thing about Dalmas’ work is this: It rings true. Assuming the existence of Christ, and the basic accuracy of the Gospels, Dalmas’ predictions about what would happen should Christ actually return to walk this earth are breathtakingly accurate. We live in a culture today where “Judge not, that you not be judged” has turned into “God hates Fags.” “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” has turned into “salvation is easy.“
But the dichotomy most addressed by Dalmas is this passage, again from Matthew 7:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
Aran, in Dalmas’ books, cares only about producing good fruit. The Christian religion, points out Dalmas, has become vastly concerned with a good appearance. Talking about God has replaced listening to God; literal interpretations of arcane bits of scripture have replaced the feeling of love, kindness, and tolerance that (again, assuming the existence of Christ) He taught about.
And so the religions of the world rise up and denounce someone who is acting an awful lot like Christ did when he came to earth.
Not everyone in the world, mind you; Dalmas does not attempt any tautologies. But he does present a rather stunning indictment of how far from the teachings of Christ Christianity has gotten.
Whether or not you are a person of faith, this is a worthwhile read. It forces a person to contemplate the nature of faith, and to really drive at the heart of all religion and philosophy: what does it meanto be good?
So, Dalmas has created a work of fiction. This is not a religious text, and it doesn’t purport to be. But it should be. If you’re an agnostic like me, it helps to be reminded that Christ himself actually had some pretty good ideas. If you’re a Christian, then I think it will help you to look at your beliefs, and make sure you haven’t been deceived by one of them false prophets Jesus talked about.
I felt like I was a better person for having read this book, and that’s something of an accomplishment.
It helps that it was engaging and entertaining as hell, too.