In 2015, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) officials improperly shutdown three Christian Clubs, including the Christian Engedi Club at Correia Middle School. Eventually, the misguided officials were compelled to reinstate two clubs but, revealing the totalitarian nature of modern educators, they refused to let the Engedi Club operate unless it removed the words “Christian” from its name and “Jesus Christ” from its purpose statement.
Into real-life events like these comes “Through Fear and Trembling” by David Ross and Robert Alan Ward, a novel that captures the Anti-Christian zeitgeist of our times.
The story is carried forward by everyday characters to whom we can easily relate. The Reverend Brandon Mills is a devoted young pastor struggling to live out his faith in a culture that is growing more hostile by the day. His wise and able wife, Lisa, accompanies him on their journey. Teachers in the local high school include Alexander Joldersma, an old-school curmudgeon who still believes in teaching history, and Samantha Buckman, a progressive operative who grades papers based on the degree to which student work conforms to what is socially acceptable.
My favorite figure is Philip Ransford, a timid soul with a propensity to compromise and capitulate. It’s not that he’s a bad guy. In fact, I see myself in him and he’s probably like many of us these days who don’t quite know how to deal with new and varied forms of coercion being directed against our beliefs. We want to go along and get along, but deep inside we know this won’t end well.
Through these characters, Ross and Ward don’t flinch from presenting a pure version of the Christian gospel, which is refreshing compared to faith-based entertainment that sometimes offers subdued and politically correct pictures of Christianity. In addition, the authors’ thoughtful quotes and biblical excerpts remind us that Christians have, since Peter offended the authorities in his day, endured suffering and martyrdom.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of the tale is that, while it ostensibly presents us with a glimpse into the future, its events resemble the gathering storm taking place in the United States right now. Like the students of the Engedi Club, who, fortunately (but through much opposition), won the right to keep their name and purpose statement … or like the bakers and photographers who are being forced to participate in gay weddings … or like David Coppage who was fired from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory because he dissented from Darwinian orthodoxy. Examples of progressive tyranny surround us.
Events develop in such a way that believers in the Midwestern town of Green Valley have to make some tough decisions between obeying civil authorities or obeying God. What should they do? In his struggle, Brandon Mills responds: “In matters of a civil nature, yes. But not when we are commanded to do something that clearly violates scripture…”
In their entertaining and slightly eerie tale, Ross and Ward remind believers that we must work out our salvation “Through Fear and Trembling.”