August 24, 2008

Slice of PIE: “By Schism Rent Asunder” – Giving Credit Where Credit is Due and Stuff That Bugs Me About David Weber’s “Off Armageddon Reef”

In an interview with, David Weber says that if I read “Off Armageddon Reef” as an anti-religion book, it “would be a mistake”. My question is, “How so?” (This is hardly a vehement denial, I notice.) I think it IS anti-religion. I offer my arguments below:

He says that his beef is with “any ideology or belief structure [created] to manipulate, control and coerce. In the case of Safehold, it's religion; it could have been communism, fascism or any other brand of authoritarianism or totalitarianism.” The other question I have is: WHY didn’t he use communism, fascism or any other brand…? Herbert (DUNE) and Cherryh (THE FADED SUN) took on organized religion in effective and memorable ways. For Weber, fascism might have been amusing – consumerism perhaps even more so (care to argue the point that consumerism isn't totalitarian? =)

My answers: Bashing Christianity is popular and nicely acceptable by most people who read SF. Creating the Church of God Awaiting is a cash-generating way to get back at the Church for whatever perceived or actual wrongs it has committed and have Publishers Weekly proclaim it “Engrossing…”

But the REAL thing that set me off on Weber’s book is the non-attribution of the second and third books in the trilogy: “By Schism Rent Asunder” and “By Heresies Distressed”. Those who are familiar with old Christian hymns recognize these lines as coming from verse three of the 1866 hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation” by Samuel John Stone. On GOOGLE, the hymn that the titles were taken from is not mentioned until the 50th entry. Has he made an assumption here that "orgainized religio"us people won't read his books? I’d paged through the new “Schism” in a B&N, but I checked today to make sure: nowhere in “Schism” does Dave Weber acknowledge that he lifted the titles from a Christian hymn, whose FIRST line is “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”.

I would suggest that this use without attribution in books whose premise is anti-religious is disingenuous at best. A simple note at the beginning or in the indicia would have helped me back away from making the “mistake” of reading Dave Weber’s books as attacks on the Christian Church (By the way, I don’t believe he’s attacking “organized religion” as he claims. These books are full of saints, angels, organ music, hymn singing, and priests – there’s not a Buddhist, Hindu or Shinto tradition in the lot. So what other organized religion is being held up for critical scrutiny here?)

Last of all, on page 251 (Tor paperback), Weber states, through the “compassionate, caring” voice of Bishop Maikel: “…that to truly know God, they must find him in themselves and the daily lives they live.” This confirms in the mind of readers that TRUE religion is all about us finding god in ourselves. That’s the gospel that Dave Weber is clearly preaching in his massive trilogy. Oddly enough, the Bible was ready for this because Paul wrote to one of his disciples in 2 Timothy 3:5 (CEV): “Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. Don't have anything to do with such people."

As I am not Muslim, Shinto, Buddhist, Hindu or Jew, I cannot speak with authority for them. I can speak with a bit more authority for Christianity. While books have been written reflecting Christian thought on religion, contemporary Christianity is STILL all about God coming down to Earth and saving me. No amount of striving on my part will get me to heaven – that’s what God did simply because He loved the people of Earth so much.

And THAT about sums it up for me.

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