A common theme in many of my stories is how the main character causes his or her own undoing, whether through greed, pride or another of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins. (Fun fact: Though all seven are discouraged in various places in the Bible, they don’t appear under a single list anywhere in Scripture.) In Radiance, I suggest the future implosion of the Christian church results from its own neglect.
If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you know I’m a confessing Christian. What the faith is supposed to stand for is near and dear to my heart. So it would be the easiest thing in the world to write a book in which the virtuous church of the future is threatened by, and is victorious over, an evil outside force. That is indeed part of what happens in Radiance. But even in the earliest drafts of the manuscript—in fact, as far back as the short stories that inspired it—I wanted to call out where I believed the Christian church was falling short and how that might play out over time.
It worries me that the church is shifting away from servanthood and embracing the pursuit of power, especially political power. That’s been painfully evident in the politics of the last few decades, and especially in the last several years. Much of Christianity has turned its back on loving God and loving our neighbors, or carrying for the poor and hungry and homeless and imprisoned, and taken on an angry mantle of condemnation—all while playing the martyr, decrying the “loss” of this right or that privilege or a fading tradition.
And so people reject the Gospel—not because they don’t recognize the love of God, but because so many believers refuse to show it to them.
Radiance takes this troubling trend and looks at what it does to the church decades from now. In the book, Christians have given up trying to influence the world. Instead, they turn their backs on it—the polar opposite of what Jesus did. And it nearly costs them everything.
In the end, the Christians in Radiance face their failures, repent and begin a new chapter. But it’s a near thing, a very near thing. I’m hoping and praying that the real church, the one of the 2020s, will face its shortcomings far sooner.