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ANGELS HELPING THE SUBURB?
ROGER ELWOOD'S WHERE ANGELS DARE
Roger Elwood. 1999. Where Angels Dare. Angel Walk Series. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
1. SUPERNATURAL THRILLER WITH HELP FROM ANGELS
The publisher of Where Angels Dare calls it a work of fiction, a supernatural thriller. "Supernatural" must be inherently thrilling for naturals like us, but, then, in modern parlance, a thriller is defined (in Webster's Third International) as "a work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense." And the "supernatural" is defined as "departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature."
When the supernatural is combined with the thriller, we get something that is extra-ordinary, dangerously closer to myth or mythology. Since Christian literature must be distinct from mythology for it to be distinct from the literatures of other religions, Christian creative authors are called upon to be especially cautious in dealing with supernatural subjects.
2. MYTHOLOGY AND SUPERNATURAL THRILLER
Roger Elwood succeeds in this attempt, but skeptics, tempered by "scientific" thinking, may still raise the question, Could this have not been accomplished in a different way without the active and deliberate participation of angels? Fortunately, the angels in this story are more or less observers of the evil going on around them, and they discuss it with insight that helps us to understand the spiritual realm.
3. ANGELS - HELPFUL PARTICIPANTS IN GOD'S WORK
Of all the helpful participants in the transforming ministry of Jesus among us, angels have been singled out for special treatment in the recent past, and producing books on them have become a great industry. References to them in spiritual works and TV episodes have become quite popular. With so much interest generated among people, both Christian and non-Christian, about the ministry of angels, it became necessary for servants of God like the Rev. Billy Graham, to write about angels in order to dispel the undue importance given to them and the irrelevant dependence on them in the life of the faithful.
4. THE ANGEL AND ANGELS: THE ROLES OF ANGELS
The Angel, the Angel of God, or the Angel of the Lord are names which are believed to refer to Christ Himself, whereas angels form a separate set. Angels are spiritual beings, and were created before human beings (Job 38:7). They serve God, support Him, praise Him, and glorify Him. They serve as the messengers of God. They bring the message of encouragement to the believers from God. They are ministering spirits. They neither marry nor are they given in marriage. Their knowledge is not omniscient (Matthew 24:36). The Apostle Paul writes that the saints "will judge angels." Humans are better placed in some definite sense, because we have been given the teaching of the Gospel … "sent from heaven-things into which angels long to look" (1 Peter 1:12).
5. WHERE EAGLES DARE: NATIVE AMERICAN TRAGEDY
Elwood narrates a story of not-so-subtle angelic participation in the lives of people, including the contemporary modern Native American society, in this novel. It is largely a sad story for any reader who has some sense of history and abundant love for the Native Americans. What the Native American gambling sites do to the Native Americans as well as the majority White community around the reservations and the gambling sites, is poignantly brought out in the narrative. When people consider gambling sites "to be the answer to so many urban ills," the angel Darien sees it as a deep spiritual issue designed deliberately to keep the idol worship and demonic enslavement of the Native American alive forever. The evil consequence is real upon this earth as it is in heaven. "What happens when truth hits the Indians involved in gambling? The truth that white men benefit enormously, especially certain big corporations, and that the Indians are only pawns in this scheme for ever greater profits?" (p. 42).
6. MODERN FORBIDDEN FRUITS
Atlantic City is the initial setting for the story. Bret Erlandson could have become a politician, actor, or some other professional that "would put him on display before the public." He chose to lead a "nondescript but happy and fulfilling life style." Soon he finds himself in battle against the gambling sites in Atlantic City. As the Lord told the angel Darien, "Yet the demonic interests can do little against this man because if he dies from gunshot or knife would or being run down by a car, the public will rise up in protest. So, they can do little against him. He is their greatest enemy, yet they cannot remove him. Instead they must concentrate on other people, defusing his arguments, building up the credibility of their own outlook, and trying to make Bret Erlandson look as though he does not know what he is talking about" (p. 11).
After he lost everything in gambling, Swift Lightning shot his wife and two children as they entered his trailer, and then killed himself too. Darien the angel sees, "The Indian thirst for gambling revenues is but one more indication of the spiritually lost nature of the people who are largely without Christ. 'They already wallow in naked pantheism. Their rate of alcoholism is higher than the national average. Their value system is completely ashambles. Why add yet another avenue of deterioration?'"
7. THE CROWN OF SIN: LAS VEGAS
The story goes back to Las Vegas, where the casinos beckon people, "Come in, and let us destroy you" (p. 51). Las Vegas is transformed into a family town, where parents and their children come and have their fun. Of course, the major attraction is the enormous, bright light casinos. They are led to assume that they are not part of the vice, they just visit for fun, are very careful with their money, and return home to their own security. A very clever idea developed and promoted by people like Vincent DiCosolo, a Mafia Don. The Sin City is being transformed into Fun City. In his private life, Vincent DiColoso was not only a man who thirsted for money but also an embodiment of all vices, child pornography, supplier of women, associated with homosexual societies, etc., etc.
8. THE CONFRONTATION: BOTTOMLESS PIT OF GAMBLING
There is confrontation between Bret Erlandson and Vincent DiColoso in New Jersey. Atlantic City was reborn as the great city of gambling, and Vincent DiColoso was supported in this effort by the public officials, and misguided citizenry. They wanted a revival of the businesses hoping that the gambling would bring in wealth. In reality, people went to see the gambling site, went back and kept going, to lose everything they had. What little money people gained in their property values was taken away in property taxes, and other expenses. Bret Erlandson felt defeated out and out. Soon unable to make ends meet with his income, Bret resigns his job and starts his own accounting firm. Vincent DiColoso plots to send all his mafia friends to the accounting firm of Bret Erlandson, so that in the garb of being clients, they would be able to lure Bret into much deeper involvement in the moneymaking business. Vincent DiColoso declares, "I'm gonna own that guy mind, body, and soul."
9. A STRATEGIC RETREAT?
Bret realizes that the influence of Vincent DiColoso would be everywhere in the City, and that it is good for him and his family to move out to a place where he would be able to pursue his profession unhindered by evil men like Vincent DiColoso. The family moves out to Colorado Springs with the trust and peace that comes only from the Lord.
10. SOCIAL EVILS, INVIDUAL RETREAT, AND ANGELIC HELP
Towards the end of the story, we start questioning the wisdom of the decision made by Bret Erlandson and his wife, Molly. The decision was difficult to make, leaving behind their home and the environment and the people they knew well for a long time. It sounds as if it was an escapist decision, rather than confronting the evil around them. It also sounds similar to the suburbia phenomenon of the American Church.
There is a glowing reference to the growing Christian community in Colorado Springs, subtly suggesting that it would be better for Christians to live together as a community and doing business together, rather than living among non-Christians and with evil forces around them. A question arises in our mind as to how those people who live in sin will be saved and the institutions they support will be destroyed if every Christian chooses to live away from the Egypt and Samaria of our days. Individuals wish to keep themselves away from sin, and sinners, and this desire cannot be decried. We should not stand in the path of the sinners nor should we sit in the seat of the scornful, but delight in the law of the Lord.
The fiction begins with a great concern for the social issues that war against Christian values, but ends up showing a sort of solution for the individuals. Individuals must separate themselves from sin to live a sanctified life. Is this sanctified life to be lived only among those who are already sanctified and constitute a deliberate and exclusive community?
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Roger Elwood. 1999. Where Angels Dare. Angel Walk Series. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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