|Pastor Jason Faircloth
(creator: Randall Arthur)
|Jason L Faircloth was the dynamic founding pastor of a booming church where he was known as The General, and was possibly "the toughest pastor in Atlanta .... His light brown hair was clipped in a crewcut. His five-foot-eleven form was hard and hefty, presenting a steel-man image" even in moments of relaxation. His wife always submitted "unequivocally to her husband's authority", as did everyone else.
In his decided view, "Christians should not attend public movies; should not engage in mixed swimming; should never be found dancing or playing cards; should without exception shun alcohol and tobacco; and should avoid rock music like the plague. The men should never allow their hair to grow over their ears, the women should never wear slacks, and mothers should never work outside the home." He spoke, he knew, for God. But, in the course of this story, he is soon to find himself challenging all his previous certainties and assumptions about the role of a preacher and what it means to be a Christian.
He appears again in the author's other novels (Jordan's Crossing, 1993, Brotherhood of Betrayal, 2003,that had originally been published in 1999 under the title Betrayal, and the self-published Forgotten Road, 2012, although he does no detective work in these later stories, so they are not reviewed here.
Randall Arthur (dates?) was born in Atlanta. He converted at the age of 12, and "surrendered his life to be a preacher and missionary at 15". He went on to serve as a missionary pastor in Europe for twenty-two years. With his wife, Sherri, he founded and organized churches in Oslo, Munich, and Berlin. However, as his understanding developed, he began to reject his earlier strict "we know it all" American Christian legalist approach, a process he vividly describes in his first novel Wisdom Hunter (reviewed below). But when he presented a copy of it to the president of his mission agency for which he had worked for 17 years, he was fired that very same evening, and 85% of the churches that had supported him broke away in disgust. The author had "always known that the book would be controversial" but believes that "its message was worth the pain of losing my job and most of my income".
He has lived in Georgia since 1998, recruiting, training, and leading short-term mission teams that assist churches in Western Europe. He and his wife have three children. Also see the review of his second novel, Jordan's Crossing.
Wisdom Hunter (1991)
Unfortunately the basic plot of his long drawn-out search, during which he narrowly misses finding his granddaughter on several occasions, stretches credibility, and the action sequences, and some of his characters, such as the glamorous Norwegian girl Corinna Nykvist, are not too convincing either. Of more interest are the questions raised: "Why couldn't God speak audibly just this once, and offer an explanation or a word of comfort?"; had he himself really been "a heartless, legalistic, know-it-all dictator?"; how could preachers assume that they "alone knew the absolute mind of God on every issue?". Or were they just being “proud, presumptuous, pathetic little jackasses"?
Jason's own conclusion in his "Wisdom Book" that he is gradually building up is that "I must “open my mind and let the world be my classroom. So that I don't swing to the other extreme and become a philosophical anarchist, I'll let the Bible, objectively interpreted, be the filter that governs what I soak up in my quest the true wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and insight." But unfortunately he does not explain exactly what he means by "objectively interpreted"! However, he goes on, " Instead of blindly believing, we must honestly question every so-called Christian teaching. We must do it to weed out the irrelevant and wasteful man-made teachings from that which truly has eternal value." But for him there is still no doubt that "the Bible is the preserved word of God, irrefutable and trustworthy."
In some ways, he still seems slightly naive and some of the dialogue does not flow at all easily, as when he tells Corinna that he has been cheated out of "carnal pleasures" and comes to the conclusion that "She was Irresistible. And it was not only because of her extraordinary looks, keen mind, and magnetic personality, though all these were surely true enough. She had supremely manifested a good heart as welland that clinched it for him. I'm in love, he thought, nearly gasping." But then she too disappears.
Amongst the places where he searches for his granddaughter is the island of Cyprus which, he blithely explains, “was a relatively small island. It would only be a matter of enquiry at all the hotels until he located her." This is unlikely enough but then he gets arrested as a drug runner and has to make a dramatic if distinctly improbable escape.
Having given up on his granddaughter, he ends up searching for Corinna in Oslo in Norway (!) where he is welcomed to a very diverse English-speaking International Community Church that is led by a holy old man who shows a love and concern for him that brings him a new understanding of what religion should really be about. This old man, Maung Maung, is perhaps a little good too good to be true. He has his own stilted way of speaking as when he tells Jason, "When God showed Maung Maung the truth, Maung Maung fell down before God with an idolatrous heart and wept.Two days later, when Maung Maung got off his face, he became a new follower of Jesus God." But then he also comes out with sophisticated statements like, "Christian growth is the lifetime process of personally discovering what is inherently valuable, and what is not." Could it be the same person speaking? The author says so.
After two and a half years, Jason himself becomes the next leader of this church and spends the next ten years here before, aged 58, returning for a couple of years to America where he happens to bump into his long-lost granddaughter, and fails to recognise her until she sorts everrthing out - and, of course, gets "born again". It may be rather a clumsily told story, but it is brought alive by the author's deep involvement with, and concern for, the real religious issues that he wrote the book to raise.
|It is not too easy to see what the cover means.|