Time for the weak points ofMags Storey's If Only You Knew. I'll start with a theological matter that's a bit involved but that explains some quirks elsewhere.
Q & A? No way! One of the annoying features of the Gathering is that it has a question-and-answer format. This is a bad idea on several levels. For one thing, honest questions can generally be better addressed one on one or using a Web site. Doing it in public will lead to grandstanding and arguments. This is not how evangelism is done.
Worse yet, at one point they set up debates on topics such as abortion. Again, ill-conceived on several levels. Someone is going to wind up trying to defend something evil, and he'll probably be a new believer. It won't end well.
Let's look at an example involving abortion. The pro-life side was lazy, just assuming that everyone knew abortion was wrong. Now, it's true we should be able to explain why we believe what we believe. But the actions of the pro-abortion side were inexcusable:
The girl who was arguing the other side was a really quiet girl named Ronnie. She had done a lot of research. I mean a lot. She had even visited an abortion clinic and done interviews. She had looked up all types of Bible verses, including one in Ecclesiastes where Solomon says that no human being knows when an unborn baby gets a soul, and one in Exodus that says the punishment for killing a person is not the same as killing an unborn baby. Ronnie talked very slowly and very quietly, and you could tell people were listening. When she started talking about showing compassion to girls who had been raped, one of the other girls started to cry. (p. 68)
She later says that she doesn't believe that abortion's right, but “I think some issues are more complicated than some people want to believe sometimes.” (p. 68)
Let's consider this a bit.
1. Ronnie defends an action she considers wrong just to show that it's more complex than people think. But it's still wrong, and she's still defending it. And she's doing so before impressionable new believers and unbelievers.
2. Despite wanting to show people the complexity of the issue, she resorts to bad reasoning. The Bible passages given (Eccl 11:5 and Ex 21:22-25) do not say what the speaker (and by extension the author) claim. The verse in Ecclesiastes is a variant interpretation, and not a likely one; neither would it greatly affect the debate were it accurate. The passage in Exodus is irrelevant because it does not say that the baby dies, only that the mother gives birth prematurely, and even if the baby does die, (1) life for life is demanded or (2) one could argue that the death was unintentional and the case is like that in Num 35:22-25, only with a different procedure.
So we can see why debating such things is a very bad idea. But this attitude of doing evil that good may come of it and presenting complexity (even if spurious) does explain something about the book as a whole.
All Jerks, All the Time! I have to admit, I don't like the characters, except perhaps Kat. She's actually likable, and by an amazing coincidence, she doesn't appear to be a Christian. Everyone else is a jerk, and most of them have some kind of Danish prince complex as well. They got angst in their pants, and they wanna pose and brood and occasionally scream a lot. I found myself wondering how quite so many inmates managed to escape the asylum, but the Abortion Debate enlightened me: this is yet another case of showing complexity.
Now, it's true that Everyone Has Problems, and teens frequently haven't got a grip on the "quiet" part of leading lives of quiet desperation. This still strikes me as overblown. And it does bother me that the Christians seem to be more obnoxious than the unsaved. I sometimes think that's true, and if so, it likely involves the pressure of going against the flow. But I also generally leave the Evil Christian meme to the secular writers.
And where does this attempt at balance get us? As a Christian, I was sufficiently annoyed that I wouldn't have bothered finishing this had it not been assigned reading, so to speak. But if I had been unsaved, while I might have revelled in seeing the Christians portrayed as losers, when I reached the place where they inevitably started to play nice and take their meds, I'd probably have dropped it unfinished anyway.
Conclusion. The ending is good, and there are some good points made in the last several pages. But the first 80% of the story is troubling. If you're aware of the issues, you may find the story "mostly harmless." As for me, I will hope that the writer turns her considerable talents--for she is an excellent writer--to better stories in the future.
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1 year ago