Is Robert Liparulo the latest novelist to emphasize an Old-Testament-style MacGuffin?1 His latest release, The Judgment Stone, is now in the Speculative Faith library, and the Thomas Nelson release’s back cover describes its titular object like this:
[T]he ruthless group of immortals called the Clan […] is after a prize that would give them unimaginable power — a piece of the Ten Commandments known as the Judgment Stone.
Those who touch the Stone can see into the spiritual world: angelic warriors, treacherous demons, and the blue threads of light that signal the presence of believers in communion with God.
By following the blue beam radiating from those closest to God, the Clan plans to locate His most passionate followers and destroy them.
Just now I noticed that this sort of thing often occurs in Christian speculative fiction, especially novels from mainstream publishers. Yet it’s hard to categorize this trope other than with something like my term above, OT MacGuffin. Surely there’s a Jewish-sounding name to serve as shorthand, so once again all those seemingly dull Biblical genealogies come to our rescue. Voila, we have a potential name, from 1 Chronicles 6:19: the Mushi.
Mush·i (mŭsh`ē, moosh`ē)
1. Proper name. A great-grandson of Levi described in 1 Chronicles 6:19.
2. A trope of Christian fiction, generally an object the novel holds as referenced in the Bible but which turns out to have Surprising Supernatural Powers for plot purposes and Quests and significant Battles Between Saints and Villains. (Very common in evangelical end-times and spiritual-warfare novels.)
- Book of Days: The titular object, supposedly lost in Oregon, records all the world’s history as written by God. As a Mushi, though, it’s quite underplayed in the story.
- The Chair: This titular object was supposedly built by Christ the carpenter.
- The Cheveis Trilogy: Messes with convention by making the Mushi the Bible itself.
- [Every end-times novel ever written, more or less, by a popular Christian teacher known primarily for prophecy-oriented radio broadcasts]: bland heroes who question God’s existence are convinced when World Events confirm Ancient Texts.
- The Face of God: By collecting two valuable jewels originally found in the priest’s breastplate as described in Leviticus, you should be able to see the titular Face.
- [Most novels themed around the Nephilim]: Heroes seek old race of demon/human immortals dating back to Noah’s days. (For similar groups of Biblical-era immortal humans/creatures, see the Jerusalem’s Undead series or The Immortal Files series.)
- Rift in Time: Hero easily finds Noah’s Ark in opening chapters, then pursues a certain other Ark. In the sequel, Hidden in Time, he ups the ante for the Garden of Eden.
- The Sending: The Garden of Eden is the subject of another hero’s quest.
Note that I’m not critiquing these novels. With few exceptions, I’ve not read them. 2 But the prevalence of these OT-based magic objects, Mushim, makes me curious. Why so many? I thought we had a whole Reformation over, in part, Church veneration of supposed magic relics. I thought Christians didn’t get into that whole relic-worship practice.
Perhaps I’m being naïve. Professing Christians still have a craving for relics, from the Ark of Noah that keeps getting “found” to the Shroud of Turin claims, to “Bible codes” and Old-Testament prophecies that skipped their original readers to “apply” directly to Americans.
Evidently readers get bored with the Story of Scripture and prefer chasing its props.
Instead of the titles The Bible or The Gospel — i.e., God’s Spell, His transforming and even enchanting Story — its title in effect becomes Nephilim or Magic Ark/Prophecy/Shroud.
Why condemn this trope as evil? Its sin may be worse: being utterly joyless and boring.
And it may lead to (I say this in general) sillier stories based on relics, not relationships.
Aren’t people more interesting, with their dreams, struggles, and transformations? Isn’t a magical “Biblical” Mushi far duller even than the Mushi from 1 Chronicles 6:19?
- Here I consider this distinct from the usual-suspect MacGuffins found in fantasy universes, officially known now as Magicuffins, such as swords of destiny, bewitched crowns, lost maps, etc. ↩
- And I’ve read 75 percent of all end-times novels ever written because I’ve read the whole Left Behind series. ↩