1. J. S. Bailey says:

    I don’t know if you’ve read The 13th Tribe or not, but I have to say that it is the best novel I have read in years. There may be a tribe of ancient, immortal human beings (who have no supernatural powers other than the fact that they were cursed with immortality), but the focus of the whole story is on people’s dreams, struggles, and transformations. Jagger Baird, the protagonist, is trying to come to terms with the fact that he lost not only his arm in an auto accident, but his friend’s entire family. He is angry with God, who seems to have let that tragedy occur.
    Likewise, the Tribe members seek to win God’s approval by killing sinners. They want to finally be able to die and they can’t figure out why they’re still alive. After all, aren’t they doing God’s work?
    I pray that you don’t consider the elements of The 13th Tribe as an “evil” trope. It was beautifully written and full of heart, and I look forward to reading The Judgment Stone!

    • Thanks for your comment (and mini-review!).

      The book does sound interesting, and that’s why I made sure to include this reminder:

      Note that I’m not critiquing these novels. With few exceptions, I’ve not read them.

      Here I’m addressing what evangelical reader demand/preference seems to be driving the more magic-object-oriented sorts of stories. It does seem odd that a story that is primarily driven by characters’ struggles would be marketing by a Mushim as its title. However, it doesn’t sound like The 13th Tribe qualifies as a Mushim-driven Quest.

      • J. S. Bailey says:

        I do appreciate the disclaimer. 🙂
        The 13th Tribe is far from a “Mushim-driven quest.” However, I can’t say that about The Judgment Stone since I have not yet read it.

    • Galadriel says:

      My concern with The Thirteenth Tribe was that we didn’t see the emotional and mental effect of immortality on the characters–especially the kids. Were they sick of being seven, twelve for ever? But maybe that’s another trope…

      • J. S. Bailey says:

        I recall it being mentioned that since the children (and everyone else) had ceased to mature mentally as well as physically, the children didn’t seem to be fully aware that they were really that old.

  2. Aaron DeMott says:

    This reminds me of the Veggie Tales “Minnesota Cuke” episodes (and, of course, Indiana Jones…)
    To quote Bob the Tomato: “No, no, it’s not the hairbrush that gave Samson his strength, it was God!”

  3. bad_cook says:

    I had to laugh, because “mushi” (strictly the “moo-shi” pronunciation) is Japanese for “bug,” and I first ran across it in an anime called “Mushi-Shi,” where the word is used to describe Shinto-type spirits of incorporeal life. (It’s a good, well-drawn anime, by the way, though slow-moving and very Zen.)

  4. Bainespal says:

    Don’t be so fast to dismiss magical or spiritually important objects from storytelling.  There must be mythic precedent for it.  Certainly, the classic fantasies use magic objects.  The One Ring is only the most obvious example from Tolkien; the sword Narsil/Andúril clearly qualifies.
    Now, I do agree that there is a problem with the approach implied from the description of The Judgment Stone (not having read it).  To me, by far the worst part of that description is the “blue threads of light that signal the presence of believers in communion with God.”  Even in a totally made up fantasy universe without explicit religion, a magic system based on “blue threads of light” would be unbearably cheesy.  When applied to real-world Christian spirituality, it crosses the line from potentially endearing campy-cheesy to creepy-cheesy.

    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.

    If you’re going to imply that Catholics aren’t Christians, you had better explain why Evangelical SF fans are so fond of Tolkien the Catholic.  Idolatry was never right, not when Catholics were doing it before the Reformation, not today in any kind of church.  But the desire to make idols of relics must come from a corruption of a holy desire.  Humans really do have a deep sense of reverence and spiritually significance, and assigning that significance to special objects can be an excellent storytelling technique when used well.

    • If you’re going to imply that Catholics aren’t Christians, you had better explain why Evangelical SF fans are so fond of Tolkien the Catholic.

      Not my intent.

      It’s the worship, not finding or even enjoyment of relics, that is the problem, just as you said. (See also icons, music, anything else used for worship and for idolatry.)

      As for the blue rays, it does sound cheesy, but I haven’t read the book.

      All I can say for sure is that those blue rays better also be available in DVD. Hey-oh.

      • Bainespal says:

        Oh, I’m sorry to have come across as accusatory.  You’re right, the Reformation did help all Western Christianity become aware of some of the problems of idolatry and corruption, including the Catholic Church.  I took your comment out of context.  There is no question that the Reformation was very good for the spiritual health of Catholicism.

  5. Kaci says:

    I have the urge to defend Bob and several other authors listed here…

  6. D.M. Dutcher says:

    Good criticism. I wasn’t all that aware at how prevalent this trope was.

    I think it’s symptomatic of the larger argument of “safe” magic. To make magic safe for use in a real-world setting, it has to be tied to the Bible. You can’t really search for Lemuria, but you can the Garden of Eden. You can’t search for a philosopher’s stone, but you can for say the Urim and Thummin. You can’t have immortal elves, but immortals through Biblical means are okay. 

    So you have the Mushi. It’s a safe form of shorthand. You aren’t going to risk alienating people even if you make a justifications about how magical beings could exist in a world where the Christian God does too, and how redemption and salvation affect them too. There’s always the potential in that to get tarred with a theological mistake, or accused of whitewashing sin. So slap on the Mushi, and it’s good.

    • Mark Carver says:

      In our modern world of cloud computing, online everything, synchronized devices, etc., knowledge is less and less confined by matter (i.e., you don’t need to travel to some obscure archive to find a mythical tome that holds the key to an ancient mystery, because that tome is now on Google Books or Project Gutenberg, accessible anywhere), and that’s just no fun. The whole point of a quest is going somewhere that has what you’re looking for – searching for the matter/object/thing that holds the knowledge/power/secret.
      In the old days,  an actual book was as valuable as the contents it contained, and it could just as easily be a stone, statue, shroud, etc. Not so anymore, but as D.M. pointed out, Christians have to play it safe with magic. This trope preserves the “quest” archetype in a modern setting and hopefully doesn’t offend the Christian market (obviously it doesn’t with Thomas Nelson showing up in this discussion). Personally, I’m not very interested in stories like these because it seems that the author is trying to fit an already-overused trope into a Christian mold. I’m sure there are plenty of good stories in this vein, but it’s hard to look past the impression of “how can we Christianize something that works well in the secular world?”

What do you think?