Sunday, February 15, 2009

P. C. Wren Again

I love P. C. Wren because I love Otho Belleme. And I know that P. C. Wren poured his soul into that character. We first meet Otho as a young child in the book, Soldiers of Misfortune, and we follow him from childhood to young manhood in Soldiers of Misfortune and in the sequel, Valiant Dust. Prophetically, Otho fights against two of the greatest enemies of Christian Europe. In Soldiers of Misfortune, he fights in the boxing arena a colossal black barbarian who has been trained by a white turncoat to show the world what great soldiers the black Senegalese can be. The fight scene marks what is probably the last time a European writer presents a conflict between a black and a white as a conflict between two spiritually antithetical forces, with the white man representing the forces of good and the black man representing the forces of evil. Otho is aware of the metaphysical nature of the fight.
Still, one might take heart from that, and hope to distress and bother him again, even to the point of administering the coup de grâce... and perhaps this M’bongu, while a marvel at fighting a winning fight, might not be so good in a losing one? There might be more lion-like élan than bull-dog tenacity in his make-up... possibly “more teeth and claws than guts,” as Joe would say.

Yes, there was a hope that though an English gentleman’s strength and insensibility might be inferior to those of a Negro, his spirit might be superior...
Yes, Otho and the men of Rourke’s Drift knew how to fight barbarism.

In Valiant Dust, Otho must fight the Muslims. And he fights them without becoming like unto them. Nothing, not the desert, the Arabs, nor the black Sengalese can change or alter the innate chivalry of the English Otho Belleme.

Wren is an amazing man. It was extraordinary when Scott picked up the gauntlet and charged through the early 19th century like a medieval knight-errant, but to champion chivalry in the 20th century, as Wren does, is miraculous.

All heresies stemming from Christianity seek to replace the incarnational apologetics—in which the Divine reaches out to man through his humanity, and man gets to the Divine through His humanity—with corporate systems-analysis apologetics. In corporate systems-analysis apologetics, man reaches the divine through a superior system of reasoning. The great value of an author like Wren or Scott is that they put us back on course. We get to God through man. And if we see a character in a novel striving for the heroic, and if that striving strikes a chord in our own hearts, well, then we feel connected to Him. We do not feel connected to Him if we read a corporate spreadsheet, put out by a theologian, which tells us the universe is being run by a CEO named God. +