Wednesday, March 14, 2012

John B. Rosenman - Are Christian Heroes Obsolete in Fiction?

Are Christian Heroes Obsolete in Fiction?
John B. Rosenman

            Are Christian heroes obsolete in fiction?  Please note, I don’t mean heroes who are obvious, 
cross-bearing Christians or who believe deeply in the Christian faith.  I mean nonbelievers or those who 
have never even heard of Christ, who nevertheless symbolize Christ and function in fiction as Christ 
figures.  Perhaps they even get angry and scoff when told they are saviors or redeemers.  Yet in 
fascinating ways they are Christian heroes, for their lives and actions bear many similarities to Christ’s.

            This is the case with three of my novels for MuseItUp Publishing. They are Dark Wizard
Inspector of the Cross, and Dax Rigby, War Correspondent.

To keep it brief, let’s focus on Dax Rigby.  This young hero travels to Arcadia, a beautiful but disease-ridden planet nine hundred light-years from Earth.  To a casual viewer, Dax is only an attractive reporter on an investigative mission for Transworld.  Actually, though, he bears a deeper significance.  Many Christians believe that Christ is prophesized in Isaiah 53 as the “suffering servant” who “bore the sin of many” in order to save us all from our “transgressions.”  In like manner, Dax Rigby is allied to prophecy by the All-Faith Priest, Father Ben.  Trying to save Dax from the mob that wants to kill him, as another mob wanted to kill Christ, Father Ben refers to the Book of Cain.  Looking directly at Dax, he says,
“Remember the Word. The Holy Mother Universe sent her young rising son Horus to the stricken land. He was a shepherd who brought it the New Enlightenment and saved the people from the darkness of their many errors.”

            There are many such allusions in my novel that link Dax with Christ.  Besides biblical prophecy 
and his role as a savior of billions of people, Dax manifests divine qualities, including the ability to heal 
blindness and bring the dead back to life.  He courageously fights for justice and is almost martyred in 
the process. 

            Yet he doesn’t believe a word of it.  Like Turtan in one of my other novels, Inspector of the Cross, he is a flawed messiah who rejects his spiritual identity and any divine creed or mission.  Still, no other person but he can save the human race.
             What’s the point of creating such flawed and imperfect Christ figures?  Though I’m Jewish, I find Christ and his saga tremendously moving and inspiring, an indispensable ingredient in storytelling.  The figure of Christ is also archetypal, universal, and timeless.  Great, loving heroes who face overwhelming odds and struggle to redeem and save others can be found in all times and places. 
            That applies especially today, thereby answering the question I pose in the title.  Far from being obsolete, Christian heroes abound in today’s fiction, theater, television, and film.  Harry Potter in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series willingly functions as a sacrificing savior every time he defends the wizard (and Muggle) from the arch-villain Lord Voldemort.  Neo in The Matrix Trilogy is called “the One,” and ultimately he saves all humanity, suffers, dies, and rises from the dead.  As for Superman...
            I could go on and on.  In Western society, especially, the story of Christ enriches the creative process even for those of other faiths.  I think what draws and fascinates me the most in Christ’s life is something that most Christians would dispute: it is the extent to which Christ was weakened by temptation and yet managed to triumph.  Lest we forget, Christ was both human and divine, and he was indeed tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  This is a major reason why I love the movie and stage play, Jesus Christ Superstar so much.  It’s the strength to overcome doubt and despair and willingly choose to sacrifice oneself, to drink God’s metaphoric “cup of poison,” that makes Christ so great and inspiring.  If it’s too easy, if there’s no real temptation to quit, then it just doesn’t move me.
            Dax Rigby embraces this trait as well.  To quote from Isaiah again: And a little child will lead them.”  For the second time, Dax has a vision of a little child who asks, Who will speak for me?  Who will see that I am born?”  The child represents all the billions of children back on Earth, both alive and unborn, that he alone can save.  Will Dax accept the colossal responsibility of saving them?  Or will he take the easy road and walk away as before?  Though still reluctant and barely understanding the child’s significance, Dax, like Christ, rises to the challenge.  “I will save you,” he says.  “I will see that you are born.”  From then on his acceptance of his spiritual role will grow.  As for many Christians, though, being saved will prove to be a challenging, continuous, and sometimes backsliding process.
            To readers and fellow authors: examine the books you read and those you write.  Perhaps the characters and events you encounter symbolize more than what they seem.  If not Christ, then that heroine you admire so much may suggest Joan of Arc or the Earth Goddess.  Who knows, perhaps that comic adventurer was created with Don Quixote in mind.  Whatever the case, such allusions, as long as they’re consistent and not too obvious, can enrich and deepen literature and add to both the reader’s and the writer’s enjoyment.


  1. Thanks for hosting me today, Penny.


  2. My pleasure, John. You are always a welcome guest.

  3. Great article, John. As a Muse editor, I am fascinated by the versions of Christ we find in our author's works. I was unaware of John's books, but find that now I can hardly wait to order them. Great blog post!

  4. Excellent post John, and certainly food for thought. For me, The Chronicles of Narnia provided me with my first introduction to the Christlike figure. Thank you for sharing your insight.