Friday, March 13, 2015

Terry Pratchett, R.I.P.

Terry Prachett's prolific and brilliant satirical fantasy works are a collection worth admiring by any standard.  With respect to a Christian worldview, it is worth noting that his relationship to "the gods" and religion in general is, shall we say, thorny, ranging from well-intentioned and well-deserved lampooning of the more absurd aspects of organized religion and superstition to rather less well-intentioned, indeed distinctly ill-meant, pointed zingers, and an easily discernible undertone of suspicion toward any sort of religious belief.

That said, a number of his "Discworld" books are nevertheless beautifully wrought pillars of Christian worldview. In particular, I'd like to recommend Going Postal, which is a beautifully plotted, adorably hilarious farce depicting a strong and glorious story of redemption.  Moist Lipwig, a ne'er-do-well thief and con-man, is literally given a second life by the distinctly non-supernatural and yet nearly god-like ruler of Ankh Morpork, and hilarity and much uplifting of character follows.  The second book about Moist (Making Money) is not nearly so good as a book, and includes some potentially problematic content; if you want to revisit Moist, I recommend re-reading Going Postal; I do, regularly.  The farcical pace and sparkling characterizations are sharp enough to justify many return journeys.

The "Commander Vimes" novels are also sometimes gorgeous exemplars of Christian worldview.  Vimes is all too aware of the root of evil within himself, his own capacity to give in to hatred and violence, and he struggles heroically--in every sense, both superficial and very deep--against that temptation, to do always the next right thing.  My two "go-to" Vimes novels are Night Watch and Thud.  Others have more frequent intrusions of uncomfortable content, but these two show Vimes at his "do the right thing" best, and, like Going Postal, are also Pratchett at his tight-plotted, razor-witted best. 

Because of the brilliance of the satire and the delightful humor, the entire collection is worth exploring, for those with well-formed consciences who can take the religious satire for what it's worth without absorbing the cynicism.  In general, I wouldn't recommend them for pre-teens for that reason, despite their appeal (pre-teens do not have formal operational cognitive abilities yet, and therefore are not going to be able to parse the satirical elements constructively).  For parents whose teens are reading the novels, I do recommend reading them together and helping to process that cynicism in constructive ways, rather than allowing it to be simply absorbed unquestioned and contribute to the volcanically shifting groundwork of relativism our culture is constantly attempting to lay beneath our feet. 

Rest in peace, Sir Terry.  I thank you for so generously sharing your great, great gift to the world, your sense of humor; and I pray that that very gift ultimately allowed you, when you finally met our Lord, to embrace Him as I know He would wish to embrace you.