Ted Dekker: When America Is No Longer Free
By Ann Vande Zande
CBN.com When kingdoms clash, seemingly inconsequential ideological differences are brought to the surface where they can be recognized for the powerful forces of change and control they’ve always been. Even under the disguise of civility or reason, somebody or something ends up crushed, contorted, or completely lost. Such differences are at work in America today, with many of us unaware of how aggressively truth is being touted as a threat to peace.
New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker takes on this battle in his recent release, Sinner. While Dekker regulars will thoroughly enjoy stepping back into the lives of Darcy, Billy, and Johnny, the political and spiritual implications of passivity will stir up even the most comfortable reader. Additionally, Dekker manages to weave in personal responsibility and the impact of the choices we make daily; whether for good or evil. I admit that I lost a little sleep after reading the book, but with prayer and after interviewing Dekker, I’m hopeful.
I’ve come to expect the unexpected when reading your work. Even so, Sinner surprised me. I’m especially taken by your big picture implications for the future of America. While there’s some fantasy fiction involved, the loss of freedom of speech and with it freedom of religion seems entirely plausible. Care to comment?
The Paradise Books, Sinner, Saint, and Showdown, are all about the tact evil takes to ruin all that is good, sweeping good versus evil stuff. In crafting Sinner, I wanted that battle to take the form of an ideological battle rather than the more visceral kind I’ve penned before. It struck me that the simplest way for darkness to overcome the light would be to deceive society into thinking of the light as evil. What was once considered good about Christianity would be interpreted by both the society and the courts as malicious, intolerant, and generally evil.
While Sinner is primarily the story of three people’s journey as they navigate a catastrophic challenge to their faith, that journey is taken through the landscape of sweeping legal reform. Having failed to advance evil using more blatant strategies, Marsuvees Black, personification of pure evil, takes a far more subtle but effective tact. That tact looks eerily similar to the slippery slope that our country’s legal system is on today.
While referring to an expanded interpretation of hate laws, in Sinner, Johnny states, “What few Christians realize is that you can’t follow Jesus without actually following his teachings─none of which include denying him in silence.” Later he adds, “. . . any public support for the narrow teachings of Jesus will likely be deemed by the courts as a personal attack on other religions.” Are you saying that a true follower of Jesus will speak of his/her faith regardless of the consequences? How would that impact our culture?
Well, no, I’m not saying that. Johnny said that. Others might disagree. The events in the story challenge us to consider our own convictions as the day in which freedom of speech as it relates to religion, race, sexual orientation et al. is severely restricted. Some hate crimes, while they might seem good on the surface, are built upon the basic presupposition that causing offense should be criminal. Slandering another person’s faith by claiming that your own faith is superior, for example, could easily be likened to slandering another person’s skin color by claiming yours is superior. If one should be disallowed than both should be disallowed.
Claiming that Jesus is the only way, would be a hate crime under this scenario. Sinner brings this to life the way only fiction can.
Is this another wake-up call? Are American Christians selfishly slumbering away our freedom to share the gospel of peace? How can we change?
I never write my stories as a wake-up call as such. I simply explore the kinds of situations that I find personally challenging by placing characters into situations that challenge them in similar ways. Having said that, the erosion of freedom as it relates to speech is advancing far more rapidly than most imagine. One of these days the walls will begin to crumble and we’ll stand around blinking, wondering what happened. The way to change now is to waken to the fact that 1) freedom is a gift, and 2) there is a thief intent upon stealing that gift.
It would appear from this book and others I’ve read that America is on the verge of embracing a few ideological shifts that will dramatically shape and limit our future. Is it too late or can we as individuals make a difference in the future of America, and therefore our freedom, to bring others into the light of Jesus Christ?
The ideological shift that is now sweeping through America is largely an underground movement, embraced by tens of millions of youth both in and out of the church. While the older generation is content to sit around and critique culture, that culture is moving beyond them. At some point the traditional church and all of the expressions of that church will become essentially irrelevant.
Take CBN, for example. I’m thrilled that you’re taking the time to review books like Sinner, written for the emerging culture more than those comfortable with stained-glass religion. If other organizations like CBN don’t place considerable emphasis on those who will shape policy a decade from now, they will pass as culture shifts. We must speak the truth now, and we must speak it in a language that tomorrow’s leaders hear.
Billy and Darcy face not only the ways they’ve been deceived but the choices they’ve made that have contributed to evil. You seem to indicate that even huge issues for our country boil down to individual choices for right over wrong. Do you have anything to add that would encourage people who desire to live out integrity and love?
Although much of Sinner takes place in Washington and on a national stage, it’s an intensely personal story about understanding who we are as individuals. After all, leaders and shapers are first of all just people, following certain passions. Their public persona is mostly an image that has been shaped for some gain. Sinner explores the struggles of Billy, Darcy, and Kat, three normal people who prove to incredibly extraordinary, possessing fantastic gifts.
Like all of my fictions, Sinner is a mirror. Look into it and you will find yourself. What you do with what you see is your choice.
Of all the characters, some from your previous work and some new, Kat stands out; primarily because of how you express “first love” through her. What can those of us who have been believers a long time get from this character’s passionate love for Jesus?
Well, it’s difficult to have an exhilarating ride along the journey of faith without fully exploring the mind-blowing experiences that surround the discovery of Jesus. Following the path of Kat, our young Satanist who learns a thing or two about herself when she meets Johnny, was one of the most emotional parts of the story for me. But then, nothing ever can quite compare to being rescued, can it? Remembering our own rescue means that we must first appreciate the pit from which we were rescued. Then, fully awakened to the horrors of that pit, we can rejoice in the rescuer who paid such a price to redeem our freedom.
What impact do you hope Sinner will have on the Christian community and readers in general?
If readers, young and old, would take even a moment to reflect on our rapidly shifting culture and ideology, I would be happy. Many leaders of the older generation dismiss emerging culture. Those leaders are at risk of becoming a feeble voice-piece without followers. Most of the younger generation is going deaf to the truth. Too few are speaking the truth in their language.
If Sinner has a wake up call, it’s to both generations.
To the older: Speak the truth to the shapers of tomorrow in their language. To the younger: Listen to those who speak the truth.
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