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Exit Music, Ian Rankin.
John Rebus is retiring! Say it isn't so. As usual a great tale with several threads that wind - and unwind - as the book unfolds.
However, given the sensitivity that Rankin has previously shown about racism, sexism, patriotism and class issues, I was a bit startled to see a ham fisted, clumsy use of a religious stereotype at the end of the book. (Pages 374-77)
If Rankin had actually done any serious research - hell, if he had even actually talked with one average Evangelical Christian - he would not have used:
But then there are different types of Christians ... and I'd say you tend towards the Old Testament variety -- eye for an eye and all that.
(John Rebus speaking to Todd Goodyear, pages 374f.)
Rankin has already developed enough motivations for Goodyear's actions. This is totally unnecessary to the plot and uses a slanderous stereotype.
If Rankin had bothered to check it out, I'm sure he would have found that 99.9% of all Christians - even, perhaps, especially - the more conservative and evangelical ones like Goodyear is represented as being would have said:
Everything that happens in this life - even evil and injustice - is, in some mysterious way, all part of God's plan.
Everything that happens in this life - especially evil and injustice - will be judged and punished by God in the life to come. And the innocent will be redeemed and rewarded by God.
The duty of every Christian in this life is to practice forgiveness toward those who have committed wrong doing, and to witness to everyone about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
In other words, a better ending - and in my humble opinion, one truer to the character - would have been:
You had me fooled Goodyear. I thought you were one of those of Christians who forgive their enemies and leave it to God to sort out bad debts. But you couldn't live that way.
Rankin mis-uses and mis-represents Christian faith in a way that is not worthy of his previous writing.
However, what is even more troubling is Rankin's reference to the Old Testament. Where has the man been since the Second World War? Has he been deaf, dumb, and blind to the painful recognition that it is precisely this type of false stereotyping of the Old Testament - i.e. Jews - that has legitimated centuries of Jewish persecution?
And just to add insult to injury is Rankin's use of "an eye for an eye" as motivation for murder. What the actual Bible verses say is:
(22) If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. (23) And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, (24) Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, (25) Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
(Exodus 21:22-25, King James Version)
This passage actually teaches AGAINST the type of revenge seeking that Rankin uses it for.
That is, it teaches that responses to wrong doing are to be tempered - the punishment is to fit the crime - and not simply be whatever the strong, or the underhanded, can exact on the weak and unsuspecting. This principle is one of the bed rocks of our justice system, and has been used in many situations to reform the justice system itself.
The Mosaic code (i.e., the legal codes given by Moses in the Old Testament) has been one of the most profoundly civilizing influences in our history. Instead of tyrannical rule by the strongest bully, we have the bullies being held to account to the eternal judgment of God as expressed through the law.
This moderating and civilizing influence of the Old Testament has been perversely stereotyped as being "legalistic" and "vengeful." And that stereotype has been used to legitimize the bitter and bloody history of Europe and the United Kingdom's persecution of Jews.
If Rankin had bothered to ask, I'm sure he would have found that 100% of Jews would have been appalled at his blithe repetition of this false stereotype.
It's a shame that such a great book ends with such a facile and false step.
David Ewart, January, 2008