CSFF Blog Tour – Lost Mission by Athol Dickson, Day 1

The first of two CSFF Blog Tour April features is Lost Mission by Athol Dickson (Howard Fiction). This adult novel is best characterized as literary magic realism, so it’s quite different from the usual CSFF fare. Not a bad thing.

Several particulars stand out to me when I think of this book, not the least being two significant themes. I think I’ll treat each of those separately, then do my review. Or maybe I’ll do my review sandwiched between the treatment of the themes—we’ll see what tomorrow brings. 😉

At any rate, today I want to discuss obedience. In the context of Lost Mission, obedience refers to choosing to obey God rather than Man, choosing to obey or disobey national laws, choosing to follow rule or conscience.

The most obvious situation in which obedience becomes a central issue involves key characters who disregard immigration law and travel from Mexico to the US illegally.

As if to pave the way for acceptance of this action, the book fairly early introduced the idea of borders being artificial boundaries:

The friar knew nothing of geography, but he had seen no line upon the ground, no barricade along the border. To him the animals and plants and soil had all seemed the same … Pondering the power of such an invisible difference, Alejandro wondered what drove men to call one land different from another. Even if there had been some kind of marker at the border, what did it truly signify? A bird upon the wind would pass from here to there unchanged, and whether the wind blew from south or north it did not pause at walls or fences, yet a man born on one side of a line upon a map might be forced to carry heavy burdens like an animal, while with a different accident of birth the same man might be blessed to ride a horse. Ideas, it seemed, were the most substantial thing in the universe.

Ideas, not laws? After all, borders are ultimately a result of treaties and agreements. But if they exist instead as “ideas” might not someone else have a different idea upon which he may act?

Apparently that point is one Lost Mission explores. The main character, Lupe, believes she is led by God to go to the US to preach the gospel to the pagans who glorify money and self. Her first step is to pack up and start out across the border illegally.

Later in the story one of the characters becomes a modern Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor because he sees greed and a lack of compassion and hypocrisy in church-goers. So the question develops: is it ever right to do wrong?

I couldn’t help thinking about Corrie ten Boom hiding Jews during World War II. To do this, she and her underground group falsified identity papers and stole food ration cards and lied to the authorities. Was this not the same as Rahab lying to protect the two Israelite spies in Jericho before God’s people marched into the Promised Land?

Do these kinds of things fall under the category of obeying God rather than Man? But where does “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21a) fit into this line of thinking? And what about this admonition in I Peter:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
– I Peter 2:13-14

I could say a lot more about the subject, but let me give a quick overview of my own thoughts. Scripture needs to be my guide. I have a clear mandate to submit to every human institution and Christ’s own example of doing so during the Roman empire when government was vile and corrupt. However, if these human institutions require me to do something that contradicts God’s commandments, I must disobey them in order to obey Him.

Clearly a person wishing to go to the US to preach the gospel has other options than illegal immigration. Someone confronted with greed and selfishness has other options than theft. Those, and situations like them, are not instances in which a Christian should do other than abide by the law. At least, that’s how I see it.

Check out what others on the blog tour have to say about this subject and about Lost Mission itself.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.

Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 10:12 am  Comments (11)  
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  1. Interesting comments on the tension between human and divine laws, Becky. Thanks for the food for thought.


  2. “I have a clear mandate to submit to every human institution and Christ’s own example of doing so during the Roman empire when government was vile and corrupt. However, if these human institutions require me to do something that contradicts God’s commandments, I must disobey them in order to obey Him.”

    Well said.

    And I know what the phrase means, but really there is no such thing as an accident of birth. We are birthed into the place God chooses for us. Those who have much have great opportunity to help those who have little, and they are commanded to help the poor, the stranger, the alien. But neither the rich or the poor are supposed to break the law to gain their freedom the circumstances God has put them in. The slave is to obey as Christ obeyed (1 Peter 2:13-25).

    Now the slave owner should be urged to free his slaves, I think. And Athol does right to urge us to care about poor neighbors.But Lupe was clearly sinning when she crossed the border.


  3. Thanks for the comments. God never calls Christians to sin, so when we see conflict it’s good to look into things further.

    Considering Rahab specifically, the true things she is commended for are missed by almost everybody I’ve heard discuss the issue. It was not for lying to the guards. It was specifically

    -and specifically for welcoming them in peace, by faith… and for sending the spies (Jews) off in another direction (Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25)

    We see no place where God commends her for the lie she told the guards.


  4. (edit to above) ***when we THINK we see conflict***


  5. I think that Lupe’s breaking the immigration laws is another example of the characters in the book doing what they shouldn’t, such as being prideful, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and so on. Life is complex like that; it’s hard for us to step back and see our sin.


  6. Becky–
    My second-day post reads like your first-day post in some respects, but (cross my heart!) I didn’t cheat. (laugh) This is a good discussion.

    You quoted the passage on borders. While reading the book, I read that portion two or three times. It felt a bit like an agenda, as if we readers were being instructed to disregard borders and therefore disregard rules/laws. All throughout human existence, there has been “my side, your side” — hey, my brother and I used to fight over our sides of the backseat.

    Not only are there legal boundaries between countries for practical reasons, there are boundaries between people for privacy, protection, the good of others. God Himself imposes boundaries. After all, He’s the One Who assigned land to the Twelve Tribes. It was their land. He sets a boundary on the seas, put stars in their place, establishes day and night. Boundaries are imposed, and things are put in their place. Boundaries are more than mere ideas.


  7. Athol, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Credit your thought-provoking novel for the food for thought. 😉



  8. Sally, you’ve expanded on my views so clearly. Thanks.

    Cris, you’re right about Rahab. But add in the fact that she is also never condemned or even reproved for lying. I’ve wondered before what I would do if someone else’s life depended on whether or not I lied. Or what about the days of old, when people smuggled Bibles into communist countries? Not an easy issue—sort of like David eating the bread only the priests were to eat, and Jesus justifying he action.

    Phyllis, I have to admit, I hadn’t really thought about the idea that maybe NOBODY in the book was supposed to be the “hero.” Not until today when I wrote my review and thought, Oh, maybe Athol is showing that we all, no matter what our aspirations are in need of God’s grace and it is only by His will that we walk away from the fire.

    Heh-heh-heh. Keanan, like minds! 😀 I hadn’t really thought about God setting boundaries before, but apparently even Eden had boundaries because Adam and Eve were kicked out (which presupposes they were in). And this before there was sin in the world.



  9. Those of us who live in settler societies and have studied our personal history know that this focus on borders is a recent thing. In the 1800s my grandparents grandparents just up and came to Australia from various different places. Up until the 20th century broke out in a series of rolling wars there was trade and travel everywhere with few restrictions. THe passport is a relatively new invention in human history.

    Crossing a national border does not have the same moral status as breaking one of the ten commandments.


  10. […] More. Read an excerpt Read CSFF Blog Tour articles – see complete list of links Read a review at Novel Reviews and at Tossing It Out Read […]


  11. […] in April I explored a more broad form of this question in a post discussing Lost Mission by Athol Dickson. But from time to time I’ve thought specifically about the issue of lying, […]


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