Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kingdom Lost

For Christmas, a friend of mine graciously sent me a copy of Kingdom Lost, a new novel by Cultwatch's Mark Vrankovich. (Thanks again!!!) Cultwatch is a New Zealand counter-cult apologetics ministry providing information on a wide variety of cults, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc., which also has done quite a bit of investigation into the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Some might say the NAR is not technically a "cult" because its churches and leaders by and large publicly affirm essential Christian beliefs (barely - see my last post), but as Cultwatch and others have observed, tends to use coersion tactics more commonly used by full-blown cults, as I witnessed first hand in my former church.

Kingdom Lost is, in literary terms, a "dystopian" novel in the same vein as George Orwell's 1984 or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Or, one might argue, like the first gazillion volumes of the Left Behind series, though millennialism of any sort is markedly absent from Vrankovich's version of the future. While Kingdom Lost won't join the ranks of great literature like 1984 or Brave New World (in a purely literary sense-I don't totally agree with either Orwell's or Huxley's base philosophies) and I would argue is not meant to, Vrankovich does an excellent job using fiction to teach about the dangers of the NAR in an entertaining, compelling fashion.

The novel is mostly written from the perspective of Max Churchill, a "level four" CitInt (intelligence) agent for GKing, who at the beginning of the story we find leading one of the most successful cell groups in his church cluster in a race for KPoints, in order to gain a promotion to cluster leader and keep his nemesis, the universally hated, vengeful and controlling Viktor, from doing the same. Churchill seems destined to become an "hundred folder," someone who lives in relative luxury rather than in the communal dorm-style "palaces," and eats real food every day (instead of synthetic meat); already, at 24, he has a restored Jaguar, has just been allowed to date one of the most eligible single women in his cluster (who happens to be an elders' daughter) and is well on his way toward fulfilling his "destiny" of "blessing," prestige and power in God's Kingdom. However, with the accidental discovery of an illegal artifact - a "Lie Card" - one of the forbidden electronic apologetics tracts dropped on GKing by a former "apostle" revealing the "why and how" of GKing, Max's life is turned upside down. Driven first by mere curiosity, then by the growing realization that the Lie Card may actually be telling the truth, Max reads it and slowly realizes that his race with Viktor is a distraction, he's not really in love with the desirable Candy but is instead falling in love with the "loser" Kimmy, GKing isn't God's Kingdom at all but rather a pyramid scheme, and most importantly, that he wasn't really a Christian as he had been led to believe his entire life. In at first reluctantly assisting the "rebellious" Kimmy to plan her escape, he concludes that he has no choice himself but to leave GKing, never knowing that time is running out for him to make this decision since he is already being secretly investigated by a bounty-hunting Level Six CitInt agent intent on getting him sent to the mysterious Building 65 merely for looking at Kimmy ten seconds too long at their first meeting on the palace lunch line.

Vrankovich wisely avoids the extreme pro- and con- positions regarding the NAR. The NAR believes itself to be the government underpinning the Second Apostolic Age that will usher in the greatest revival in history, completing the Apostolic Mandate and bringing Christ back. Many NAR opponents believe that the NAR may be the movement that will usher in the anti-Christ. Vrankovich steers a middle course... in his fictional world set in 2046, the NAR leadership once based in the US are ruling GKing as a small theocracy (really oligarchy) on the northern tip of New Zealand. Thanks to a Soviet-style state press, its inhabitants, the "Cits" innocently believe that the rest of the world is in ruins, but that they are blessed to be in God's Kingdom on this small beachhead as led by God's "set man," The Apostle. In reality, the rest of the world, including the US, have long ago discredited the NAR movement and life has gone on, much like today. In the larger world picture, GKing is presented as similar to countries like North Korea, Cuba, or Saddam Hussein's Iraq - vilified and isolated, under limited embargo, monitored by the UN but allowed to exist despite the fact that it is on invaded territory taken over from a still-sovereign New Zealand. GKing "cits" are regaled by thrilling news reports of the Second US Civil War pitting the "bad" Democrats against the "good" Republicans, but Churchill soon realizes that these news reports are being acted out by GKing actors and life in the US has continued, in relative prosperity under constitutional law and the same two-party structure as today. This smaller-scale dystopia set in an otherwise "normal" world - similar to The Truman Show - allows Vrankovich to paint a chilling picture of what might happen if the NAR continues its present course without inviting charges of (millennial) extremism. In short, Vrankovich sticks with Biblical essentials so there is much here that Christians of all theological backgrounds can agree with.

One of the most difficult literary tasks Vrankovich deals with here is incorporating the contents of the Lie Card's apologetics into the story. In many ways, this is similar to Ayn Rand's decision to lay out her philosophy through John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged (which itself is a similar communtarian dystopia, even though Rand's cultish objectivist medicine is philosophically as bad if not worse than the disease), though Vrankovich does a much better job incorporating the Lie Card's contents in small chunks throughout the story. We find first Max, and then Max and Kimmy, escaping to his workshop/garage to read the Lie Card over a several week period, helping to further incorporate the contents of the Lie Card into the plot which more and more centers on how it changes Max's perspective of his life in GKing. One can totally skip Galt's speech without losing track of Atlas Shrugged's plot, while it's less possible to do so in Kingdom Lost. However, Vrankovich also includes an index to the Lie Card's contents in the back of the book, for those readers who don't have the patience to read a few pages of apologetics at a time, or for those who later want to go back and use it as a reference.

Don't want to spend the money for a "thought reform specialist", but can't get your loved one to visit - much less believe - websites revealing the truth about their church? Send a copy of Kingdom Lost to your friends and family who you suspect may be caught in a controlling NAR church. Order an anonymous copy for your pastor, or even former pastor. It may well be the best $17 (US; $24.95 NZD) you've ever spent.


Post a Comment

<< Home