Sunday, December 30, 2012


I'm trying to pare down the amount of stuff in my house lately. A few days ago, I found a copy of "Angelwalk" that I bought twenty-four years ago.

Written by Roger Elwood, "Angelwalk" is probably one of the angriest books I've ever read. It tells the story of Darien, an angel who considered Lucifer a friend before the war in heaven, and who now is exploring the world of men to see what Lucifer has been doing since his departure. When he finishes his journey, if Darien concludes that God was wrong, then the war will be over and God will allow Satan and all the fallen angels to return.

It's certainly an unusual setup, and I've got to give Elwood points for creativity in the concept. Still, if you thought the next 189 pages would deal with symptoms of humanity's brokenness, like our petty-mindedness, our indifference to the suffering of others, our sometimes open lust for power, or even some big sins like the exploitation of illegal immigrants, or human trafficking, you'd be mistaken.

"Angelwalk" was written for an evangelical or fundamentalist readership, and as such it is preoccupied with issues that offend those readers. Thus we're treated to a narration of an abortion from the perspective of one being aborted; we attend a funeral for a gay man and get to overhear attendees discussing having an orgy and possibly involving the corpse, and so on. (Elwood is vague on whether this scene occurs in Sodom or in San Francisco.)

There's no sense of moderation here, not even an aside that this particularly abhorrent sort of behavior is extremely deviant. There are two groups of people Darien encounters in his travels: the utterly depraved, and evangelical Christians.

This sort of strident, circle-the-wagons sort of thinking, which views those outside the evangelical church as abhorrent and a threat to decent church-going sorts, is outrageous. I'd like to think Elwood didn't mean for the book to be taken seriously -- but given the content of later books in this series, and the warm reception I recall this book getting in the late 1980s, it's safe to say that he did.

Because it deals with angels and demons, and the effects of sin on our world, "Angelwalk" when it was published regularly was compared to C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" as a book about spiritual warfare. If only that comparison were warranted.

Lewis' book, which purports to be a series of letters from a devil to a junior tempter on how to lead a man away from faith in Christ, is at times witty and thought-provoking, and always thoroughly original. The difficulties faced by the unnamed human in the book are common enough to the human race, and easily related to.

"Angelwalk" pretends to raise questions about God's justice and mercy, but the examples of sin the book presents are so extreme that its answers are meaningless; and the book is so full of anger that there's nothing to think about, nothing to remember, nothing to savor or comment on.

Ultimately, the book is rather like a hellhouse, that horrifying evangelical alternative to Halloween. If you're inclined to agree with the message of "Angelwalk," then you'll like it. If you don't, you're probably going to be revolted, feel a little sick after reading it, and never want to talk again to whoever convinced you it was a good idea to try it in the first place.

Copyright © 2012 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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