Interview with author Monte Wolverton ...Return to order page
In a totalitarian, post-apocalyptic future where religion is forbidden, a band of concentration-camp escapees treks through a lawless wilderness on a quest for authentic Christianity, only to come face-to-face with an unthinkable dilemma.
Question: Why did you write The Remnant?
A few years ago I was discussing dystopian settings with a friend — a post-apocalyptic world where Christ hadn't returned. I started playing around with some concepts. What if there were no religion—no institutional Christianity and no Bibles? Would suppressed Christ-followers try to connect with each other? What forms would this black-market Christendom take? And how would political power react? Does Christ need institutions? Or do institutions ultimately corrupt Christianity? I wanted to give readers a context for considering these questions.
Question: The Remnant doesn't seem to be typical Christian Fiction. Why?
Well, I'd rather not have this lumped in with the Christian fiction genre. I suppose it's technically Christian fiction, but I wanted it to reach a broader readership. Regular readers don't want to be slobbered on with lots of syrupy religious language. I personally find that off-putting. Christians would get more traction in the world if we made an effort to be—normal. As C.S. Lewis once said, "The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature."
Question: Your protagonist, Grant Cochrin, is not exactly a strong hero. At times he has trouble making decisions, and he puts his family in danger for the sake of his own quest. Why didn't you make him a stronger figure?
If you think he's less than heroic now, you should have seen him in early drafts of the book. He's an average guy obsessed with a faith-based idea. Is it a calling from God or is it just Grant's obsession? You decide. I think too many stories feature clear cut heroes and villains. Entertaining, sometimes inspiring, but not real life. In real life, most of us navigate our way through a fog of complex issues with no easy answers. Grant, his family and friends are doing exactly that.
Question: The Wilderness in your book is a dangerous place. Why would Grant Cochrin and his friends want to leave the relative safety and security of their work camp, when they can practice Christianity there?
We might ask the same question about the American pioneers, who endured incredible hardships and dangers to travel west for the possibility of a better life. These people had a toughness that is quickly disappearing in our comfort and luxury-driven culture. This pioneer spirit is what drives the Cochrins and their friends to set out across a lawless Wilderness to find something better and freer.
Question: The Christian groups of the future in your book resemble many we have today—charismatic, liturgical, health/wealth and prophetic. Are these intended to be parodies of today's Christian traditions?
Hey—they are similar, aren't they? Actually, these are worship styles that people have gravitated to since pre-Christian times. Some can even work as respectable Christian traditions, or they can mutate into monstrous dysfunctions. Essentially, The Remnant is a journey through a maze of spiritual dysfunction. It's set in a dystopian future, but we have the same thing today—the more things change the more they stay the same. Wherever and whenever humans are, there is dysfunction.
Question: Are you suggesting that such traditions are not authentically Christian?
No, I'm not. They are all part of the church. Even in the New Testament we begin to see a multiplicity of worshiping communities and leaders, and a variety of practices. But when these differences obscure and complicate the simple message of Christ (the gospel), then we have a problem. Even so, such groups are still parts of the universal Christian church, but their practices may not be authentically Christian. The wheat and tares grow together—the wheat of genuine faith in Christ and the tares of religious aberrations.
Question: The Muslim and Buddhist characters in The Remnant seem to be more sensible than some of the Christians. Is there a reason for that?
I poke gentle fun at these particular Muslims, dropping to the floor to pray at the most inopportune times, because they believe God is a stickler for punctuality. Aside from being enmeshed in a hyper-legalistic theology (like much of Christendom), Muslims can be quite gracious. Christians can learn a few things from Buddhists as well.
Question: World President Mehdi Kazdaghli is an interesting character. But he's not the stereotype of a totalitarian dictator. He seems almost sincere. What did you have in mind here?
Historical dictators are pictures of evil and megalomania, strutting and spouting hate-filled rhetoric while exterminating their enemies. We still have a few of those around, but the effective dictator of the future will be smarter and smoother than that. He or she will charm, speak eloquently, form coalitions and carefully market his agenda. The public won't know what hit them. Kazdaghli is one of these—a brilliant, educated philosopher and a shrewd politician. He believes himself to be Christian and to have the best interests of humanity at heart. But like all humans, he's unaware of his own true motives. In his case it's power and political ambition, just as the Roman Emperor Constantine used the church to further his own agenda.
Question: The end of your book leaves some questions unresolved.
I thought long a hard about how it should end. But I finally decided not to tie everything up into a neat little package, because I wanted readers to consider what they would do in similar circumstances. Frankly, I'm not sure what I would do.
Question: Why will readers like The Remnant?
It's a great adventure—an epic road trip. You can follow along on a map as the characters make their way across the country. If you go to any of the cities they visit, you can see where the action takes place. You can actually walk down the same streets and visit the same buildings, although it's 115 years in the future so some things have changed. I also think the characters are memorable. I sort of miss them since I finished the book.
Question: Why should people read The Remnant—and what would you like to see them take away?
I'd hope readers would come away feeling a new freedom to question religious institutions and organizations—which can be useful or counterproductive, healthy or toxic. In any case, institutions come and go, while a personal relationship with Christ is forever. I'd like readers to be entertained, to have a few laughs and to be inspired and confident of how Jesus remains with us no matter how dysfunctional we are.
Monte Wolverton is an award-winning author and syndicated editorial cartoonist. He is associate editor of CWR magazine. He is an ordained minister and holds a MA from Goddard College in Vermont. Along with his wife Kaye, he makes his home in southwest Washington State.
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