Book Review:Joshua and the City (Part 2)
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This brings us to the next major failing of the book: The character of Joshua. In an attempt to make him a “Christ-like character”, Girzone spends too much time trying to make him “Christ-like” and not enough on making him a “Character”. In the end, he fails at both tasks. Joshua is a remarkably bland character, whose only noticeable traits are being soft-spoken and talking in cheesy platitudes. The real Christ was able to command the attention of thousands when he spoke. Joshua wouldn’t be the center of attention in a phone booth. Girzone often tells us of his charm over people - mostly because it’s convenient to the plot– but we never see it in the words he gives Joshua to say.
But Girzone doesn’t seem to understand his creation. We are lead to believe the Joshua is Jesus Christ–He never comes out and says it — and in fact, at one point, He goes to great lengths to avoid saying it (while going to similar lengths to avoid denying it). Nevertheless, the hints are a subtle as a sledgehammer. So, if He’s Jesus Christ, how did He get to be in the present time Now, there are two basic possibilities: either He was born or He just appeared. Now, this might have been dealt with in one of the earlier books in the series, (I doubt it, and I’m certainly not going to waste time reading any of them to find out) but it doesn’t matter. Either way, the story doesn’t work. OK, so let’s assume the Joshua was born, presumably via a virgin birth to a woman who has an immaculate conception. Then He has a second mother — One that Joshua would be a close to as Jesus was to Mary. Yet, Joshua seems to ignore this mother while he deifies Mary. In one section, he talks about how much one particular painting of the Madonna looked like her. Later in the book, one character uses this painting, and it’s resemblance to Joshua, to postulate that Joshua must be Jesus, as Jesus would have 100% of Mary’s DNA, and therefore would look exactly like her. But, if Joshua/Jesus were 100% Mary’s DNA, where did he get his Y-Chromosome But then, does it surprise anyone that an author, as bad as construction/finance as Girzone has been shown to be, is equally bad at Biology also (Soon, we get to the part where he’s bad at the law as well). I suspect that we are to assume the Joshua just appeared. But, if God were to find it acceptable for an adult human to just appear on Earth, then we must conclude that Jesus Christ is a fraud - He was born.
For Joshua to be made a real character, we’d have to try to imagine ourselves as God-made-man, not merely a follower of him. First, we must separate in our minds, Jesus Christ the man, from the Son Of God, because the God remains, but the body has been replaced. Girzone never does this. Joshua deifies Jesus, but never actually becomes him. Joshua is more Jesus’s Right-Hand Man - a person whose job is to make the Boss look good, but is never the Boss. Joshua seems to be here to remind us of Jesus’s teaching, but not to continue them. If we are to believe that they are the same person, this makes Joshua rather like a middle-aged loser, constantly reminding people of his success as a high-school football star.
One of the most troubling aspects of the book is Fr. Girzone’s treatment of various groups in the book. I don’t want to call it racist, which would be far too strong of a word, but there is a definite sense of class distinction. One of the first people Joshua helped is a white teenage hooker named Charlene. Joshua arranges for her to be taken in by a rich couple, who accept her as their daughter, and arrange for her to go to a good school. Next, Joshua meets Gordon & Elijah, who he teaches how to reupholster a sofa, whereupon they start a business. So, it seems that it’s OK for white people to have a comfy life handled to them, while black people are expected to work for it. Later, Joshua breaks up a cult of devil worships. Left with the followers in this cult - who, it is pointed out– are of all races, Joshua arranges for them to taken in by a single mother in this inner-city community. Now, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the rich couple take them in as well They could better afford it. I was also a bit confused by Gordon & Elijah’s business - only a few weeks after it was started, they was bidding on Government contracts — which I thought was a bit odd for a company run to two teenagers. So, I checked back – we are never told their ages, but when we first meet them, they are playing basketball in a group “in their twenties and thirties”. So why did I think these 20+ year old men were teenagers? Possibly because Girzone constantly refers to them as “the boys”. Then we have the AIDS patient & Elijah, whose deaths are said to be opportunities to reunite with lost friends, and met God. Jesus cures lepers and raised Lazarus, but Joshua seems to think some people are better of death.
Other examples: twice he mentions that some people aren’t meant for college. Both times, it was in reference to people from the inner-city. But, apparently not to the white teenaged runaway hooker, who, as we’ve noted is off to a good school.