Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why Waste Time on Amelia Bristow?

I've spent a good deal of time recounting the stories in Amelia Bristow's first three books, conversionary novels all (plus some bonus short stories for good measure). Why do I spend my time this way? Why do I waste my precious hours opening up for the rest of the world (those three people who might read this) the published fantasies (some undoubtedly based on her own real life experiences) of a pre-Victorian era evangelical Christian novelist of Jewish upbringing, whose literary aspirations got her published but whose literary legacy is null?

Amelia Bristow, while an average writer for her time (in my less than professional opinion), influenced thousands of British Christians and perhaps a few Jews as well. While no one writes like Bristow today, her attitudes toward Jews persist. A Jew cannot be "saved" without Jesus (or so it is believed). Christian faith is the only hope for the Jews. This was Bristow's belief and this is the belief of millions of Christians today. There is a clear connection between Bristow's novels and the somewhat more subtle conversionary novels of today. That connection is based on the misguided adherence to the evangelical doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus alone. Of course, as Mark Pinsky points out in his recent book A Jew among the evangelicals : a guide for the perplexed, the Great Commission ("go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature") compels all Christians to labor for the harvest of souls. Jews are no exception to this rule. So conversion strategy is part and parcel of every good Evangelical's life, or it should be. And thus Bristow and her fictional creations remain a model for modern times, although no Evangelical publisher in the 21st century would publish such florid writings today. Times have changed, and writing styles have evolved, but the nature of the beast remains constant. Jews still need to be converted, and fiction is a good place to start.

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