“Central North Carolina hasn’t seen much change in over 50 years…but suddenly people who have been there for generations are leaving the small farming settlements-lock, stock, and barrel. When massive warehouses surrounded by metal fencing seem to go up overnight, local businesses are bought out, and more than 6,000 families establish residence in a community named Kingdom Come, the FBI begins to suspect cult activity. Agent Ben Atkins is sent to investigate, and though he does sense something major happening, he is not convinced it is sinister. In fact, as he moves in for a closer look, he begins to wonder if those on the inside of Kingdom Come are working to keep evil out. But time is running short for him to discover the truth, as unexpected enemies-law enforcement agencies, media groups, and even the church hierarchy-threaten the community’s existence.” (from Goodreads)
Build a town in the middle of nowhere with a high population of Christians and prison regulation fencing around the perimeter, and sorry, but that just looks bad. The government thinks it a cult, the media thinks it a story, and the Christian leaders are suspicious. Since I didn’t remember the story by Larry Burkett and T. Davis Bunn that well, I was interested to discover just what it all meant.
The authors did an amazing job of showing me just how complicated people are! The plot was built off conflicting desires, prejudices, and beliefs. Many characters were either trying to do what was right or climb the ladder. (Sometimes both.) Everyone wanted something, and those wants rubbed against each other in a such a human, realistic way. Even the respected leader of the community wasn’t shown as sinless and unable to err. Something I noticed (after my mom pointed it out) was that that “choppy writing style” I had disliked was actually a very subtle form of characterization. Whenever the main character, who happens to be an FBI agent, sizes someone up it gives approximate age, height, and even some minute details just like he would gather in his mind. (It was also fun to note that when it was from the journalist’s point of view, the descriptions were more general and poetic.) The main characters were neat, but my favorites actually ended up being some side pastors who were very fun and vibrant for the Lord. 😀
One of the first things I was impressed with was SPOILER ALERT! how law-abiding the citizens of Kingdom Come were. What a great Christian testimony of keeping the law and making sure everything is aboveboard even down to following regulations on the buildings. The government seriously had trouble finding dirt on them! END OF SPOILER! This is a huge deal to me, because I feel like when Christians talk about building this kind of community, it goes hand in hand with being politically radical and antinomian.
But what about being “in the world and not of it”? I love the ideal of a community where our children are safe, morals decreed by the Gospel rule, and everything’s just peachy. But–evangelism. It was neat to see Kingdom Come thought of more as a SPOILER ALERT! base of operations than a hideout. They had outreach programs, and it was never made a rule that nonbelievers couldn’t live there. (They just probably wouldn’t like it.) 😉 And they were quite willing for other denominations to build inside their town! END OF SPOILER! (Take that, establishment money-mongering churchianity!)
The one thing that still stuck me though was that fence. It was amazing to see that SPOILER ALERT! it bothered its builders too. Look at this excerpt about the lead pastor wondering about the fence himself… “Every time I go through, I wonder. I can’t help it. Why were we called to build it? Are we preparing an island against the tide of Armageddon? Are these truly the end times? Or is there another reason?” Phil’s young associate asked, “What does God say?” “Nothing.” Chuck shook his head. “God chooses when and where to speak. About the fence He has not spoken, other than that it needed to be built.” END OF SPOILER! They wondered about things and doubted their calling to build the community at several points but took it as a matter of faith.
Some of the theology (especially when it got slightly Pentecostal in the revival meetings or used the term that God “raised up a prophet”) made me wonder at times. I always want people to be really careful in those situations to test the spirits. That said, I believe the Holy Spirit can move however He wants to! That’s really not mine to judge unless I am called to test the spirits in my own life.
Not recommended for younger readers because of complicated themes, children in slight danger, and one use of a very mild expletive.
Best quote: SPOILER ALERT! He knew he was looking at people who were simply trying to follow their God the best they could. Humans all, prone to err and fall and fail. But giving it all they could.
Altogether, I found this to be a great example of humanity and Christianity with a complicated and exciting story to boot!