The Lamb & The Fuhrer
From Kingstone Media
Written by Ravi Zacharias
*PLEASE NOTE: I received a hardcopy of this book to review for the publisher.
The Lamb & the Fuhrer is a recent collaboration between Ravi Zacharias and Kingstone Media, and together they create a somewhat effective look at each man’s final judgment after death. I can’t praise the book entirely for what I believe is a real narrative “sin”, but I can say that the work provides some of Kingstone’s most intense and provocative material to date.
So, let me get my gripe out of the way first, and we can be positive moving forward. The book opens with the framing device of a German national taking his American friend on a tour of important locations from the Second World War and its aftermath. During the tour they discuss Hitler’s position, and what it must have been like (will be like?) in the moment he stands before Jesus Christ to give an account of his life. They interject local German hero and Christian author Deitrich Bonhoeffer as a witness during the judgement, and they envision the discussion’s content and outcome.
This is a good framing device. In fact, I think it’s the only honest way Christians can tell these types of afterlife stories—those to which we cannot truly speak with any objective factual evidence. We are left to interpret Scriptural implications and create a scenario that aligns with the basic truth that has been revealed: judgment will take place. Using conversation to explore the idea is a great storytelling strategy; however, The Lamb and Fuhrer finds itself in trouble in that it seems to forget this framing device in its final panels. The final pages of the book fail to return to the two characters in the present world, and by implication, the reader is left to ask, “was the book trying to say (a) this is how the characters view Hitler’s afterlife or (b) this is likely what Hitler truly did experience the moment after death?”
The difference is no small one. Within the framing device of two characters conversing about the afterlife, nearly anything goes. If they are wrong or unorthodox or heretical, it’s because they are just humans trying to capture the realities of an infinite experience beyond their comprehension–and thus no “claims” are being asserted. However, when the book ends open-ended in this way, it conveys that “this is the author’s position on how actual, objective judgment may occur”, and the reader is left with frustrations about how the author justifies such a position.
The reason this particular criticism vexes me is that I had to wrestle with it extensively in my own novel, Stronghold. My story follows The Believer, who envisions his spiritual battle in a way that makes sense to him, not by having an objective “supernatural” experience (though one could argue that, in fact, he does through his imaginative exercise, but that’s another discussion). Point being that I am able to justify the artistic licenses taken in Stronghold (the angelic names, the history before the fall, the manner of war, etc) because I make no claims as to their objective revelation or truth. I am simply providing one Believer’s interpretation, through his own lens, in order to magnify objective realities like the need for brotherhood in overcoming addiction, the horrors of guilt and shame, and Christ’s power over sin. Had I not put the story within that subjective framework, all the themes and higher concepts would have been muddled and mired by the complete and total unorthodox view of spiritual warfare that is presented.
So, yes, this to me is an issue–not unlike a scene at the end of film that changes everything that occurred beforehand. And I am sorry to spend the amount of time on it that I do, but I really had to sit with the content after it before deciding how I felt about the full book despite this.
Fortunately, Zacharias is a far better author than I, and as such, his work stands despite the framing snafu.
Frankly, I love the concept; I think Christians must be more imaginative in their storytelling; and at the very least, this story is imaginative. The entire idea of man’s self-justification, his rallying against God, and the overarching futility of doing so are all on full display here in The Lamb and Fuhrer. What is arguably most interesting about the concept is that any human could actually find him or herself in Adolf’s place. So many persons will come before God and claim their own goodness, but if the standard is Christ–tempted as all men yet able to overcome–then all will have to give answer for their failures. Of course, that’s the rub of the Christian faith. Those who know they would never be able to defend their lives or justify their choices look to Christ as their deliverer and intercessor. So, in that The Lamb and the Fuhrer provides good for thought.
Additionally, the art is some of the best Kingstone has released–which is saying something. The grotesqueries of the Second World War and accompanying holocaust are on display–not fully but to enough of a degree to make one heartbroken and shaken.
And dropped narrative devices aside, the book moves surprisingly well as a courtroom drama, hitting familiar beats in a relatively swift cadence. Again, Zacharias is a strong communicator, so the fact that this work would move as well as it does should not surprise us. At the very least, one could work his or her way through the graphic novel with speed. Regardless of one’s reaction to the content, he or she could dig through it in less than 2 hours.
That being said, the book is strong but imperfect. I personally have a sticking point with the dropped framing device. I think it leaves too much open and thereby challenges many ideas presented beforehand. However, if I put this shortcoming aside, I am left with a fine work of courtroom drama with some excellent art and thought-provoking concepts. I feel it’s unfair to slam the entire book for a narrative shortcoming that will only likely bother folks like me who come to books with this level of scrutiny.
That being said, I am torn about The Lamb and the Fuhrer, but I will gladly give some additional grace here. I like the book enough that I still think it’s good despite the finale’s narrative shortcomings, and I count the overarching achievement as another “win” for Kingstone Media.