Door in the Dragon’s Throat: The Oddly Unredeemable Gozan

Door in the Dragon’s Throat: The Oddly Unredeemable Gozan January 31, 2020

Door in the Dragon’s Throat, pp. 45-50

At this moment, mid earthquake, we jump into Jay’s head.

Where is Dad? Jay wondered, shining his light toward where he’d last seen his father. No sign of him. Too much dust.

It’s jarring, jumping so suddenly into a completely different head.

Dr. Cooper, remember, is on the pile of boulders beneath the Door. The rocks under his feet begin to shift as the shake intensifies. Jay finally spots him, and runs toward him, only to be tackled to the side by Jeff. And it’s a good thing, too!

BOOM! A boulder the size of a large automobile punched a crater in the floor where Jay had just been standing.

Jay gets to be rescued by an adult, again. Jay tries to save his dad—who is genuinely in trouble—but he is denied the opportunity to be a hero, and has to be rescued instead. Now yes, it was unrealistic for Jay to imagine that climbing up on those boulders where his dad is would do anything more than put him in trouble instead. But still, this is a book! And in books, people save others in unrealistic situations. And Jay is denied that. He once again would have died without adult intervention (remember the whole situation with the cobra?). Jay and Lila exist to be rescued.

Of course, this section isn’t quite over. In order to get to Jay’s next move, I’m going to summarize my way through a bunch of text. Text which is nuts, by the way. Some of this party should have died in this earthquake.

Anyway, Jay somehow notices, despite the dust, that a huge boulder is about to fall from the ceiling on his father. He yells to warn his father, but with the noise of crashing rocks all around them, it’s too loud for anyone to hear him. As the boulder breaks loose from the ceiling, Jay is terrified.

During a moment that passed in slow motion, an instant of inexpressible horror, Jay gave out one long, wide-mouthed, helpless scream that no one could hear.

“JEEEEESUUUUUSSSS!”

At that moment, the earth gave a forceful, sudden lurch…

The long and short of it is that the boulder still fell, but that a sudden lurch in the ongoing earthquake threw Dr. Cooper out of the way of its way, allowing him to escape with only a scratch. The lurch also threw Jay and everyone else down, so Jay doesn’t see what happened after his scream—which, remember, no one could hear. The earthquake suddenly ends, subsiding almost immediately after that boulder hits the rock pile by the door with a crunch.

As the noise subsides, Dr. Cooper takes the roll.

“Any injuries in the party? Report.”

“This is Bill. I’m okay.”

“Jeff here. Jay and I are all right.”

Jay had his own questions. “Dad, I want to know about you! Are you all right? Where are you?”

Dr. Cooper responded with another question. “Lila, are you all right?”

Lila was getting cross with her father, purely out of worry. “Dad, honestly! Tell us how you are!”

Now this is just weird.

Why was Lila worried about Dr. Cooper in particular? Was it clear to everyone there that he was in substantially more danger than anyone else? The whole floor is already littered with boulders, and I’d have assumed everyone would be primarily focused on finding a safe spot for themselves. Was literally everyone else so safe during this devastating earthquake that they had time to check where everyone else was and identify Dr. Cooper as being in the most danger?

Besides, if they were this worried about Dr. Cooper in particular, one would think that hearing his voice—lucid and clear and still in charge—should have been enough to set them at ease to let him finish calling roll.

Guess who no one checks on? Gozan. Dr. Cooper ends the roll calling without getting to Gozan (or Tom, I should note), and responds to his children’s queries?

“A slight cut on the forehead, but nothing major. I took a spill back here.”

But Gozan is okay. And he’s animated.

Then came Gozan’s voice, hysterical voice from somewhere in the dark. “I saw it!  saw it! The boulder was about to crus the good doctor, but then the earth responded to young Jay’s call and knocked the doctor out of the way!”

I thought there was a lot of dust in the air?

This just sounds impractical. But then, so is basically anything in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that seems to be the template we’re (very badly) going for here, so, okay. Fine.

“That is basically right,” Dr. Cooper conceded. “That last big shake knocked me over, and just in time. I’d say this cut on my head is a fair trade for my life.”

Oh, and then we get this:

Gozan, his face blackened by dust and sweat, finally emerged from his hiding place, his eyes big and round.

Gozan’s face is the only one identified as being “blackened by dust and sweat.” All the white people in this book have automatic anti-dust and anti-sweat genes. Or something.

But Gozan has a question.

“Your God controls the powers of the earth, yes?” he said.

Dr. Cooper held Jay and Lila close as he answered boldly, “Gozan, our God controls everything. he is the Creator of all things.”

“Maybe,” Gozan dared to venture, “maybe He is stronger than the curse that guards the Door?”

Dr. Cooper found his hat, but Lila took it from him as she said, “Our God is more powerful than any curse!” Then she told her father, “No hat until I take a good look at your head!”

Oh, Lila. Lila, remember, is the group’s nurse. If Dr. Cooper had suffered a broken arm, or blunt force trauma to his chest, it would be thirteen-year-old Lila who would be expected to play medic. Does Lila know what to do if someone is pinned under a boulder? (Or maybe—bear with me here—they shouldn’t be in a cave this geologically unstable.)

But Gozan isn’t done:

“All the other expeditions would have been dead or would have fled in terror by now. Your God has protected you. He has protected all of us.”

“That is correct,” said Dr. Cooper ass they all clustered together on the cavern floor. “And we are going to thank Him for that right now.”

As Gozan looks on, the group stops for prayer. And that’s it. The end of this section.

Gozan only stood there, still wide-eyed, impressed by the strange faith of this group and very, very impressed by the towering, ominous Door that seemed to be watching them, aware of their presence.

Do you know what I find striking about this? No one attempts to evangelize Gozan. Not here, not ever.

This would seem to be an opportune moment—Gozan has just witnessed something he has acknowledged shows the power of their God. He is very, very impressed. Why not use that as a segue into a conversion attempt? The reason I find their lack of effort to convert Gozan troubling is that, within evangelicalism, anyone who isn’t saved is going to hell. They treat Gozan, and other words, as though he is unredeemable—or not worthy of heaven.

Gozan is left this way, throughout this entire book. In fact, in the end, as all hell breaks loose, they leave Gozan rolled into a terrified, trembling ball, calling out to Jesus for protection. They leave him there alone without a thought as they dash off in an attempt to re-contain the hell that is breaking loose in the Dragon’s Throat. They never tell him that there is a way he can be released from his fear, that he can have what they have too. Never.

There’s another character in this book who is ultimately redeemable—the man Jay and Lila saw briefly before they got cornered by that Cobra. He, like Gozan, is terrified of the power behind the Door. I can’t work out why the Coopers give him a chance—why they spend time leading him through the gospel message—but not Gozan.

It wouldn’t be that hard for someone to attempt to share the gospel with Gozan, only to learn that Gozan only cares about power and treasure, and that he doesn’t recognize himself as a sinner. After all, the formula for accepting the gospel message is not simply belief in God and fear of evil, it’s also an acceptance of one’s need for salvation from sin. It would be easy to attempt to evangelize Gozan, only to establish his craven greed. But they don’t even try.

Why don’t they even try?

Gozan may believe, now, in the power of Dr. Cooper’s God, but Gozan is still unredeemable. Untouchable. Unloveable. Worthy only of scoffs and snubs. And he’ll stay that way. Far from showing love to sinners, the Coopers will show him only distain. And the irony of it all is that the Coopers think they are presenting a positive representation of the gospel. Or rather, Peretti, this book’s author, thinks he is. He never takes Dr. Cooper to task for his actions. He never says anything that would make the reader think that he views Dr. Cooper’s actions as a mistake.

Peretti has put together heroes he thinks point unequivocally to God, but whose actions actually repulse the uninitiated reader. I’m reminded of Fred Clark’s reviews of the Left Behind book on the Slacktivist. Clark points out that the books’ heroes frequently act in ways that are morally repugnant, such as times when they know this city or that is about to be nuked, but they decline to tell anyone, even when they run into people who have family members in those cities.

Clark notes that Tim LaHaye created what he thought were “upstanding” Christian heroes who actually, rather than attracting the reader, come across as morally suspect and fundamentally unattractive. I see the same thing happening here, in the Coopers’ treatment of Gozan. Heck, Janette Oak did this in her book, too, and so did Michael Farris. In each case, the books’ “Christian” heroes are dismissive of or uncaring towards the very people who could use a friend. These books’ authors think they’re writing this positive portrayal, but it doesn’t come across that way at all.

It starts to feel like some sort of staple of bad Christian fiction.

Oh! I almost forgot! Jay did get to be a hero—but only trough divine intervention. It was scream for Jesus to help his father that brought that sudden lurch, followed by the end of the earthquake. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this—material heroism denied, only to be followed by spiritual heroism fulfilled. Perhaps the point is that no matter how small—no matter how unable to help physically someone is—a person can still be a hero, in Jesus? Maybe?

Next week, Dr. Cooper will do the sum total of the archeological work he does in this entire book: he’ll take a cursory look at the door, at what it’s made of, and at the writing on it. And then, the week after that, you have some exciting things to look forward to. Remember that dynamite they unloaded? They’re going to use it.

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