This past Tuesday (February 3rd), I had the honor of hosting Dr. Anthony Bartlett, winner of the 2014 Raven Foundation Award in Arts and Entertainment, in a video conference virtually attended by many of our friends. The Raven Foundation presents this award annually to someone whose work aligns with our mission to creatively apply Rene Girard’s mimetic theory to make “religion reasonable, violence unthinkable, and peace a possibility.” Tony Bartlett received this award for his extraordinary novel, Pascale’s Wager: Homelands of Heaven, which mingles Girardian anthropology and Christ-inspired hope in a dizzyingly fast-paced, extremely entertaining science fiction tale. We at Raven believe that Tony’s eloquent prose will help make the insights of mimetic theory accessible to many and sew seeds of peace and love that will bloom in surprising and beautiful ways.
I have reviewed Pascale’s Wager here and pondered one of the theological questions raised by this extraordinary novel here. The evening’s delightful conversation, in addition to being an opportunity to speak with one of the world’s most creative and warm-hearted theologians, raised many more questions and insights. Amazingly, it did not divulge any major spoilers from the book! Readers who haven’t finished or even started Pascale’s Wager can feel free to listen to the conversation and gain insight into Tony’s motivations behind the work which will probably deepen their understanding as they read, while those who have finished the book can gain new layers of appreciation.
Tony opens up on what inspired him to write Pascale’s Wager and talks about how he researched the science behind the worlds he created: physics, thermodynamics, and biology. He then talks about the different kinds of religion that sustain or permeate the worlds he created. Surface contrast between the fundamentalism of the Frozen North and the liberal secularism, modeled on the Greek pantheon, of the Heavenly Homeland, belie troubling similarities of rigidity and sacrifice, and stand in contrast to a faith that defies conformity. We talk about how science and mathematics can parallel religion and faith both in terms of the order and structure they give and in terms of the mystery they offer, and we reflect on how scientific discovery and faith journeys can parallel one another. Tony also talks about the name of the book, Pascale’s Wager, and contrasts this with Blaise Pascal’s wager. Toward the end of the discussion, Tony also explores the insights Pascale’s Wager has to offer our own world when it comes to economic disparity and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. This gap already has a devastating impact on a majority of the world’s population and could become ever more catastrophic unless we follow a path of compassion.
Tony also explains the natural Gospel trajectory that flows through his “trinity” of writings beginning with Cross Purposes and carrying through Virtually Christian and culminating in Pascale’s Wager. Elsewhere, he informs us that that trajectory will continue by showing how human meaning can be transformed in the upcoming sequels to Pascale’s Wager. I, for one, can hardly wait!
Kristen Stewart, by the way, is the name of the actress whom Tony is considering for the role of Pascale in the motion picture version of his novel. It certainly has cinematic potential! I wonder who should be cast in the roles of Poll, Danny, Liz, Jonas and others? If you have suggestions, please share!
And let us also continue the theological and anthropological conversations we began on Tuesday night with Tony Bartlett. With Pascale’s Wager, Tony is guiding us along Christ’s path of ever-unfolding compassion. Let us continue to explore together!
*The music in this video has been donated courtesy of Jim Pampandrea (www.jimpamandrea.com).