SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN: Is Kurt Vonnegut the Exorcist of Jesus Christ Superstar? by Robert L. Short

SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN: Is Kurt Vonnegut the Exorcist of Jesus Christ Superstar?

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A warm, lively, mushy-minded essay in theology and popular culture. Short (who has done this sort of thing before, in The Gospel According to Peanuts) thinks that atheistic humanism, as exemplified by Vonnegut, inevitably leads to the dead end of nihilism, which ""threatens to drag all civilization down with it."" The only way out of this grim situation is Universalism (Christian rather than Unitarian): salvation for everyone through Jesus. And the only obstacle to broader acceptance of Universalism lies in the churches' monstrous and irrational teaching of a literal hell. Short delivers his consoling message in a series of peppery little sermons, mixing the Bible with Luther, Dostoevsky, Barth, Bonhoeffer, and others with slangy, unpedantic zest. Unfortunately, he also begs most of the philosophical questions he raises, and glosses over contradictions in the material he quotes. He dismisses free will (and with it sticky problems of responsibility for sin) as a ""fable."" He claims that Jesus viewed hell purely as a symbol of the despair brought on by the collapse of the unbeliever's false gods. He misreads Dostoevsky, praising him as a Christian apologist but overlooking his potent arguments for atheism. And he greatly overrates Vonnegut, ranking him with Twain and Camus. Moved by admiration for Vonnegut's honesty and by sympathy for his spiritual anguish, he interprets his novels as profound theological utterances. Short's heart is in the right place, but the same can't be said for his critical judgment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row