Sunday, March 27, 2005

Aimee Semple McAntichrist and the lumber baron

It's one of those things that made me go "hmmm".

I like reading about church history, particularly about the charismatic wing of Protestant Christianity. Unlike many, however, I do not swoon at the mere mention of alleged miracles, so several books that take a critical look at the excesses of some ministers sit in my shelves.

After reading Daniel Epstein's interesting book on the 1920s faith healer Aimee Semple McPherson, I have been looking for inexpensive copies of other works by and about her.

While browsing, I found a fictional book that was classified as being about McPherson. Ten dollars later, a copy of the 1933 novel A Woman On The Beast, by a Helen Simpson, came my way in the mail from an antiquarian bookseller in Victoria B.C.. Flipping to the last section of the book, I realized why McPherson was probably not pleased to hear of the book's release. In the novel, a malevolent old book-burning shrew of a preacher named Emma Sopwith conquers Australia and, in bringing the whole planet under her sway, brings on the end of the world as described in Revelations. Unusually, for a book of this sort, Satan wins and conquers God.

The book itself may not be worth a mention. The bookplate that I found inside the front cover of the book is. (If only I could post a photo.)

The bookplate reads that the book was once the property of a H.R. MacMillan. The name is unusual enough that I wonder if the novel used to belong to British Columbia lumber baron H.R.MacMillan, who ran MacMillan-Bloedel, the dominant logging company in British Columbia for many years. Mr. MacMillan, who was also the first chief forester of B.C., lived in Victoria (where my new-to-me book came from) for many years. For more information on Mr. MacMillan, here is a brief blurb about a biography on him.

If the lumber baron did own my book, it raises some thoughts in my mind. Did he avidly read the Christian end-of-the world fiction of his day, which would be at odds with the image of a serious and thoughtful businessman? (Imagine Donald Trump reading the Left Behind series of novels.)

Simpson's novel leans heavily on the idea that very evil and intolerant things are often done in the name of God, an idea that is often critical of Christianity. If the famous H.R.MacMillan owned my book, it's interesting to consider whether a prominent B.C. businessman for many years shared the values espoused in the book. Thinking that Christianity was as much an evil influence on society as it was an influence for good, would have been a very freethinking attitude in the often conservative British Columbia social elite of the 1930s and 1940s

This might be intriguing....unless it was Mr. MacMillan's wife who read the book on holidays, in the same careless way that one would read Bridget Jones Diary today. In which case, this is a silly post indeed. :)