"In the world, but not of it" is a challenging position for Christians to occupy. It's also a challenging position for the writer of historical fiction. Tim Stafford, senior writer for Christianity Today, maintains it well in his new novel The Stamp of Glory (Thomas Nelson), especially considering this is his first foray into the genre (his only other novel, A Thorn in the Heart, is a police mystery). Extensive research helps him step into the years preceding the Civil War; living this side of Civil Rights allows him to connect the crusade for emancipation to today's political climate.

Stafford says he was drawn to the abolitionist struggle because it is "the most important movement in American history, and also the most interesting." He also sees "eerie parallels" between abolitionists and current Christian social reformers, a connection he demonstrated in a recent CT article (" How God Won When Politics Failed," January 10, 2000). Abolitionists were told their sentiments were causing violence, a charge that has recently been leveled at pro-lifers, Baptists, and anyone who speaks out on homosexuality. They were frustrated with both political parties of the day—Whig and Democratic—because neither would take a strong stand on the divisive issue. They tried, unsuccessfully, to enter their own candidate into the political arena. They felt like failures.

The main characters in The Stamp of Glory are not failures, but what ground they gain is hard-fought. Thomas Nichols, the son of a Methodist plantation owner who unexpectedly freed his slaves in his will, first must conquer materialism, lust, and atheism, and even then ghosts from his slave-master past dog his every reforming stride. Theodore Weld, a passionate anti-slavery crusader ...

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