Book Review John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath

Our granddaughter is a high school student assigned to read "Grapes of Wrath", she heard it was anti-Christian and asked us how we felt as Christians. Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" chronicles the depression era migration of a poor share cropper family, the Joads, from the dust belt in Oklahoma to California.

Grapes of Wrath is a period piece of sentimental Marxist activism and a watered-down Christian theology via its failed preacher, Jim Casy. The Joads progress from a despoiled but occupied promised land (Oklahoma) toward bondage in Egypt (California) which is an inverted allegorical reenactment of the Exodus of the Jews in the Old Testament. Steinbeck is a progressive collectivist and the novel closes as the Joads emerge from selfish individualism to universal love in the pattern of Jim Casy, a Christ like allegory,  culminating in the Rose of Sharon' spiritual maturity in her selfless act at the novel's end when the family finally moves from "I" to "we" and becomes collectivists. 

Theologically Steinbeck was an Episcopalians liberal who believed in a God without wrath. who brings men without sin, into a kingdom without judgment, through a Christ without a cross.  Liberal theologians question the deity and virgin birth of Christ, the inspiration of the Bible. Liberals believe in the social gospel and redistribution of wealth rather than Christ's atonement for sin and bodily resurrection and the inalienable rights of private property. Princeton theologian John Gresham Machen stated liberalism is totally different from Christianity, because it has a different foundation.  Christianity is founded upon Biblical absolutes. Liberalism is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men and what they determine to be truth. Machen believed liberals who deny the fall of man and the divinity of Christ are not Christians.    

John Steinbeck encouraged the philosophy of socialism in his novel "The Grapes of Wrath", however socialism does not work.  Communist China, the Soviet Union and the Pilgrims in the American Colonies tried socialized farming and starvation forced a switch to private farming. Steinbeck blames the depression on greedy capitalists bankers, but the 1930's depression was caused by Federal Reserve's credit boom in the 1920"s.  The answer is not socialism, but a stable money system redeemable in gold. Currently the world's central banks have created a soft money bubble which will burst and make Steinbeck's depression look like child's play.   

By Dr. Steve Johnston


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