15 March 2013

Book Review: Nothing But The Blood by Zach Hoag

OK I’ll admit it, I’ve never seen the show "Dexter", but after reading this book my interest in the show is extremely peaked.  Zach J. Hoag in the book “Nothing But The Blood” finds creative and powerful connections between the TV series "Dexter" and the Gospel.  Using commercial art as an analysis piece can be a tricky endeavor but I must say Zach Hoag does a masterful and intelligent job.  Zach moves effortlessly back and forth between the culture in which we live and the hope of Grace.

If you have not seen the television program don’t worry, Hoag pulls together all the characters in the story and lays out the plot so that you have a strong sense of the tensions and possibilities. The character Dexter Morgan is a forensic blood analyst who is employed by the Miami Police Department.  The unique slant on the show is that Dexter is also a serial killer who hunts down murderers who have avoided the justice system.  

Zach Hoag introduces Dexter as the prototype “Every Person”.  Dexter is a broken man whose soul is clawing for fulfillment and purpose. There is a Dark Passenger, the inner voice in Dexter's head, which urges him to act on his impulses of murder towards those who “deserve it.”  Dexter’s killing is set up to represent a psychological drive present in “every person”, the desire to make the world “right again”, to cleanse society of “injustice.”  

Hoag investigates why “Dexter is out for blood,” as Dexter believes that his murderous activity is all about the “atonement of sin.”  There is a moral tension at the center and  Zach crescendos its connection with the “Dark Passenger” that is present within all of us.  As grotesque as the murders are, there is a strong similarity between the “Dark Passenger” that resides in all of us, that motivates us to seek a kind of “justice-vengeance".  We seek retribution.  In some sense, if we’ve been wronged, we are out for blood -- “The blood answers the problem of a world spinning out of control.”

Hoag uncovers a light, a flicker of change for Dexter in the midst of his despair, guilt and brokenness.  Near the end of the book, Hoag escorts the reader to regard that the broken Dexter is slowly wrestling with retributive justice versus a restorative justice.  Can justice be served through restoration? -- this is the question that haunts throughout the chapters of “Nothing But The Blood”.  In the midst of the cycle of violence Zach Hoag believes Jesus enters into the mess and models a subversive justice, one that flips retribution on its head.  

This book is good entertainment but it is much, much more.  It is a plummet into the darker side of ourselves and the deep need for another way to be restored.  Restoration does not happen with evening the scales.  Wholeness is found in the story of the self-emptying love of Jesus.  Our stories of inner anguish can find fresh daylight in the grace of God that reconciles and restores instead of delights in vindication and violent punishment.  

This book was a blast to read. The graphic design of the books cover and pages are stellar.  Surprisingly, Zach Hoag weaves in one of the most potent theological issues found in the Scriptures into the story of a serial killer.  Pick up this book, let it stir you.   Get it here> “Nothing But The Blood” 

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