If you think that Outlander is a great read because of its romance and adventure you would be right. If you love the medical and historical details, I’m right there with you! In fact, every time I think about the story, I find something else to appreciate. But, in my opinion, Diana’s greatest gift to the reader is a look at human nature. Her books contain so many characters with so many different perspectives and choices to make. A reader commented that the author has created somewhere near 600 characters in the Outlander series? From orphaned identical twins to the King of France, the stories give us a look at people of different stages and walks of life. We’ve read about births, deaths, murders, marriages, wars, and once even a resurrection! It wasn’t a very long resurrection, but hey, it was cool.
One of the aspects of human nature that Diana includes in her stories is religion/faith. I found the need to use a slash because for many religion and faith are two sides of the same coin. I’m not so sure about this and I think there is evidence in the series to suggest Diana might think likewise. Ms. Gabaldon’s portrayal of “men and women of God” is a microcosm of the religious world at large. Her priests and ministers range the spectrum between legalistic to philosophical. Her Catholics and Protestants are at odds and her natives in tune with the natural world.
Claire’s issues with faith and religion make perfect sense to me. She is a pragmatic woman who has travelled the world and experienced different cultures. Can anyone say standing stones? As a time “traveller” she of all people would have the right to believe in things unseen. However, Claire is also a woman of science. Because of all these seemingly conflicting variables I believe our Claire’s faith is pretty fluid. Adoration, witchcraft or science, she’ll use whatever she needs to get the job done. Jamie, on the other hand, is a different story.
As a teenager, I lived in a low income housing complex. Our “neighborhood” consisted of a circle of small attached two story condominiums. We lived literally on top of one another. The walls were thin and the street was loud. You knew your neighbors because you saw and heard them everyday in a kind of forced intimacy. While we lived there, my mother worked two jobs and that left us five kids with a lot of free time and freedom. We went where we wanted, when we wanted. A couple of doors down from us lived a young family, the Harmons. The father was into a lot of the same “nerdy” things my brothers liked and they would spend time there building slot cars and trading baseball cards. When Mom was home it would often be my job to go “find” my brothers. I knew where they were and would go bring them home from the Harmons. This wasn’t something I looked forward to; the Harmon’s made me uncomfortable. Like most of the residents of the complex, they didn’t have a lot. They dined off a picnic table and went to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor. They were happy and generous people that were always looking out for somebody. I never knew who I would find in their house; talking, drinking coffee or eating sandwiches, but it was usually someone I would have crossed the street to avoid. They shared whatever they had and that wasn’t much. And…I think Jesus lived there. They talked about him and to him constantly. I kind of expected to turn around and find him sitting on the couch. It sort of freaked me out. I would visit and then not come back for weeks. Over time, my visits got more frequent, I would listen, watch and process. They had something and I found myself fascinated. They weren’t religious people, they didn’t even go to church, but they were people with faith. They never preached their beliefs, they just…lived them. When I think of Jamie’s faith, I think of the Harmons.
Like Claire, Jamie’s faith as been shaped by where he has lived and what he has experienced. There are scholarly tomes written to the idea that Christianity in Jamie’s part of the world is different. The term “Celtic Christianity” is bandied about and argued over. The idea in contention is that the legends and myths prevalent in Jamie’s part of the world have created a unique brand of Christian faith. I’m not prepared to write a dissertation on the validity of “Celtic Christianity”, but I’m prepared to write what I’ve observed about Jamie’s brand of Christianity. Jamie has been raised with stories of the old folk and the idea that the natural world around him contains a divine essence. His world is full of ancient and sacred places; holy wells, fairy stones, cairns, etc. The mystical and magical are the lenses through which his people see the world. Once Christianity’s popularity grew in the Celtic world the two belief systems eventually blended. There is actually a term for this phenomenon, Syncretism. In this case, Syncretism is the acceptance of previous beliefs or traditions of Celtic paganism and then the melding of these with Roman Catholic Christian beliefs and traditions. We see evidence of this blend in Outlander and more specifically in Jamie’s expression of his faith. He gives reverence to both simultaneously. Quite frankly, I find Jamie’s brand of Christianity to be…beautiful and not at all disconcerting. It fits.
It has been my experience that often higher education tends to pollute or negate the idea of a personal Christian faith. That does not appear to be true for Jamie. We know that his studies in University of Paris included philosophy and that he continues to read and discuss the topic throughout his life. He is a learned philosophical man that has chosen to remain true to his Christian beliefs. His Gaelic expressions of thankfulness and supplication acknowledge God’s role in his personal experience of the world. Jamie is thoughtful and prays over the decisions in his life. His choices are always colored by his Catholicism and his God. And, I would add, he exhibits the fruits of the Spirit:
- Love: Is there any doubt that Jamie loves? His family, his clan, the prisoners, Fergus, Marsali , Joan, Murtagh, etc. And, Claire? Jamie believes that she is God’s gift to him and that on judgement day his love for Claire will be his one defense to balance anything he may have done poorly, “…ye gave me a rare woman and Lord I loved her well”.
- Gentleness: Jamie describes himself as a bloody man, and yet, time after time we see his gentleness. I think of his time in the stable with wee Hamish explaining the facts of life and scene where he is rocking a devastated Bree in his arms.
- Faithfulness: Once Jamie’s word is given he remains faithful to his course. His promises are kept. Time and time again.
- Self-Control: A virgin at 23? That alone should prove the point, but I think of his promise to Claire not to kill Jack Randall.
- Kindness: They say a person’s character can be measured by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. Jamie is kind to those less fortunate and the weak.
- Long suffering: I wish I could handle suffering like Jamie! He does not complain. In fact, I can only remember a few times he expressed disappointment or frustration.
- Joy: Jamie is grateful for all that he has and finds joy in what he had been given.
- Goodness: What is it that motivates Jamie? Being the best man he can be, being a man his “fathers” can be proud of. There are some that might argue that Jamie IS a bloody man and a murderer. I point out that he does no violence with intent to murder that is not in defense of his family or country. I believe there is provision for this behavior.
Jamie’s faith sustains him. It is what shapes his identity as a man. His faith is as natural to him as breathing. Like the Harmons of my childhood, Jamie doesn’t preach, he just lives. To me this is what religion should be about and I think Jamie gives witness to what a Christian life is and that is living with faith.