Values v. Religious Beliefs (a/k/a Why Readers Ask About Cyril)

Last week in Questions, Abortion, and The Awakening Series I said that this week I'd write about why Cyril was my favorite character in The Awakening (after Tara, the protagonist). And I will talk about that, but first I want to say a few things about my mom and about religion, which will take us back to Cyril. 

My mother was 42 years older than me.

She grew up in a time when questioning church authorities simply wasn’t done. She and my dad memorized doctrine as children. They didn’t talk about what it meant or why it had been decided the way it had, and they certainly weren’t asked whether they agreed with it.

My parents as adults weren’t against talking about issues or examining their faith. They found it interesting to look at what was said in the Bible and what it might mean. They encouraged us to think about moral and ethical questions.

All the same, there were certain aspects of faith that for my mom were not negotiable or open to question.

I remember her once telling me, “Your problem is you ask too many questions.”

Personal Support And Comfort:

Part of the reason the Church meant so much to my mother was that it was a great source of comfort for her throughout her life. When she hit hard times, praying was one way she found to deal with them. Also, the Church had a structure and a predictability that she found comfort and beauty in.

For that and other reasons her religion was very personal to her and very important, and it was hard for her to understand anyone (especially an “anyone” who was her child) who didn’t share that feeling or belief.

Some of my mom’s feelings for religion are reflected in Cyril Woods, the initial love interest/antagonist I created for Tara. While Cyril’s experiences are vastly different from my mother’s, he too has a very personal connection with his religious beliefs.

Cyril And Religion:

Cyril joins a religious brotherhood because a man who serves as a mentor to him urges him to do so. This mentor saves Cyril from becoming a very troubled and perhaps violent young man. Cyril connects his better life with the man’s religious beliefs. That’s why he finds it so hard when he begins to question those beliefs.

It feels to him as if he is abandoning the man who helped him so much.

Conflicts Between The Heart And Faith:

Cyril’s love for and admiration of Tara eventually becomes a huge challenge to his faith. Before Tara, everything his religious order required of him fit with Cyril’s own personal values.

But when his superiors begin to see Tara as an enemy, Cyril is at a loss.

He has been an actual soldier, serving in the Armed Forces, and he sees himself as a soldier still. In fact, he tells Tara he is a “soldier for our Lord.”

Being a soldier means following orders without question because that is the only way the military can operate efficiently.

So at first Cyril listens to his superiors despite his misgivings. Next, he becomes determined to convince them that they are wrong. That in itself is a big leap for him, and he is uncomfortable with it.

Later he is so uncomfortable that he turns on Tara in an awful and almost unforgivable way. While he blames her outwardly, inside he feels that he is weak and a failure because he can’t reconcile the disconnect between his religious faith and his feelings for her. He’s also not yet willing to examine his own beliefs and choose them (or not) for himself.

Finally, all of it is mixed up with his gratitude to his mentor and his fear that his mentor will no longer be there for him if he changes his religious beliefs.

These types of conflicts are real ones that real people face.

Almost everyone has had times when a belief they held was severely challenged by a tragic life event or even a happy life event.

I believe this is why Cyril is the character about whom I get the most reader questions and emails. Readers who haven’t finished the series nearly always say they can’t wait to find out what happens to him.

I can’t say where he ends up without spoiling his ending for those who have not yet read The Illumination. But I will say that I believe Cyril is a good person and always was. He simply had a long road before he figured out what he believed.