Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
Violence and death follow rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) everywhere he goes in Paramount’s new TV series, Yellowstone. From episode 1’s opening scene, in which Dutton shoots a horse injured by a bullying land developer’s truck, to his order to get rid of a witness whose testimony could harm his son, killing and mayhem abound.
Dutton’s Yellowstone Ranch is the largest in Montana, and it is under siege by a builder who nibbles at its edges and hungers for more. The new chief of the neighboring Indian tribe, while less a warrior than a politician, is also no friend of the ranch, and relishes a conflict with Dutton.
Developers, Indians, and ranchers: Each demand unquestioning loyalty from their subordinates. Ranch hands are more mafia members than cowboys. Dutton’s son Kayce, who lives on the reservation with his Native American wife and son, is caught in the middle. Kayce shows more sorrow for the death of a wolf run down by a semi-truck than for his own cold-blooded execution of his wife’s brother. Just before firing the last and fatal bullet, he taunts, “In case you didn’t know, there’s no such thing as heaven.”
While greedy to get back what he considers his tribe’s land, the Indian chief shows compassion and mercy at times, and offers wise advice to Kayce. John Dutton does not seek or receive discerning counsel. The local priest hasn’t seen him inside the church for decades, yet considers him a fellow shepherd of the flock because he employs so many. Worse, the priest owes Dutton a favor and follows his orders. From the pulpit and in person, he pressures congregants to suppress what they know about the murders committed.
Viewers of Yellowstone will see violence, selfishness, blasphemy, coarse language, adultery, and general lawlessness. In short, they will find lots of spiritual death, without any hope of forgiveness and certainly not new life in Christ.