In this literary criticism, J.W analyzes the similarities between Jesus Christ and Valentine Michael Smith in Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land , and the implications that places upon the story and its position as a whole.
Born of Spirit, Born of Man: An Essay Comparing Jesus of Nazareth to Stranger in a Strange Land's Valentine Michael Smith

“Jill looked puzzled. "I don't know how to express it. Yes, I do! — Ben, have you ever seen an angel?"
"You, cherub. Otherwise not."
"Well, neither have I — but that is what he looked like. He had old, wise eyes in a completely placid face, a face of unearthly innocence." She shivered.”
(Heinlein 65)

Valentine Michael Smith, the Man from Mars, founder of the Church of All Worlds, and the Stranger in a Strange land is the main protagonist of Robert Heinlein's science-fiction and societal commentary, Stranger in a Strange Land. Born in space, after a failed Mars landing, he was raised by Martians, without any human contact. Through the innocent, wide-spread eyes and logical mind of Mike, Heinlein provides a number of statements against today's societies and morals, and the restrictive morals that religion has placed upon society. To make those statements and to espouse his own ideas, Heinlein draws parallels between Mike and Jesus Christ, making Mike into a sort of innocent, Messiah-figure. Numerous connections, subtle and obvious, are made between Mike and Jesus Christ, including communion, his birth and arrival on earth, their lives, goals, and their deaths.
The first Part of the novel begins with the title, HIS MACULATE ORIGINS; this is a clever play on words, an allusion to Jesus Christ's “immaculate conception”. Mike having been born in space, there are ships logs of who his mother is, but no one could deduce who his father was. This is also an allusion to Christ's birth, whose mother was mortal and whose father was an invisible immortal. Additionally, Mike's name itself is a clue; Valentine Michael Smith is his full name. Valentine is the name of a religious Saint, associated with love, the gospel that Jesus and Mike both preach. The name Michael itself means “One who is like God”,an obvious clue, and the name Smith is one of the most common names in America, perhaps representing the many people whom Mike is trying to understand, love, and help.
Mike is sent down to Earth from space, or the “heavens”, by the Martian Old Ones, who want him to return to his people and learn about them. His mission, though he knows it not, is to “grok” his own people. Grokking in the novel is a huge concept that is discussed and used throughout. “To grok means to drink”(Heinlein 76) but grok is a word untranslatable from Martian to English. Grokking however, also means to understand something in it's entirety, physically, emotionally, in love, hate, and acceptance; grokking is a complete serene understanding that is never wrong. When Mike groks something, the actions he chooses can never be wrong to himself or the universe because he groks it rightly. When Mike groks something as being wrong however, he considers it morally justified to correct the problem- even to the point of killing someone.
“Smith had relapsed into his attitude of passive waiting. Not understanding what it was all about, he had done only the minimum he had to do. But guns he had seen before, in the hands of men on Mars, and the expression on Jill's face at having one aimed at her he did not like. He grokked that this was one of the critical cusps in the growth of a being wherein contemplation must bring forth right action in order to permit further growth. He acted.
The Old Ones taught him well. He stepped toward Berquist; the gun swung to cover him. Nevertheless he reached out — and Berquist was no longer there. “ (
Heinlein 148)

This ability to make things disappear is one of the miracles that Mike performs, and the ability to perform miracles brings him ever closer to being a replica of Jesus Christ, who cured leprosy, raised the dead, and exorcised demons; all miraculous feats. Mike's actions are also tell-tale, as they are always performed after rapid, intense thought, and after he groks something as being right; if Mike groks something as being right, his actions are always perfect and so too were the actions of the Christ in Scripture.
Another concept prevalent in the novel is that of water-kin. As water is scarce on Mars, Mike finds it very precious, and the sharing of it between two people even more so. When Mike and another person share water, from then on Mike trusts them intrinsically, as if they were a part of him.

Jill suddenly had the feeling that Smith would unhesitatingly jump out the window if she told him to — in which belief she was correct; he would have jumped, enjoyed every scant second of the twenty-storey drop, and accepted without surprise or resentment the discorporation on impact. Nor would he have been unaware that such a fall would kill him; fear of death was an idea utterly beyond him. If a water brother selected for him such a strange discorporation, he would cherish it and try to grok. (Heinlein 121)

This acceptance of another being through the sharing of water is similar in spirit and form to communion, and Mike become absolutely ecstatic when a water-brother (Jubal Harshaw) asks him to immerse himself in a pool, a heightened religious experience for Mike similar to baptism.

“This brother wanted him to place his whole body in the water of life. No such honor had ever come to him; to the best of his knowledge and belief no one had ever before been offered such a holy privilege. Yet he had begun to understand that these others did have greater acquaintance with the stuff of life… a fact not yet grokked but which he had to accept.” (Heinlein 185)

After Mike had stayed long enough under the wing of his father/guide-figure (Jubal) and had learned enough to take care of himself, he set off with a follower, Gillian Boardman (Jill), to travel the country and grok what it is to be human. Mike travels across the country, spreading his message of total love, peace, and serenity and gathering followers; or disciples if alluding to the Bible. With followers, Mike establishes his Church of All Worlds, which espouses and doctrine of love and acceptance, while practicing nudity, communal living, the sharing of sexual partners, and indeed all material things including money, food, and possessions.
This church is set in contrast to the wildly popular Fosterite Church (and the corrupt Western Civilization it portrays), similar to the decrepit and vice-laden Roman Empire of Jesus's time, which decrees that all vices (gambling, wine, and women) are to be indulged and that God's greatest wish is for us to be happy, and so the seeking of pleasure and the following of church orthodoxy are the only rules that need be followed.
. Mike's church, however, is selective, and requires rigorous study to attain the inner circle; though all the members of the Church of All Worlds are accepting and loving of all outsiders. The communal living and all it's attachments in Stranger in a Strange Land are meant to show Heinlein's idea of utopia, while the Fosterite's are the symbolic organized religions of today, with their wrongful rules and ideologies, impose their morals and values on societal values, while using the power they gain over the populace to become involved in politics and ruling.
The Fosterites are the kind of religion that Heinlein most despises; the kind that serves only itself, does nothing for the world, and keeps its members happy to use them as political pawns. This corruption is similar to the Pharisees of Jesus's period (and is the corruption Heinlein sees in the entire Western Civilization's values), and so Heinlein first has the Fosterites offering Mike a place among them, though he must follow their rules, and then once he refuses, trying to remove the threat to their political stability and dominance over the peoples (which is why the Pharisees killed Jesus Christ) by assassinating him.
The Fosterites, and other organizations that are threatened or angered by Valentine Michael Smith's gospel of universal, free love, confront Mike and his followers outside one of their dwellings. Knowing the possible results of his actions and accepting them, Mike beatifically walks out, with hands literally held wide open. He has stones cast at him, is shot in the side (as Jesus was stabbed in the side by a spear while crucified), and then the mob rushes in to kill him. As he falls, light strikes his head so as to create the image of a halo and he speaks to a grasshopper his iconic phrase,” Thou are God”. And so he dies, killed by the people he tried to better and help, as Jesus died.
Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, is meant to be a comment and questioning of today's societal values; and if they are really true and sensible laws, or merely rules imposed by organized religion to enhance their grip on the people and so gain more power. Heinlein's uses Mike to show what he believes true freedom and expression should be, how a religion should be run, and how politics and religion should never mix. Heinlein also makes the point that humanity has a tendency towards more corrupt behavior, and that mankind tends to hate those who attempt to change the norm or bring revolution, as did Jesus and Mike (as well as numerous others, see: Ghandi).

“My dear, I used to think I was serving humanity... and I pleasured in the thought. Then I discovered that humanity does not want to be served; on the contrary it resents any attempt to serve it “ (Heinlein 274)


(J.W. 2010)






In this literary criticism, J.W analyzes the character Professeor Bernardo de la Paz
and his theory of Rational Anarchism in Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Rational Anarchism Plausible? An Essay Concerning Robert Heinlein's Fictional Theory of Rational Anarchism.


"A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals," Prof says. In other words, all choices are made by individuals and no individual can shift or share responsibility for his own choices.” (Heinlein 107)

The year is 2075 and the moon is a prison planet. Criminals are sent from Earth to Luna for life, for they cannot return to the higher-gravitational Earth once their bodies adjust to the moon's lesser gravity. This is the setting where discontent and revolution ferment, as the Earthlings take advantage of the convicts, with outrageous taxes and regulations, using the moon only as a farming planet, and so draining the moon's resources and meager water supply. The moon's resources will soon be depleted, leaving the Loonies (Moon-dwellers) to starve, or rely even more upon the resources of Earth, and so the mistreatment and greed that go along with it.
Professor Bernardo de la Paz is the mentor to the narrator of the story, Mannie, and was condemned to the prison planet for his lifelong subversive, anarchistic, and rebellious behavior, and speaks with the author's voice on the subject of revolution that the author wishes to comment on through the medium of the story. The Professor is a leader of the revolution, it's main coordinator, and eventually becomes the leader of Luna.



“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as 'state' and 'society' and 'government' have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame. . . as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world. . . aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure. “
(Heinlein 142)

The Professor considers himself a Rational Anarchist (a term coined by Heinlein in this book), and so fights against the oppressive government of the Moon (under the Warden), with the goal of a Rational Anarchist in mind; that being a government in which every single citizen is responsible for his own actions, and one that governs all people equally and logically. The Professor believes that the closest a society has come to possessing an environment where each individual is responsible for his/her actions is the Lunar society, which is described as an almost Wild West frontier-town, where death is ever-present, the people are hard-working, the people are polite, and have a sense of self-responsibility lacking in more 'civilized' societies; and so he fights to defend it from the Warden and the Earth.
Rational anarchism is based on the theory that government is non-existent but for the existence of self-responsible individuals. This means that every individual is given complete control over his life and the responsibility and blame can only be placed upon that individual person. This is a good theory, but in practice, the fact remains that people are stupid; and people do stupid things. Too much power in the hands of individuals of questionable ability is a danger to the populace ( Heinlein addresses this problem in Starship Troopers with citizenship and voting rights only being given to those who have contributed to the people through military service). Wyoming Knott addresses this problem with the Professor in the excerpt below...

Wyoh challenges Prof: "Professor, your words sound good but there is something slippery about them. Too much power in the hands of individuals—surely you would not want... well, H-missiles for example—to be controlled by one irresponsible person?" she says. Prof answers by saying that individuals in fact do hold the power to use nuclear weapons, and such an individual is ultimately responsible for their use, whether he chooses to acknowledge and accept that responsibility or not. "In terms of morals there is no such thing as a ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts," he says. "I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free, because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything that I do."
(Heinlein 216)
The Professor's response asserts that the power and responsibility for situations is in fact always in the hands of individuals and the responsibility for individuals actions rest with the individual.
Another side to this is that government, such as a democracy or a republic, provides a structure that helps make sure that the individual with whom the power lies makes the best choice possible to please the majority of people whom they represent.
Rational anarchy is simply a viewpoint that in live, only you yourself are responsible for your actions, and the results and burdens they bring; not the government. Rational anarchism, is indeed rational, in that it acknowledges that humans need some form of government, but instead it focuses on the make-up of the government, and how it does not exist, and is merely a conglomerate of individuals bonded for a common purpose, for a common good.
“I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. “ - This is the creed of the Rational Anarchist, and a guide for any self-responsible individual.


(J.W. 2010)