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Date Posted: 10:41:33 01/03/03 Fri
Author: Robert
Subject: My Speculation About Shepherd Book (spoilers across entire series)

I think that Shepherd Book was an Alliance general before entering the abbey. Mutant Enemy has given us several pieces of evidence that corroborates this conclusion. The remaining question is why? Why did he enter the abbey and why is he on the Serenity? First, let us look at the evidence.

Based upon dialogue in Serenity and The Train Job, I believe that Shepherd Book is (what is known in the trade as) a second career pastor. In the mainline Protestant churches, a significant percentage of pastors entered seminary after having worked a career. There are different reasons for doing so, such as burning out in the first career, discovering a lack of personal fulfillment, and (of course) receiving a personal call to ministry. After all, the apostles were second career ministers. So the question is; what did Book do before entering the abbey?

In Safe, we see the Alliance ship captain showing deference toward Book after learning his true identity. In War Stories, we see that he is knowledgeable about weapons, tactics and ships, and that he is not squeamish about killing those that desperately need killing. In Objects in Space, Early tells Simon that Book is no shepherd. Possibly he recognizes Book from his prior career. This leads me to believe that Book was involved with the unification war and was important to the Alliance. I'm guessing that he lead and won an important battle, such as the battle of Serenity Valley for instance. So, why did he go into the abbey?

I think that Shepherd Book is deeply ashamed of the job he had performed for the Alliance. I think he feels the weight of all those who died in the war. Maybe he is also ashamed for the subsequent behavior of the Alliance. Book is looking for absolution from God at the same time as Mal is seeking absolution for God. Joss Whedon has a heightened sense of irony and it would be delicious irony to have the victor of Serenity Valley as a guest and passenger on Mal's ship. Book chose to travel with Mal as part of his journey toward absolution. He is learning the life and ways of the very independents he crushed in the war.

Does anyone else see this as a possibility?

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