Jumping into the Christian Speculative Fiction Discussion


I’ve been blogging about Christian science fiction and fantasy for four years now—that and a few other topics. 😉 Early on I gave an apologetics, of sorts—why Christians should be writing fantasy. Later I explored why the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) side of the book industry seemed hesitant to jump on the fantasy bandwagon that gripped the rest of … well, pretty much, The World.

Consequently, when friend and soon-to-be published author, Mike Duran, broached the subject on his blog, (“Why ‘Supernatural Fiction’ is Under-Represented in Christian Bookstores”) I didn’t jump into the discussion with both feet, (OK, I made one tiny little comment. You didn’t think I’d remain completely silent on the subject, did you? 😛 ) After all, I’ve said my piece, over and over and over.

Well, the discussion is escalating. First Mike posted a similar article, “Why is ‘Speculative Fiction’ Under-represented in Christian Bookstores?” at Novel Journey. His comments got picked up and discussed at the blog i09 in an article entitled “Christian readers demand more science fiction books. Why won’t Christian publishers listen?” Then blogger J. Mark Miller joined the discussion in a post today: “Christian Speculative Fiction?”

In reading the various posts and comments, a couple things jump out at me.

  • Many of the people who voice opinion about the health of Christian Speculative Fiction apparently haven’t read much of it. The fact that they don’t know how much ECPA houses have branched out is evidence of that. I won’t take time to make a list—though that would be a worthy project for another post. For now, note that ECPA houses Tyndale, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Bethany, WaterBrook, Harvest House, Crossway, AMG, and Strang all have speculative titles coming out this year—and most have multiple titles.

    Suffice it to say, comments about a lack of science in any Christian science fiction show an ignorance of books like Austin Boyd’s Mars Hills trilogy and Karen Hancock’s Enclave. Lumping all speculative in with supernatural shows an unawareness of books like Sharon Hinck’s The Sword of Lyric series and Jeffrey Overstreet’s Auralia’s Thread series. And belittling the quality of the writing shows unfamiliarity with authors such as George Bryan Polivka and Tom Pawlik and Tosca Lee and Athol Dickson. (Yes, the last two aren’t exclusively speculative fiction writers, but their speculative titles shouldn’t be ignored, either).

  • The idea that Christians don’t want to read speculative fiction is archaic. In a post four years ago, I quoted from a Barna Group of Ventura California study that surveyed teenagers from thirteen to eighteen over a three year period. The findings indicated that 77% of this group identified as church-going and 78% identifying themselves as born-again Christians had seen or read at least one Harry Potter book or movie.

    Since the survey started in 2002, that means those eighteen year olds would now be twenty-six. Are we to believe that in these ensuing eight years those who read or viewed a Harry Potter fantasy now are closed to the genre?

    And what about those of us who grew up on the Star Wars movies? I don’t have stats, but I know in my circle of Christian friends, the majority saw all six. Do we have one standard for movies and another for books? I don’t think so.

  • Then why don’t publishers report better sales for speculative fiction? Why are insiders continually repeating the mantra that Christians won’t buy speculative fiction?

    First of all, Christians do buy speculative titles. As a number of commenters noted, some of the best selling Christian fiction (beyond Lewis and Tolkien—and the fact that those authors still sell well only adds to this point) was speculative. Frank Peretti opened the door to Christian fiction beyond prairie romance. Ted Dekker mixes speculative with thriller, but his more speculative titles such as the Circle Trilogy have better Amazon rankings than some of his more recent works. And anyone remember the Left Behind phenomenon?

    For some reason, these best-selling authors don’t count. I don’t know why. Some say Dekker could sell anything, so readers don’t like him for his speculative titles—they just like him. And Left Behind was … something no one understands.

    In other words, there are reasons not to throw in these authors’ numbers with other speculative writers.

    But here’s the thing, not all readers enjoy all speculative fiction. I don’t. I have a strong preference for fantasy, and not for dark fantasy, not for science fiction, not for supernatural. But how is a reader who enjoys a particular kind of speculative fiction to find the books they want to read?

    Not even Christian book stores consistently do a good job of stocking speculative titles. In one local Christian book store, I had to order a Karen Hancock book, despite the fact that she had won three consecutive Christy Awards.

    Could it be that we can still improve when it comes to telling readers about Christian speculative fiction? Of course, we might then be in danger of adding to the impression that we are merely a vocal group. 😉

    In my opinion, two things have moved Christian speculative fiction forward. One, ECPA houses are getting more and more titles into general market stores. Granted, they are still shelved in the Christian fiction section, but Christians who don’t go to CBA stores will be more apt to peruse works at Target or Borders, even when they’re in the “special section.”

    Two, Bryan Davis has marketed tirelessly and sold his fiction well. So did Donita Paul. The industry insiders, then, concluded that YA fantasy would sell and a host of titles have cropped up. Some writers for adults even added fantasy for middle grade and YA—notably Ted Dekker and Robert Liparulo.

    I say it’s time to end this false idea that Christian speculative fiction doesn’t sell, has only a small niche audience, isn’t well written, won’t be tolerated by Christians. Let me end with this quote from one of my previous fantasy rants:

    Last point, and perhaps the most important. If selling is most affected by word of mouth—and most people who hang around long enough in this business seem to agree it is—isn’t it reasonable to conclude that those with the most influence have the biggest affect when they say something? In other words, don’t editors [or agents], when they say sci fi and fantasy don’t sell well, actually create the negative buzz that insures the truth of those statements?

    I don’t know if I’m saying this clearly. What I’m thinking is this: The people who are most in a position to know things, by saying “We don’t think this sells well,” create the very buzz that causes the genre not to sell well. Because certainly editors have a bigger platform than some wanna-be blogger who rants about how Christian publishers are missing the fantasy train. 😉

    CSFF Blog Tour – Imaginary Jesus Wrap


    Two tours going last week and I didn’t get the poll up for our CSFF June Top Tour Blogger Award. Thirty bloggers participated, posting over fifty articles. We had outstanding quality—thoughtful commentary, thorough reviews, touching personal accounts.

    I hope lots and lots of readers discovered Matt Mikalatos and his challenging book, Imaginary Jesus. Let the buzz begin! Or continue, I guess.

    Here’s how. Read one or more of the posts below or in the list from day one of the tour, then email at least two friends with the links. Or blog about the book yourself, including at least two links to reviews, discussions, or interviews. Or if you’ve read the book, tell at least two people at church about the book. Or, if you haven’t, tell at least two people at church about the blog posts you read about the book. Or ask for the book for your birthday. Or buy the book as a surprise summer gift for a friend. Or post something on Twitter or Facebook about the book or the posts about the book which you read. Or go to Amazon and comment about any of the reviews there. Or post your review at Amazon, Christianbooks.com, B & N—or any other review site you know of.

    ‘Nuff said. Here are the bloggers—and links to their posts (click on each check mark)—eligible to win this month’s CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award, followed by the poll. Thank you for making this Award possible with your vote. 😀 (This poll will close midnight, July 6, Pacific time.)

    Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Imaginary Jesus Wrap  
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    A Little Buzz


    I have fallen down on my “pass along the news” job—the one you probably didn’t realize I’d shouldered. 😛 . It’s not an official job, of course, but I do like to keep readers here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction informed about whatever book or author buzz seems significant.

    The biggest, I suppose, is that the Christy Award winners were announced at the International Christian Retail Show on Saturday. I am so happy to point out that three of these winners—yes, THREE—were books featured by the CSFF Blog Tour. Three. Even though there is only one Speculative category (called Visionary).

    So here are your results, with the CSFF features in red.

    CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

      Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills – Tyndale House Publishers

    CONTEMPORARY SERIES

      Who Do I Talk To? by Neta Jackson – Thomas Nelson

    CONTEMPORARY STANDALONE

      The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson – Thomas Nelson

    FIRST NOVEL

      Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent – Tyndale House Publishers

    HISTORICAL

      Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin – Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

    HISTORICAL ROMANCE

    The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen – Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

    SUSPENSE

      Lost Mission by Athol Dickson – Howard Books: a Division of Simon & Schuster

    VISIONARY

      By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson – Marcher Lord Press

    YOUNG ADULT

      North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson – WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

    Congratulations to all the winners, but especially to Jill, Athol, and Andrew. In my opinion, the speculative titles are getting better and better—these winners had stiff competition. It’s exciting to see.

    An interesting announcement came out of ICRS as well—this one from the American Christian Fiction Writers. They have named their Book of the Year Award after Carol Johnson former Bethany editor who signed Janette Oke back in 1979. From now on the ACFW award will be know as the Carol Award.

    All this talk of awards remind me of the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction—a readers’ choice award. Nominations will close at the end of June, but rather than starting the voting process right away, July is designated as Read Christian Speculative Fiction month. What a great way to enjoy the summer!

    Reading is especially important because only those who have read at least two of the nominations will be eligible to vote. Those who have a favorite author are of course welcome to vote—as long as they have read at least one other (hopefully more) book on the list.

    By the way, anyone looking for the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award poll to determine the June winner, check back tomorrow.

    One final tidbit for today. Fellow fantasy writer, friend, and regular reader here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, Morgan L. Busse, is now also a blogger. You can read her inaugural post (besides a short test), “In darkness there is light,” then subscribe to receive her articles via email. As I recall, her goal is to post every Friday. I’d say she’s off to a great start.

    CBBT – Wayfarer by R. J. Anderson, Day 3


    Wayfarer, the Children’s Book Blog Tour feature for June, is R. J. Anderson‘s second novel. I had the privilege of reviewing the first, Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter back in March, which is why I jumped on the opportunity to participate in this tour.

    Despite the fact that my initial reaction to stories about faeries was negative, I found myself wholly engrossed in the world and the characters Anderson created. So that brings me to the review of Wayfarer, the sequel to the book that introduced me to the Oakenwyld and the faeries without magic.

    The Story. Fifteen years after the end of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter Linden, the step-daughter to the main character I grew to love, is ready to take on an adult role in the Oakenwyld. But she faces a dying world. Her queen, the only faery with magic in the Oak, is dying, and along with her, the glimpse that keeps predators from knowing that a colony of faeries lives inside.

    Linden receives a portion of the queen’s magic and the assignment to find other faeries who can restore the magic to the dwindling and endangered group.

    Meanwhile, a new human moves into the big house—Paul’s young nephew Timothy, the son of missionaries who is experiencing a crisis of faith. In days, feeling confused, betrayed and alone, Timothy strikes out on his own.

    Except unbeknown to him, Linden goes along. And so their adventures begin. Both their lives and the ones they love are at risk unless they team up to find help.

    Strengths. It’s hard for me to say how much I loved this book. At one point as I was reading, I had to put it down and think about how well crafted it was. I was fully engaged, the plot complications naturally ratcheted the tension higher, and the stakes became greater.

    How did she do it, I asked myself. One event naturally grew out of another event, one choice naturally let to a greater problem. And the story bloomed before my eyes.

    Danger, intrigue, surprise. These are the hallmarks of a great plot. But this story was more. It also had great characters—believable, troubled, courageous, ultimately sacrificial. They became admirable and I wanted so very much to see them succeed.

    And still there was more. Wayfarer addresses some deep issues, perhaps the central most being the need to take a risk on behalf of others rather than to seek a selfishly safe haven for a few like-minded folk (or faeries).

    Weakness. A few reviewers said they liked Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter a bit more than Wayfarer. I didn’t feel that way. I loved them equally.

    If I had to give a criticism, I’d say this one started a little slow. I was shocked to be in the point of view of a human boy in the first chapter (I blame this on the girlie-girl cover). I also thought he was an unreliable narrator because he found fault with the characters I loved in the first book. So it took me a little while to warm up to Timothy.

    The turning point for me was when Linden did the first heroic deed. Because I wanted her to succeed, I also wanted Timothy to succeed, and I was hooked.

    Recommendation. I consider this one a must read for fantasy lovers. I give the book my highest recommendation to anyone, young or old, male or female, who loves a good story.

    Finally, I’d like to invite you to see what tour participants are talking about (several have some excellent author interviews).

    Special thanks to HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, for supplying me with a review copy of Wayfarer.

    CBBT – Wayfarer by R. J. Anderson, Day 2


    Shortly after the CSFF Blog Tour for R. J. Anderson‘s first novel, Faery Rebel: Spell Hunter, I lent my copy to a friend who writes YA fantasy. She’s even written a faery story though it hasn’t found a publishing home. I knew she’d be interested in reading a story about Knife and the faeries without magic.

    When our next writer get-together drew near, I asked for the book back because a couple other people were in line to read it. Lo and behold, my friend had started it, but her target-audience daughter snatched it up and devoured it instead. In fact, my friend reported how on pins and needles said daughter was, waiting for Wayfarer.

    Thinking that I’d be through with the Children’s Book Blog Tour (I got my dates wrong), I’d said I would pass along my ARC in exchange for the first book. Oh, woe! I feel like I’ve disappointed this eager reader!

    But here’s the point. Too often when I’m doing reviews, I lose sight of the target audience. I formulate my opinion based on my likes and dislikes, my expectations and interests, my writing style preferences. I try not to, but it happens. Then I encounter the raw enthusiasm of a reader in love with a new world she’s discovered, and I realize, as much as I may have liked Wayfarer (and I DID), it pales in comparison to the joy a target-audience reader will experience.

    Stories like the ones the talented R. J. Anderson has written spark something in young readers, I think. They stretch the world and make all things seem possible. They create mystery but also throw down the gauntlet of becoming to those moving toward adulthood.

    A young person can grow to be selfish, using others and protecting self, or he can grow to be sacrificial, helping others and giving himself away. Anderson paints the contrasts clearly and even paints the risks of sacrifice accurately. Good choices aren’t necessarily happy choices. They usually cost.

    But when a character a reader loves makes the good choice, somehow that reader, especially that young reader, is ennobled. Suddenly, the idea that sacrifice and selflessness can be achieved and will make a difference seems like an idea for today, for now, for the young as much as for the old.

    That’s when stories take on power. That’s when they become much more than entertainment, much more than enjoyable.

    That’s the kind of book I believe Wayfarer is.

    See what others on the CBBT circuit think:

    Special thanks to HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, for supplying me with a review copy of Wayfarer.

    CBBT – Wayfarer by R. J. Anderson, Day 1


    Here’s Post #2 for today, my contribution to the Children’s Book Blog Tour featuring Wayfarer, R. J. Anderson‘s sequel to Faery Rebel: Spell Hunter, (HarperCollins). I already know, any CSFF Blog Tour participants who see this post will be jealous because I’ve had a chance to read Anderson’s second book (which just released this week) because the first one was so popular with those who recently reviewed it.

    I’m happy to say, Wayfarer doesn’t suffer a sophomore jinx like so many second books do. The story continues what the first one started and is as exciting and full of suspense, intrigue, twists, and truth as its predecessor.

    I’ll admit, the US cover (pictured above, on the right—the other is the UK version) threw me. During the CSFF Blog Tour for Anderson’s debut novel, a number of reviewers commented on the pixy-like image on the cover, reminiscent of Tinkerbell (you can see that cover pictured here). Since that image fit what I thought of in connection to faeries, I wasn’t troubled. But this more adult, prim and proper version pictured on the cover of Wayfarer was a little off-putting.

    Then I started reading. After the short prologue I discovered this story was as much a boy’s story as it was a faery’s. And, quite frankly, in the early going, I missed Knife (the main character in the first book).

    But all these concerns led to nothing. I soon forgot about the girlie-girl cover and came to care for Timothy as I delved into the fast-paced, fun story that pushes the reader to think more deeply about … a variety of things—home, family, trust, selfishness, sacrifice, kindness, truthfulness, courage. There’s a LOT in this enjoyable story.

    Plus, in a crucial place, Knife stepped up to be … Knife, which added to my delight. The character I’d grown to love in the last book wasn’t just a place holder or window dressing, even though Wayfarer wasn’t her story. She played a significant role, and I loved this book more because of it.

    But there was lots to love about this story for itself. While I didn’t lose my attachment to Knife (and in fact actually felt more fond of her than ever), I quickly came to care about Linden and Timothy.

    Wayfarer is its own story, not a repeat of the earlier book. The characters were unique, the conflict ratcheted higher, and the effects spread wider with more at stake. In other words, this story felt bigger, more complex.

    But enough of my introduction.

    Take a look at what other Children’s Book Blog Tour participants have to say about Wayfarer:

    Special thanks to HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, for supplying me with a review copy of Wayfarer.

    CSFF Blog Tour – Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos, Day 3


    Since I’m participating in two blog tours today, this post reviewing Matt Mikalatos’s Imaginary Jesus for CSFF will be the first of two (remember, I owe you one from last week anyway).

    The Story. Because Imaginary Jesus isn’t your typical novel, “story” is actually a frame for a theological discussion. Matt, the character, meets a time-travel version of the Apostle Peter—fondly referred to as Pete—who informs him the Jesus he’s hanging out with isn’t the real Jesus.

    Thus embarks a journey of discovery, first to expose not only Matt’s customized version of Jesus but a host of other false models, then to find the Real Jesus.

    Strengths. Without a doubt, one of the great strengths of this book is the humor. Matt, the author, has done a wonderful job of producing laugh-out-loud lines that simultaneously point to false ideas many of us have clung to from time to time.

    The fact that the humor is not sacrilegious is an amazing accomplishment given the subject matter. That it actually works to expose error makes it all the more powerful. Any good writing device should not exist for its own sake but for the sake of the story, and Matt’s humor is just such a device.

    Probably more important, however, is the truth revealed in the content of Imaginary Jesus. If the book was funny but full of theological tripe, it would be empty at best and misleading at worst.

    Matt, the author, navigates that minefield by staying true to Scripture. His one time-travel scene in which he, the character, visits first-century Palestine and sees the real Jesus in action had the potential to be as imaginary as the Jesus he conjured in the twenty-first century. Instead, Jesus only spoke what the Bible says He spoke and only did what the Bible says He did.

    Best of all, in broaching the subject of evil and its effects on the world, Matt, the author, does so with sensitivity and Biblical accuracy.

    I think he has written the kind of story—perhaps best classified as an extended parable—few can pull off. C. S. Lewis did so in The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce. More recently Paul Young wrote the commercially successful The Shack though his theology puts him in a different camp from both Lewis and Mikalatos.

    Weakness. The one problem I had with the book is this: I thought in the end Matt, the author, missed an opportunity. Because he adhered to Scripture so closely, I hoped he would be able to lead Matt, the character, to a place where he would find the Real Jesus within the pages of the Bible. Instead he experienced him in what he termed a vision.

    To my mind this opens the question, how then do you know this encounter was with the Real Jesus since he’d been fooled time and time before? What’s to make him think this vision was any different than his other imaginings?

    Matt, the author, gave one brief explanation—truthful, but too easy to miss, I think:

    I wanted more moments [with Jesus] like this one—these rare, inexplicable visions. But even as I thought this I realized it was a difference in kind, not in quality. I’ve had mystical experiences many times in prayer, when his quiet voice has shaken me with his truth. The Bible, prayer, church—these were places where he met with me often and spoke clearly.

    – p 216

    In essence he’s saying the character’s encounter with Jesus was more of the same he’d had in the Bible—and in prayer and in church—not different.

    Because of the objective reality of Jesus, I think it’s a main point, not a side issue, that our experience of Jesus is anchored in Scripture. It’s the only way we can get out from under imaginary Jesuses, and I think this point could have been made with power rather than squeaking in through the back door.

    Recommendation. My criticism of Imaginary Jesus involves revelation—where exactly can any of us find the Real Jesus—not the Real Jesus Matt, the character, finds. The main point of the book isn’t centered on this issue, however.

    Primarily the book uncovers the propensity for any of us to make Jesus after our own likeness. It’s an important lesson, and worthy of review even for many of us who nod in agreement upon hearing the distilled concept.

    Plus the humor is great. It’s rare to read something so inspiringly funny. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good laugh and to anyone who wants to think more deeply about who Jesus is.

    Once again I invite you to stop by the other blogs discussing this excellent book. You can find links to specific posts here.

    Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for supplying me with a review copy of Imaginary Jesus.

    Published in: on June 23, 2010 at 10:03 am  Comments (10)  
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    CSFF Blog Tour – Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos, Day 2


    For a humorous book, Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos (this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature) generates a lot of thought. Take a look, for example, at D. G. Davidson’s post discussing a question Jesus raised with His disciples, recorded in Luke: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Or Fred Warren’s post with the same verse as its catalyst. Then there’s John Otte’s post that quotes John Calvin AND Martin Luther as part of a discussion about the idols we create.

    These discussions are important, helpful, necessary. Too many people in America today, and probably throughout the world, are following a made-up version of Jesus, (I met some professing Christians here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction back in January, you might recall, who were “re-imaging Jesus”) and the sad fact is, there will be a day when the Real Jesus will tell them He never knew them.

    Imaginary Jesus is a book that can help us all see our own false ideas about Jesus if we will take a hard look.

    Interestingly, the reason Matt Mikalatos’s work is so effective, I believe, is because it counters, by implication, some of the errors in postmodern thought, even as it employs the powerful “tell a story” method of communicating truth favored by that worldview.

    For one, Matt assumes that the Real Jesus exists. He is not relative, not Someone to be molded to suit each individual according to his cultural situated-ness. In other words, Jesus has objective reality and truth about Him can be uncovered.

    Which leads to the second point. Matt also assumes that the Real Jesus can be found. He is not a mystery that negates relationship. He is not an idea to ponder but a Person to know.

    Third, because Jesus is a Person, we don’t need to “deconstruct” Him or the Bible that tells us about Him. Deconstruction either leaves a pile of rubble or requires reconstruction—the “re-imaging” I mentioned earlier—and it is the latter that creates the plethora of imaginary Jesuses Matt exposed in this book.

    Along with his own custom-built Jesus, Matt, the character, encountered King James Jesus, Political Power Jesus, 8-Ball Jesus, Peacenik Jesus, TV Jesus, Legalist Jesus, New Age Jesus, Free Will Jesus and any number of others belonging to the SSIJ (Secret Society of Imaginary Jesuses). There are even those who people invent for a specific reason and then discard “when they don’t need him anymore.”

    But here’s where this exposure of the imaginary led—to relationship:

    “These came from different places. Lies you’ve believed.” Daisy [the talking donkey] pointed her snout at Unforgiving Jesus. “Lies that someone told you or you told yorself. Some of them are diabolical, and some are self-inflicted. A few are even well-intentioned. They’re constructs that tell you what Jesus will say or do, how he feels, or what he thinks, without ever having to get to know him.”
    – p. 193

    A humorous story? Absolutely! It is through the vehicle of story—and a funny one at that—by which Matt, the author, brings us to relevant Truth, challenging in the process some of the key components of postmodern thought.

    Please take some time this week to check out what others on the CSFF Blog Tour are saying about Imaginary Jesus (see the list at the end of yesterday’s post).

    Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for supplying me with a review copy of the book.

    CSFF Blog Tour – Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos, Day 1


    I’m actually scheduled to participate in two different blog tours today, both for books I loved. As a result, I’ll be double posting on Wednesday, which is fine since I shorted you a post last week. At any rate, for those looking for posts about Wayfarer by R. J. Anderson in conjunction with the Children’s Book Blog Tour, you’ll find those starting Wednesday.

    Today I want to introduce Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos (Tyndale). I suppose the best approach is to start with first things first—the cover, and more specifically, the title.

    I’ll be honest, when Matt first emailed me about CSFF touring his book I was … hesitant, to say the least. I mean, Imaginary Jesus? I know I’m not the only one to react this way. Once CSFF settled on featuring this book, one tour member emailed me and in parenthesis after the book title said it was hard even to type the words.

    The fact is, those of us who know and love Jesus don’t want a book touting Him as imaginary. But I know Matt from CSFF, and I also know a bit about Tyndale House who published the book under the Barna imprint. Certainly this title could not mean the book was about Jesus being imaginary!

    Later, when I received the promotional blurb for the book, I had additional concerns. Here’s the opening: “An hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before.”

    A hilarious story about Jesus?

    OK, my hesitation grew.

    But it’s Matt’s book, Tyndale’s book.

    And reviews were in—good reviews from Josh McDowell and my Bible professor from Westmont College, Robert Gundry (Tremper Longman), from Publisher’s Weekly and CBA Retailers. I even read a piece about it in Writer’s Digest in the Debut Author section. Clearly this was a book the CSFF administrative team needed to consider.

    How glad I am that we not only considered it but chose to feature it on the tour.

    Here are my overarching thoughts:

    • Imaginary Jesus is laugh-out-loud funny, without being sacrilegious—no easy feat.
    • The book is one of the truest stories I’ve read, though it is completely made up.
    • Imaginary Jesus, because of its title, might either be controversial among or ignored by Christians. The latter would be sad because the book is the kind of challenging we need.
    • In essence, as I stated in a post at Rewrite, Reword, Rework ” the ‘story’ is primarily a vehicle to discuss theology.” But remember, it’s 😆 funny, therefore not boring!

    So what’s the book about? This “not-quite-true” true story is an autobiographical account of searching for the Real Jesus, not the Jesus of our imagining or our re-imaging. Which makes this work incredibly relevant to our postmodern culture.

    Here is the list of other CSFF members who will be blogging about Imaginary Jesus the next three days. Take some time to see what they thought about this very different piece of fictitious memoir.

    Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for supplying me with a review copy of Imaginary Jesus.

    Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 10:20 am  Comments (10)  
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    Living for the Weekend


    Living for the Weekend … or the summer … or the next holiday. I’ve been there, even lived there you might say. 😉

    But I’ve been thinking about the culture in America that can’t wait to be away from work, that can’t wait to do the Next Great Fun Thing. For it seems that the race to leisure time actually means a race to fast-paced, adrenaline-rushing, heart-pounding Entertainment of some sort.

    Not too many people talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can have a nice chat with their spouse or so they can clean out the garage as they promised last week. Not too many kids talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can play board games as a family or read the novel they checked out from the library.

    And does anyone talk about looking forward to the weekend, the summer, an upcoming holiday so they can have a longer, more relaxed, uninterrupted quiet time alone with God?

    Somehow, this cycle of enduring the workweek in order to get to the Fun Times seems off to me. It strikes me that moms don’t live by this cycle. Their families still need to eat, still need clean cloths, still need the hurt of bumped elbows and skinned knees kissed away.

    The difference seems to be that moms don’t live for themselves. But what about everyone else? Is selfishness what drives people to live for the weekend?

    I don’t think it’s that simple. From my own experience, I can say, living for the weekend has more to do with medication than it does exhilaration.

    So much of our American culture finds normal life wanting. Work isn’t satisfying, problems exist at home, the news is always bad, and the government is a mess. What good thing can we look forward to on a Monday morning?

    Better to grit my teeth and survive until I can get to the weekend when I’ll be able to immerse myself in sports or shopping or movies or parties or … something, anything mind-numbing.

    Except, that worldview is the world’s, not the Christian’s. God gives us plenty to look forward to on Monday and every day. He Himself is new every morning. He gives us purpose and joy in fulfilling it. He puts a song in our hearts and invites us to “offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”

    Christians, of all people, have life to celebrate, because we’ve been born and reborn. Even if we sit in the doctor’s waiting room or at the bedside of a dying loved one, we still have available to us the peace that passes understanding, the fruit of the Spirit, and His comfort. We have forgiveness in Jesus and the hope of Heaven. We have a Savior who will never leave us nor forsake us. We have His unending love.

    Yet we find Monday too wearying? Too mundane? Too tedious?

    Perhaps the problem has more to do with where I’m fixing my eyes which reveals my true worldview, no matter what I say my perspective is.

    Here’s what Scripture says:

    Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

    When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory …

    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

    Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

    – Col 3:1-4, 15-17 (emphasis mine)

    Nothing in there about a separate focus for Monday through Friday.

    Published in: on June 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm  Comments (6)  
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