CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Night Of The Living Dead Christian

Thirty of us were talking, and we ended up with sixty-seven posts — all about Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos. So much conversation is a sure sign that the book stirred something in those who read it. Was it controversy? I mean, an allegory comparing Christians and monsters could get a little dicey. Was it praise for the author? After all, his work has received some heavy-hitter endorsements.

No and no — well, OK, somewhat, in that last one, but that wasn’t the most popular subject. The main topic of discussion that came up most frequently was how the book — the message of it — affected the reader.

Here are a few samples:

  • Bruce Hennigan: All in all, “Night of the Living Dead Christian” is a powerful allegory of what most Christians are like today, including me. It is well worth the reading, well worth the laughter, and ultimately, well worth the tears of joy.
  • Steve Trower: there were plenty more like it, snippets of dialogue that contained real thought-provoking truth. As a writer, moments like these serve to remind me of the power that stories can have – even silly stories about vampires and zombies. As a flawed and arguably monstrous human being, this particular moment was really a little closer to home than it had any right to be!
    • Theresa Dunlap: Yes, you will find zombies, werewolves and vampires and even a mad scientist and a robot – um – android, but there is such a powerful message hidden in the story that one is likely to not forget it easily. To put it as simply as possible, this book is a story about transformation – a true transformation.
  • Thomas Fletcher Booher: something Mikalatos did very well was point out that faith must involve works, and he pulls from the book of James to support this. True faith is a working faith, and a faith without works is not a true saving faith.
    • Tori Greene: If I really believe that Jesus is God become man to save us from sin, if I really believe in the things that he taught, then the way I live my life should reflect this. Jesus calls us to live in a radical way – to put Him first, to love our neighbor, to reject the false promises of the world. My life should be transformed as I seek to pick up my own cross and follow Him

    Not that the participants were unanimous in their opinions, by any means, but that so many focused on what the story meant is unusual for a book also recommended because of its humor.

    One last part of the tour remains — choosing which blogger to recognize as this month’s Top Tour Blogger. And to add a little something, Matt has kindly offered a prize for the winner:

    to sweeten the pot this month I’m giving the winner of the blog tour a free, signed copy of the book as well as a limited edition NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD poster (the image of which does not match the book cover, is beautiful, and that the publisher has asked me not to share publicly).

    And now those eligible for the Award:

    We definitely can use your help. Take time to look over these posts if you haven’t already, and then come back here to vote for the blogger you think deserves to be recognized as this month’s CSFF Top Tour Blogger. You have until April 16 to vote.

    Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Night Of The Living Dead Christian  
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    A Review: Night Of The Living Dead Christian – CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3

    The CSFF Blog Tour for Night Of The Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos is winding down. What a ride!

    We have a book giveaway at Beckie Burnham‘s site, a quiz to determine what kind of monster you are at Chawna Schroeder‘s, reviews of My Imaginary Jesus, such as this one by Shannon McDermott, and theology discussions by the Boohers — Thomas Fletcher and Thomas Clayton. That’s only scratching the surface. There is much, much more to enjoy.

    A bonus has been the posts by our host author who is offering several goodies to the winner of the Top Tour Blogger Award and who has graciously shared a portion of his book proposal so writers can see a bit of how he presented his story to his publisher. He also has linked to chapters with bonus material so we can see how the story changed from an earlier conception. It’s great stuff.

    But now, on to what you came to read.

    The Review

    The Story. Unlike My Imaginary Jesus which was fairly episodic, Night of the Living Dead Christian has a basic plot.

    Matt Mikalatos is once again a character in his own book. This one, however, is really his neighbor’s story. Luther is a werewolf. He doesn’t want to be one because his wife left him, taking their daughter with her. He is desperate to find a way to stop being a werewolf, so Matt and a couple other buddies determine to help him. The story, then, is Luther’s quest for change.

    Strengths. This short description of the story, or the one on the back cover, or any of those I read from tour participants doesn’t really give an adequate representation of the book.

    First, it is funny. Matt is a bit bumbling (which ends up playing a significant part in the story), and his humor, self-deprecating. As several commenters pointed out in my day one post about the use of spoof in the book, this technique is disarming, allowing readers to sit back and chuckle without feeling defensive.

    But this isn’t simply a romp with vampires and mad scientists and zombies popping in and out for no rhyme or reason. It’s actually a very authentic, incredibly sad and serious story. It’s very “real life.” Luther’s werewolfishness, as it turns out, is no laughing matter. He has every right to want to be rid of it for good. Except he doesn’t want to be rid of it.

    And therein lies more truth and reality. This book is full of such insight, but also of answers. Yes, answers — the very thing that so many Christians think we ought not be giving in our stories. But Matt is faithful to Scripture, so his answers aren’t easy, nor are they quick. They paint the picture of the seed dying in the ground in order that it might begin to grow.

    What’s more, this book, so full of Biblical teaching, is not preachy. In all the fifty-some articles I’ve read about this book over these past three days, I don’t remember any saying the book was preachy. In fact just the opposite. How can a book be so overtly Christian and not be preachy? You’ll have to read it for yourself and see.

    So what are the strengths of this book? It’s easy to break down: it is funny and truthful.

    Weaknesses. I don’t really have anything I’d call a weakness. Because Matt is doing something so different from other novels, it’s hard to evaluate it on the same terms.

    I did realize as I read various tour posts that some people might be expecting a different book simply because it’s about monsters. This is not horror, not even close to horror. The monsters are a device. Will that disappoint some? Perhaps, but I think it will relieve a good many more, and it makes the book accessible to a wider audience.

    At the same time, the back cover announces that the book is an allegory. Will that drive away readers expecting a fairly standard, predictable story? I hope not. It is most definitely a twenty-first century allegory, so it’s not like anything you’ve read before.

    So the only weaknesses I can think of are the things people might expect, leading them to think the book is something it is not.

    Recommendation. My first instinct was to say this is a must read for everyone, but I realize that’s not the case. Instead, I’ll amend my recommendation and say it’s a must read for those who want to think about spiritual things and who are willing to take a look in the mirror. Along the way you should plan to laugh a bit.

    As an example, look at the front matter. Before the title page, as is typical of Christian fiction, there are a number of pages with endorsements, first of this book and then of Matt’s debut novel, Imaginary Jesus. The list of endorsers is impressive: Chris Fabry, radio host and bestselling author of Almost Heaven; Mike Duran, author of The Resurrection; Publishers Weekly; Relevant Magazine, CBA Retailers; Josh McDowell; Pete Wilson pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, and on and on. Finally, at the end of five pages of endorsements is this: “Adam Sadados, just some guy.”

    Stay alert. When you read Night of the Living Dead Christian, you’ll find chuckle-inducing moments when you least expect them.

    In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

    Transformation: CSFF Blog Tour – Night Of The Living Dead Christian, Day 2

    The CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Matt Mikalatos‘s second novel, though I use the term loosely. Night Of The Living Dead Christian is like no other novel you’ll read, except perhaps his debut novel, re-released under the title My Imaginary Jesus. (You can view the original cover and read my review here).

    The subtitle of Night Of The Living Dead Christian is “One man’s ferociously funny quest to discover what it means to be truly transformed.” The tag line on the back cover is, “What does a transformed life actually look like?”

    No beating around the bush here. This novel is less about the story and more about what Matt wants to say than any others I’ve read since I finished his first one. I like that about his books. It’s the same approach used by fathers of fiction such as John Bunyan. Few others besides Matt are doing it today. But I’ll discuss my reaction to it and why I think it works when I write my review tomorrow.

    Today I want to focus my thoughts on the subject of transformation. As Night Of The Living Dead Christian clearly portrays it, the need for transformation is vital. We all are monsters of one variety or another.

    Some people struggle against their monster-ness and seek transformation in any number of places — false religion, charitable activities, psychoanalysis. None of these activities, external or internal, can accomplish true transformation. At best we pretty up the monster to make him appear more respectable or hide him as best we can.

    In the end, what we need, is the transformation that only Jesus Christ can bring. But what exactly does that mean? Some professing Christians say the change Jesus enacts is instantaneous and total. We have new life; the old has passed away. Consequently, the true Christian no longer sins.

    That certainly would be radical transformation, and I think we all long for such. All we need to do is confess, and Jesus will do the rest. The fact is, anyone who claims he is living a sinless life is deceived.

    Yes, absolutely Jesus gives new life, but like physical birth, becoming a new creature in Christ is a starting place, not a finishing place. It’s as if at the point when we turn to Jesus, we’ve crawled back up on the Potter’s wheel and laid our lives before Him so that He can remold us into the image of His Son.

    The remolding process isn’t finished in a day. There may be days we don’t think there’s been any progress at all. We may look into the mirror of God’s word and be dismayed by all we see that needs to go. But that’s the nature of growth.

    When we were little we couldn’t always tell that we were getting taller or more responsible or more independent. As Christians we can’t always tell when we are less selfish or prideful or unloving. We see Christ and we know we aren’t there yet, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. That doesn’t mean He isn’t ordering our lives in such a way as to bring about transformation.

    Sometimes the growth comes in spurts, and we see dramatic change — which can then turn into a bit of a problem that can stunt our progress because we might think we’ve arrived, or we’ve figured this transformation thing out.

    The truth is, it’s not actually a mystery. Paul says in Colossians that growth comes by holding fast to the head, which is Christ (see Col. 2:19). Peter says growth comes from God’s word:

    like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2)

    In fact, the word of God and its importance to the Christian is a theme in any number of books in the Bible. James says we are to abide in the word. Paul says we are to let the word abide in us, or “richly dwell within” us (Col. 3:16).

    Is transformation some kind of instant cure for our sin nature? Yes and no. Christ’s righteousness is now my righteousness, but I still don’t have any of my own. My motives are twisted, just as Paul described in Romans 7:

    v. 15 – For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

    v. 18 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

    v. 19 – For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

    In chapter 8 Paul happily states that there is no longer condemnation for those who are in Christ. That’s the good news. But there’s still the matter of living transformed lives. After some digression, Paul comes back to the issue in chapter 12:

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (v. 2)

    Renewing our minds certainly seems consistent with abiding in the word of God.

    Paul addresses the issue of transformation in his second letter to the Corinthians also, this time in respect to our looking to Jesus:

    But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cr 3:15-18, emphasis mine)

    To summarize, transformation can’t happen apart from new birth, but it is resultant growth, not an instantaneous change. It comes from looking to Jesus Christ and engaging His word with our minds, with our lives. It’s also important to note that as long as we are alive we should be growing, so transformation isn’t a done deal here and now.

    Tomorrow in my review I’ll let you know if my conclusions about transformation match up with those presented in Night Of The Living Dead Christian.

    Spoof: CSFF Blog Tour – Night Of The Living Dead Christian, Day 1

    This month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos.

    Who writes spoof these days? Matt Mikalatos, that’s who. Matt Mikalatos, author of Imaginary Jesus, which is being repackaged and re-released by his publisher (Tyndale) as My Imaginary Jesus — a much better title, in my opinion.

    But I’m getting far afield. I was talking about spoof — “a humorous imitation of something … in which its characteristic features are exaggerated for comic effect.”

    Spoof is precisely what Matt writes, as his newest book, Night of the Living Dead Christian, demonstrates.

    The interesting thing with Matt’s writing, though, is that he has married spoof with allegory. Now that takes some doing! Yet, in my opinion, he’s pulled off the upset. He’s writing this quasi memoir-ish, urban fantasy-ish spoof that has blatant, purposeful, in-your-face spiritual parallels, and it works.

    The thing about spoof is that it taps into what’s going on in pop culture, but also exploits an undercurrent that most people might not realize exists. In this case I call it vampire fatigue.

    For some time, in a large part because of Twilight and company, vampire stories were white hot, but as happens with more frequency in our capitalistic society, what sells, promoters stuff down the throats of the public until we are gagging with the excess.

    Enter the spoof. At that point when society has had it’s fill, the subject is then ripe for a little ridicule fun-poking.

    Matt’s brilliance as a writer is that he spoofs himself as much as he does the vampires, werewolves, and zombies he writes about. His humor is contagious, and I found myself laughing out loud in places, while chuckling out loud in others.

    But there’s more. The addition of allegory spreads the spoof. Not only is there fun at the expense of the fantasy/paranormal elements he uses as the foundation of the story, he’s also doing an adequate spoof of the Church.

    In this case, however, the ripe-for-ridicule tendencies are a result of the ways in which the Church and individual believers have been infected by tradition and the distillation of God’s Word into systems of thought superseding the way of Life.

    Matt taps into this expanded material in a manner that does more than raise a few laughs. His spoof/allegory hammers home weighty thoughts about weighty subjects, even while cushioning the blow.

    Tomorrow I’ll take a look at some of those weighty subjects, then Wednesday I plan to give my review. In the meantime, see what others participating in the tour for Night of the Living Dead Christian are saying. (Check marks link to articles that have been posted already).

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