Sunday, August 22, 2010

Review of Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

From a work of pure fiction, this book is great!
Entertaining and comical with a healthy splash of seriousness and even tears at times!

It was a lighthearted and pleasant read.

...however, I can't help but wonder to what degree of seriousness is truly intended.
I think, quite a bit. (Spoiler alert) As much fun as it to laugh at the numerous imaginary Jesus' in mockery of various forms of ridiculous Christian beliefs there are out there, we inevitably come across our imaginary Jesus and our brand of belief... and somehow it just isn't quite so funny.

I can't help but wonder if this piece of fiction is meant to be something a lot more serious than it would appear on the surface. I wonder what deeper theological thoughts swim just beneath the calm and comical surface.

It made me ask a question; Exactly how do we know – or know of – Jesus?
After a bit of thought, I've come to believe there are only 4 ways to 'know Jesus'. (And I am not speaking of the Born-Again-Evangelical kind of knowing-Jesus).

1) There is the Jesus we know through historical texts (which is precious little).
2) There is the Jesus we read of in the gospel accounts, each flavoured to a certain degree by its author. (which – interestingly - leaves the 'real Jesus' veiled or hidden 'beneath' or 'between' the gospel accounts. Inaccessible; having become isolated and hidden between the pages of history and gospel).
3) There's the Jesus that we meet through good Christians – truly embodying the Body of Christ concept,
4) and finally, there is the Jesus of our imaginations. (And it really should be noted that something that is make-believe and something that is imaginary are not necessarily synonymous).

Ultimately how we 'know' Jesus is shaped to some degree by all four 'ways'. I cannot help but believe it is our imaginary Jesus that plays the largest and strongest part.

After all, I doubt many professing Christians really want to 'meet' and 'know' the real Jesus.

I like when Matt Mikalatos' protagonist (...or is it really himself?...) voices a concern about the real Jesus:
”...he can do whatever he pleases. Who knows what he might ask of me? I can't control him. I can't box him in with my own beliefs and philosophies...”
If we're honest enough with ourselves, we would have to admit that the Jesus we want will – at least to some degree – bow to our beliefs, and bend towards our philosophies. I honestly believe it is impossible to do anything else.
It is when we use and abuse our imaginary Jesus – bending it to our agendas – that the real crime and harm occurs. That is where the danger lies.


I'd love to do Matt Mikalatos' Imaginary Jesus in a group study. I'd love to see if and how biblical literalists struggle with the truths that are present within a piece of pure fiction.

1 comment:

Matt Mikalatos said...

'Seph -- Great thoughts. If you end up with a study group put together, let me know and I would gladly skype in or answer questions one week with your group. Looking forward to more of your thoughts!