Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos
Imaginary Jesus is about Matt's very funny and thought provoking adventure to find the real Jesus.
This book is really worth reading. Matt's style of writing is very different from most books I have read. He engages you in a not-quite-true glimpse of his life. Imaginary Jesus points out how we have basically made idols of who we think Jesus is in our lives. Does your Jesus still wear sandals and have a long flowing robe? Is your Jesus more of a King James Jesus, only speaking in thees and thous? How about Bargain Jesus, he will answer your prayers, but it is going to cost you? Or one of many other imaginary images we have created? As I read about these different human created images I kept thinking, oh maybe my Jesus looks a little like that one. Imaginary Jesus definitively had me thinking and challenging me to search for the real Jesus.
The only part that made me cringe (a little) was the use of a naughty word for a prostitute which I think could have been substituted, you may not agree, I think it was used for a reason. And I almost stopped reading at a part where he thought he met the real Jesus, it was definitely not the real Jesus of the Bible, but I wasn't hasty and read on. There is also the King James Version of a donkey for parental information.
I was able to email Matt a few questions for an interview.
Who is your favorite author? Ah, the dreaded favorite author question! I am notoriously bad at answering this question. I'm going to cheat by picking a favorite living and a favorite dead author. Favorite living author must certainly be Gene Wolfe, who is a Catholic science fiction writer who builds these indescribably wonderful novels and short stories that are so layered with meanings and possibilities and subtleties that one can read them again and again with increasing pleasure. Favorite dead author is almost certainly Steinbeck, purely on the strength of East of Eden, which is my favorite novel. More cheating: I'm also a big fan of G.K Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O'Connor, Percival Everett, Glen David Gold and Kurt Vonnegut. And there are lots more.
Who most encouraged you to be an author? That's a great question. I wouldn't have realized how much I loved writing if it wasn't for my high school theater teacher, Mrs. ten Pas. She encouraged us to write our own plays and sketches, and was also the AP English teacher at our school, so she was strict about writing well and correctly following grammar and punctuation rules. When I got into college I realized that I loved writing as much as acting, and started writing for the school newspaper and eventually became a writing major. I got a lot of encouragement from my professors at UC Riverside, especially Percival Everett, Susan Straight and Maurya Simon. Of course my parents paid for a large percentage of college, so they would make the list. And my longsuffering wife, Krista, who has let me put so much time into my hobby, which is what my writing is, since I have to do it on the side sometime after work and family obligations are done for the day. My friend Chris Dennis, who is an artist, always treated me like a "real writer" even in the early days when I was writing jokes in haiku form.
Is your next book going to be anything like Imaginary Jesus? Stylistically, yes, it will be similar. It's called "Night of the Living Dead Christians" and just like Imaginary Jesus deals with the question of "Who is Jesus, really, and how can we interact with him?" in a comedy narrative, Night of the Living Dead Christians" explores questions related to "What does it mean to be a Christian?" It's fun, fast paced and written to be enjoyable to people whether they care to read theology or not. It's not quite finished, but so far we have a neighborhood Lutheran werewolf, a church full of friendly, well-meaning zombies and a Halloween angel. It should be coming out from Tyndale sometime in 2011.
I will definitively be reading that.
Here is a great book trailer
There are many great resources for this book and about Matt. The Imaginary Jesus Blog, Matt's blog (which is great, really fun), a discussion guide, a Facebook page, and probably more.
I was provided a free copy of this book for the purposes of review, the opinions expressed are my own. I hope I have done this great book justice in my humble review.