Many people have, I suppose, believed in an imaginary Jesus – taken from the pages of Scripture and then quietly tailored to their own psyches. But Matt Mikalatos is uniquely privileged in being able to see his imaginary Jesus.
He is even more uniquely privileged in having the Apostle Peter show up to expose his self-perpetrated fraud. Most unique among all his privileges, he is educated in theology by a talking donkey named Daisy.
My Imaginary Jesus is written by Matt Mikalatos and stars Matt Mikalatos. It is, as the author/character says, a “sort of semiautobiographical novel comedy thing”. Here Mikalatos traces his search for the true Jesus. Some of it is what they call an unvarnished account of things that actually happened; most of it is a comedic-speculative fiction retelling of things that actually happened. The characters are entertaining, and the plot takes some good twists, but My Imaginary Jesus is not really a proper novel. It’s the most unique spiritual memoir ever to hit the shelves of your Christian book store.
Various misconceptions of Jesus appear as characters – 8-Ball Jesus, Legalist Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus. Of all the elements of the book, I think this is the most original and the most daring. It very effectively reveals – and pillories – the false notions about Christ that grow up in our minds and in our culture. I suspect, nonetheless, that some people may not like it
My primary concern with the novel is not something that was put in so much as something that was left out. Among all the false ideas about Jesus, no distinction is made between those who know Jesus to be God and Savior and those who do not. A Christian in the novel is actually told that his “crazy ideas” about Jesus are not much different than the Mormons’. I don’t know if the author believes that, but there’s a danger of leaving the impression that we’re all in the same boat – Baptists who believe Jesus never drank wine right along with Mormons who believe that Jesus is Satan’s brother.
It also struck me as odd that, when Matt’s imaginary Jesus is exposed, it’s so central that he went to an all-white church. I suppose that point was that Matt was making his Jesus and his church just like himself – same culture, same tastes, same opinions, same race. Still, the focus on skin color rubbed me the wrong way, as did calling it uncaring that the church had only whites in it. Would an all-black church be judged the same way?
For all that, the principal idea of My Imaginary Jesus is not only true but vital. Matt’s quest to find Jesus – to know Him as He is, not as we want Him to be or think He should be – is a bracing reminder that Jesus is more than a doctrine to be defined. He is a Person to be known. The novel reminds me of C. S. Lewis: “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins.”
Matt Mikalatos has an unusual talent of making deep points with a light touch. I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else such a combination of humor and searching spirituality. There are gentle, sometimes sad moments, too, mixed in with the wacky adventures. My Imaginary Jesus is a book that can be enjoyed; more, it’s a book that can do you good.
My Imaginary Jesus was first published two years ago under the title Imaginary Jesus. CSFF toured it back then; here is Becky Miller’s review and her list of participants and posts. Word to the wise: If you click on a name, it will take you to that person’s blog; if you click on the check marks beside the names, each will take you to a different post on Imaginary Jesus.
Finally, before I go: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
I think the FCC wants us to do that. Or something. I don’t mind, except that every once in a while it makes me want to add: But I give fair, unbiased reviews anyway. But that should go without saying, so I have a policy of letting it.
All right, all right: Now I’m going.