Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: November, 2018

An Unbeliever’s Prayer

Sometimes I pray that God would

create in me a clean heart
renew in me a right spirit
have his presence go with me
and restore the joy of my salvation

What can that mean to someone like me who does not believe
in God,
or cleanness of heart,
or salvation?

A clean heart can be unclouded desires
A renewed right spirit can be an energetic and positive attitude
The presence of God can cast out fear
The joy of my salvation can be ultimate gratitude with my state and rituals

That works

Biblical Fiction: “Not Wanted on the Voyage” and “The Red Tent”

I’ll start reading any stories based on Bible stories. Ancient myths of all kinds are like fertile fields that grow new crops every time they’re sown. My favourites, so far, are Timothy Findley’s “Not Wanted on the Voyage” and Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent.” 

They’re completely different kinds of books.

“Not Wanted on the Voyage” is a deep and whimsical fantasy about Noah’s Ark.

“The Red Tent” is a stark and realistic portrayal of the life of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter.

Both of them grabbed me deeply.

Meanwhile, I have given up on Gore Vidal’s “Live From Golgotha.” It’s funny, clever, and I just can’t bring myself to finish it. The premise is interesting: time travelers want to shoot the crucifixion for NBC. There’s wit and anachronisms everywhere. But I just don’t care.

I’m wondering what Findley and Diamant have that Vidal (in this book anyway) does not. Here are my thoughts:

  • All three are willing to turn the patriarchs on their heads, but Findley and Diamant make it serve the story. Noah and Yahweh are hugely problematic characters in “Not Wanted on the Voyage.” Diamant paints Jacob just as double-sided as the Bible. There is irreverence, but not for its own sake. The irreverence serves the story.
  • Findley and Diamant dig deep when the suffering comes. They refuse to shy away from the depths of human hurt–and human apathy. But Vidal’s light touch makes nearly everything that happens in the story light. And since it is light, it doesn’t matter.
  • Perhaps most importantly, Diamant and Findley make me CARE SO MUCH about the characters. Like, ruin your day kinda care. Meanwhile, I can’t bring myself to invest much in the people in “Live From Golgotha,” despite its very interesting premise.

So if you’re looking for some really good Biblical fiction, pick up Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” and Timothy Findley’s “Not Wanted on the Voyage.” Both are engrossing, gripping, and more than worth your time. 

And if you want something that smacks like an irreverent Douglas Adams, “Live From Golgotha” might be for you.

Jeremiah’s Dirty Underwear

The LORD was appalled with the nation that called themselves after his name. They oppressed the strangers, the fatherless, the widows, and shed innocent blood all over the place. They churned out wickedness like a fountain spewing forth water. The prophets lied. The priests chased political power. The congregates loved it. The pastors were brutish and did not seek the loving-kindness of their God. They did not grieve. They made their faces harder than rocks. They refused to repent. They had faith that they were God’s nation, even though they didn’t act like it. Time for an object lesson.

The LORD called Jeremiah.

“Get yourself some new underwear. Something nice, made of linen. Wear it, and don’t wash it.”

Jeremiah did that.
A few days later, the word of the LORD came again.

“Take it off, and hide it under a rock by the river.”

Jeremiah did that.
Many days later, the word of the LORD came again.

“Go back and fetch that gitch. How does it look?”

Pretty bad.

“This evil people,” saith the LORD, “which refuse to do justice and live the loving-kindness they claim I am full of, are just like this loincloth: good for nothing.”