Monday, June 28, 2010

Imaginary Jesus

Mix the fast-paced humor of Captain Underpants with a momentous quest to find the real Jesus of the Bible—add in a healthy helping of popular imaginary Jesuses, the Apostle Peter, and a talking donkey named Daisy—two pinches of fun rambling—and you have the book, Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos.

When I first saw this short video below about this book, I was intrigued so much I purchased and read the book.  
What can I say?  For 32 years now, I've had a flair for all things Jesus and slightly (or not so slightly) whacked.  So I read Imaginary Jesus.

It's an easy and engaging read (especially for guys with short attention spans like me) so I read through it fast.  I liked it but I didn't love it. Liked it because the main thesis of the book (Are you following the real Jesus of the Bible—or one of the many imaginary and concocted Jesuses the church and culture has created?) is such a critically important question these days.  But I didn't love the book because it sometimes felt like the author was simply trying to be edgy (see last line of chapter 1 and chapter 6) and outrageously creative simply for effect.

When I got to the end of the book, I sat back and reflected.  I pondered the idea of using this crazy story as a way to engage my family in a worthwhile discussion about the Jesus of the Bible and the various current popular imaginary Jesuses running amok.  A thought came to me: I might be able to use this book with my family (six kids—four of whom are teenagers) if there was some sort of study/discussion guide to go with the book.  EUREKA!  Sure enough, while looking at a picture of Matt in the back of the book (nice shades Matt), I noticed a website where I could download a discussion guide for FREE.  (Link to FREE sample chapter and study/discussion guide below... keep reading!)

So I printed out the 14 page study/discussion guide.  I was delighted to see that Matt not only offered some great questions for discussion, but there was also a DISCUSSION SUPPLEMENT section where Matt thoughtfully explained why he wrote some of the things he wrote. Once I read these supplements and understood where Matt was coming from, I moved from liking the book to REALLY liking the book and appreciating Matt for taking some risks in the book to make us think. [Note to Matt: Please see below my "Note to Matt: The current edition of the study/discussion guide needs some tweaking!"]

Of course, the acid test for me was when I started reading the book with our family.  Our older kids are enjoying the story and the discussion questions are creating lots of interaction.  My wife and I are taking turns reading and there are times when we don't read certain parts or words or we just translate some of the more edgy parts for kids who are under 14 years of age (you have been warned). But now that I'm reading the book and using the study/discussion guide with my family, I'm loving it.   It's a great way to talk about the real Jesus from the Bible and identify the many imaginary Jesuses... and why they are imaginary... not biblical.  That is a worthwhile conversation!

But before YOU buy and read this book, I need to give you a warning.


Warning: Danger Will Robinson!  What you'll need if you read this book...

1.  A willingness to read AND THINK about (not just emotionally react to) what you're reading.  (Hint: Download the study/discussion guide and read Matt's supplements to the book.  It will help you think.)

2.  A well-developed sense of humor.

Now, when you think of the word, "Christian," does thinking and humor come to mind?  Hmmm.  I'm guessing that many who claim to be "Christian" won't get what this book is trying to say/accomplish or won't like this book because it requires the reader to think and have a fun-loving sense of humor.  (Do you even know who Captain Underpants is?)  If you lack either of these, you'll probably just be offended.  And that's not the goal.

Okay, if you've read this far, you deserve some FREEBIES!
* FREE sample chapter download of Imaginary Jesus.
* FREE study/discussion guide.

4 comments:

Matt Mikalatos said...

Bill, thanks so much for this. Great points about the discussion guide, I'll pass that along to the gang at Tyndale.

And you're right that (despite appearances) I didn't put anything in the book just to seem "edgy." I put things in there for sure to shake people up and force them to think.

THat's really cool that you're looking at the book with your whole family. I haven't let my girls read it yet, because they're 9 and 7. I wrote them a kids' fantasy novel to make up for it.

Let me know if you or your family has any questions or something you want to talk about directly related to the book... I'd love to have a conversation about it.

Matt

Bill Allison said...

You are a gracious man Matt. Thank you.

Jeff said...

Hey Bro... loved the book and our visit a couple of weeks back. I've found a few more IJ's running around our community since we got back.

Sent them packing to IOWA, though! LOL

Matt Mikalatos said...

Iowa is an excellent and traditional place to exile IJs. Ha ha!

Matt