Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos
The book I recently found on my kindle (no idea how, or why it got there, it just did) was a quirky little title called Imaginary Jesus. Expecting rich theological insight I decided to give it a go. While there are some elements of theology, the book, as described through dialogue within the book itself as a “semi-autobiographical novel comedy”, is actually quite an entertaining read. The book follows a fictitious account of how the writer confronts what he has created in his mind as he struggles through the emotions associated with a recent traumatic event. Mikilatos’ wit and creative humorous descriptions kept me laughing and the plot kept me eager for the next chapter.
The opening chapter has Matt grabbing lunch and hanging out with Jesus at a vegan cafe in Portland, OR. He’s having a typical conversation with the creator of the universe when a gruff dockworker named Pete comes in and after a few words promptly punches Jesus in the face. It’s later revealed that ***spoiler*** this Pete character is the Apostle Peter and the Jesus in the cafe is not the real Jesus. The rest of the book is a journey Matt and Pete take to try and confront this imaginary Jesus (among others) and find the true Jesus Christ.
Matt Mikalatos (in real life) works for Campus Crusade for Christ in Portland, OR. The writing seems to be appropriate for college students or young adults, but actually does venture a bit deeper with doctrinal questions and some fairly poignant topics of pain and loss. The overall theme seems to be exposing how many Christians these days have actually created their own version of Jesus without ever realizing it.
So while this post-modern soul-searching journey includes things such as car-chases, time-travel, a talking donkey and epic brawls in Powell’s Books, it also tackles questions of devotion, spiritual needs and the way humans interact with and express love for the all-powerful King of Kings. It’s certainly not fiction on the caliber of “The Screwtape Letters” but still well worth the read. And it did make me want to visit Portland.
Some good quotes to get a taste for the book:
“If you never confront the imaginary Jesus, he’ll keep popping up, perverting what you know about the real Jesus. You need to look him in the face, recognize that he’s fake, and renounce him.”
“That’s the danger of following an imaginary Jesus. The more committed you get to him and his plan, the further afield from the real Jesus you get. Your earnest attempts to be committed to your imaginary Jesus actually move you away from Christ.”
“There are enormous numbers of people who approach their gods on their stomachs, begging for a moment’s attention. We, on the other hand, walk up to him like we’re walking to the guy at the counter of 7-Eleven.”