Jesus and I sometimes grab lunch at the Red and Black Cafe....So begins Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos, "a not-quite-true story" and this month's entry in the CSFF Blog Tour.
Set in Portland -- aside from a time-warping jaunt to ancient Judea -- and mixing the absurd with the sacred, this well-written and fast-moving novel explores the many and various versions of not-quite-Biblical Jesus that Matt can concoct:
1) the original Imaginary Jesus, the one who joins Matt for those lunches at the cafe and whom Matt treats a bit like a vending machine -- insert prayer request, get desired response -- by expecting "Jesus" to fix a parking ticket for him, and whose flight after a confrontation with a large fisherman named Pete is the catalyst for Matt's quest to find the real Jesus;
2) the Society for Imaginary Jesuses, which includes many "imaginaries", including Bargain Jesus, Liberal Social Services Jesus (has no mouth but likes to do good deeds), Conservative Truth-Telling Jesus (no arms but definitely has a mouth), Christian Nation Jesus, Televangelist Jesus (faith-healing, speaking in tongues, requests for cash offerings), and Hippie/Peacenik Jesus (flowers in his hair);
3) Magic 8 Ball Jesus, who, along with the first Imaginary Jesus, reminds me of The Pressure's Off by Larry Crabb, in which the author discusses how believers tend to treat God like a machine -- again, prayer in, desired answer out -- rather than simply having a true relationship with Him. (There's a lot more to that book, and I highly recommend it.)
Matt Mikalatos, by the way, is both author and main character, and it works. The writing is good, alternately breezy and somber, absurd and profound, taking the reader on a wild quest for Y'shua, the real Jesus. And when Matt does encounter Him, well, I'll let you read that for yourself.
Over the next couple of days, I'll discuss different aspects of the book, and describe an odd dream I had -- falling asleep in the middle of reading a wacked-out book can have crazy consequences!
Meantime, check out what others are saying about Imaginary Jesus:
R. L. Copple
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Rachel Starr Thomson