I was in Austin, Texas over the weekend.
The occasion was an annual gathering of creative writing teachers who come from around the state to swap ideas and share their work.
I had the honor of reading a chapter from my new novel Evangel which is currently a lost puppy in search of the loving leash of a publisher.
Evangel is not a satirical novel, although at times I must say I find what the Christian faithful say and do in real life to be humorous. I often have the same response when I read the Bible. Am I the only one?
That trickster Jacob fooling his old man with a bunch of animal skins so he's as hairy as his brother Esau. Hilarious! Or there's that ultimate action hero who happens to be a half-dipstick short on intelligence, especially when it comes to women who whisper in his ear and give good massages. I speak of mighty Samson.
The New Testament is richly humorous, too, not all sober and finger wagging like Mitch McConnell talking about the deficit. In the days before the story of Jesus turns grim and bloody his twelve disciples offer a combination of earnestness and not-getting-it that could be worked into a set of stand-up.
- Did you hear the one about Peter trying to walk on water? No, seriously, folks. He thought this was a good idea. And he can't even swim! I mean I'm afraid of heights, so I should think of jumping off a cliff?
- The other day I heard James and John were trying to book the best seats in a place called heaven. Isn't that a little premature? Like getting your Super Bowl tickets a few thousand years early?
It's not that I don't take God seriously. I do. It's the humans in the Bible (as well as those currently walking the earth) who tend to make me laugh. I assume their creator laughs, too. Fortunately, though, the rest of the story is that the God of the Bible stops laughing just long enough to save humans from themselves. That's comedy, not tragedy...
The Sermon on Sex
There are no rules for how one goes about reading for 18 minutes from a novel. I thought it best to search for a chapter that perhaps would offer some liveliness and warm the corpuscles of the audience in the Double Tree's highly air conditioned Wildflower Room.
Ah, yes, let's try pages 92-103, what I refer to as the "Sermon on Sex" chapter.
In this section Pastor Frankie Wey offers a challenge to the married couples at On the Rock Temple Fellowship, a megachurch in Pinebridge Meadows.
"Why does the devil have all the sex?" Dr. Frankie asks rhetorically from the stage as he addresses 3000+ people. "I say it's time Christians stole back sex from Satan who has taken it and perverted a beautiful gift from God!"
To improve intimacy and strengthen marriages Dr. Frankie goes on to ask each married couple in the church to commit to the ultimate self-help regimen:
Have sex every day for seven days.
The husbands and wives are to report back the following Sunday and share the results.
This scene in my novel has roots in a real challenge a Grapevine, Texas minister issued his congregation in 2008. You can read about this notion of "putting God back in bed." here.
The "Seven Days of Sex" pastor in Grapevine, Texas also preached a sermon
earlier this year with a real Ferrari on stage.
In the sort of me-too'ism that's has long been rampant among American churches, which are just as subject to trends and fads as any other quarter of society, other preachers around the country have tried out the idea. Below is a billboard that sparked controversy when an Alabama church put it up, not because of the one-man, one-woman message, but, well, the preacher was talking about sex in church!
"Wine of Love" by Natalia Morez 2002
If you're a fiction writer and you hear about something like this, including preachers providing a public exegesis of (blush) the Song of Solomon, you think, "I've got to try this out with my characters and see what happens!"
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Hot stuff! Somebody ought to write about it... So I did. - A.H.
COMING NEXT: Sandra Bullock Licks Her Lips - Report From Austin No. 2
read more: A Novel Idea - Report From Austin No. 1