A couple of months ago a friend recommended “Imaginary Jesus” to me. Over my Christmas vacation I had the chance to read it. With little information about the content I dove in and discovered that I love this book. In many ways I felt the book was written just for me.
The author, Matt Mikalatos, is hilarious and he applies his sense of humor to his search for what it means to be in a personal relationship with Jesus, what to do with pain and dares to ask if prayer is anything more than sitting alone talking to himself.
At one point the story takes a break to interject the character Matt into a snow-tube race in which “Meticulous Providence Jesus”, “Free Will Jesus” and “Can’t-See-the-Future-Because-It’s-Unknowable Jesus” all compete for Matt’s devotion by attempting to offer him an explanation for the death of his child while speeding down a snowy mountain. It’s situations such as this that make the book seem far-fetched and inappropriate for dealing with such tough issues and too irreverent for religious offering. But it’s the farcical nature of Matt’s search that allows the book to touch on places in these issues that the reader may be unprepared to examine and grateful for the element of fun in exploring them.
Mormon readers may be concerned with his introduction of Elder Laurel and Elder Hardy. Mikalatos handles Mormonism the way you might expect an Evangelical to view it. He dismisses the Book of Mormon because of well known anachronisms and by naming the missionaries Laurel and Hardy he’s clearly using them as a comic device. But I don’t think these issues should dissuade Mormons from reading the book. The humor in the book is much harsher on Evangelicalism than it is on Mormonism and the missionaries ultimately serve the purpose of causing Matt to question if he’s straining at a speck in Mormonism’s eye when he has a plank in his own. The larger message of the book is so powerful that I think Mormons can easily disregard or skip any passages about Mormonism and still find great value in the book.
The writing style is fast-paced and frenetic. As a result I was able to finish the book in two sittings. Afterwards I felt encouraged and re-invigorated to pursue Jesus in a way I desperately needed. I highly recommend this book.