Review: Imaginary Jesus

Imaginary JesusA 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. 

5 thoughts on “Review: Imaginary Jesus

  1. Hey Tim! Thanks for the great review. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Imaginary Jesus.

    For all the Mormon readers out there, let me say this, too: the conversations with Mormon missionaries in the book are nearly verbatim conversations I had with a couple of actual Mormon missionaries. I’ve had a couple of LDS tell me that some of the theology is not-quite-right, to which I can only say “that’s what they told me….”

    I hope at the very least it could serve as a mirror related to how others experience LDS missions and (possibly) how the training is playing out for the missionaries themselves.

    In the defense of Elders Laurel and Hardy (yes, Tim, you’re right, I changed their names, ha ha), they didn’t realize how deeply spiritual I am and that I actually had some knowledge about things and had, for instance, gone to seminary. That’s because they never once asked me a single question about myself. But hey, I was enjoying myself, so we hung out three or four times. And I really did accidentally (unthinkingly) invite them to coffee.

    Anyway, all that to say that I hope that the main theme of the book (we all have misconceptions of Jesus) wasn’t taken to be hammering on Mormons rather than hammering on all of us.

    Thanks, Tim!

  2. “we all have misconceptions of Jesus”

    That’s a good theme.

    “they [the Mormon missionaries] didn’t realize how deeply spiritual I am”

    No, their beliefs don’t allow them to see how spiritual we are; and our beliefs don’t allow us to see how spiritual they can be.

    Even though I haven’t read it, thanks for your book, Matt. Any book that encourages Tim to re-invigorate his pursuit of Jesus in a way he desperately needs, is a good book. 😉 God knows I haven’t been able to do it!

  3. Hi Matt, thanks for commenting.

    Let me assure you from personal experience, no matter how hard you try to explain Mormonism in a way that Mormons will agree with, there will always be someone who says that you didn’t get it right. So don’t take it too hard.

    I think you did a good enough job on describing Mormonism and you for sure clarified that this is what the missionaries were telling you. It could be that 3 months later the missionaries learned something new. I think your stories were consistent with what most Evangelicals encounter. Your side of the conversation was also consistent with what many Mormon missionaries encounter with Evangelical smart-alecks. 😉

    Great job on the book and great job on allowing readers in on some vulnerable areas.

  4. Pingback: Forget Muslims, Evangelicals have started a new crusade….. against Mormonism! « The Alliance for an "Idiot-Free" America

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