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Imaginary Jesus Paperback – March 18, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The Apostle Peter punches Jesus in the face, then chases him out of a coffee shop. And that's just chapter 0. In this quirky tale the publisher describes as not-quite-true, former missionary and comic book store clerk Mikalatos disguises his critique of Christian life in an action-based quest to find the real Jesus. It's A Christmas Carol meets Oz, but instead of ghosts and tin men, it's a talking donkey, a motorcycle rider, and Mikalatos himself. The cast of characters drags the reader through the streets of Seattle and ancient Judea to introduce a host of fake Jesuses: Magic 8 Ball Jesus, Harley Jesus, even Liberal Social Services Jesus. They're constructs of the human mind. People invent a Jesus for one specific reason and then discard him when they don't need him anymore, says one of the Jesuses (the one with an expensive suit). Peter teaches Mikalatos that he must quiet falsehoods and mold a deeper relationship with the living, historical Jesus. Mixing questions of suffering and free will with a nexus of weirdness, Mikalatos throws Christian fiction into the world of Comic-Con and Star Wars. His silly quest is startling, contemporary, meaningful, and occasionally exhausting when the reader is puzzled. It begs for a comic book counterpart. (Apr.)
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Take the theological forcefulness of Bonhoeffer, combine it with the imaginative whimsy of C. S. Lewis and the wit of Charles Spurgeon, and you get Matt Mikalatos. Imaginary Jesus marks the debut of one of today’s most prominent young Christian writers. (Gary Thomas, Author of Sacred Marriage and Pure Pleasure)
Top customer reviews
Matt's writing is clear and well-paced. The dialog is snappy and fun, yet truly intelligent and illuminating. His style reminds me a little bit of the great Kurt Vonnegut's irony and wit.
The theology is solid - you will not find cheap sensational heresies here, on the contrary: Mikalatos smartly confronts subtle errors in how people think about Jesus and how they construct their relationship with him. "Imaginary Jesus" would make a fantastic read and fun, stimulating discussions in a church book club setting.
You will laugh at yourself and people you have known. You will come to understand in new ways some of the relationships with Christ that you see in others. Perhaps your own relationship with Jesus will change. For me personally, this book has given me a stronger foundation for sharing who Jesus is and what he wants for us.
"Imaginary Jesus" is about a man on a quest to find the true Christ, while struggling with the very I idea that such a quest should even be necessary. The underlying material is spiritually essential. The characters are engaging and sometimes surprising, and the plot is full of action and even suspense.
You will laugh six different ways from Sunday when you read "Imaginary Jesus". You will also be moved, challenged, and informed. I give this book my highest recommendation, and if you read it I think you will too.
After I picked my jaw up off the ground, and with astonishment, told my husband, "Jesus got punched in the face!", I kept reading. I wish I could tell you that's the most incredible thing that happens in the story, but it's only the beginning. Pretty tame, actually.
But before you write this book off as an irreverent (it sometimes is), silly (that, too), pointless (definitely not) read, consider what the author, Matt Mikalatos, is trying to unearth.
His premise is that we often, unintentionally, create a Jesus of our own liking, rather than take time to get to know the real Jesus. And I'll tell you right now, the Jesuses we meet in this novel (Magic 8 Ball Jesus is one of my favorites) are uncomfortably convicting, and I've had to ask myself if I really know Jesus or if I've created him in my own image.
It's been months since I read this book, but I think about the lessons I learned from it often. This statement, in particular, sticks with me:
"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."
Overall, I'd call this a fun-yet-challenging book. Mikalatos accurately pegs the numerous fake Jesuses we create to avoid facing the Maker-Savior-Messiah-Way, Truth and Life Jesus of the Bible and does it in a clever, mostly non-threatening way. I never felt shamed by the fake Jesuses I create but called to confront falsehood and seek truth.
I consider this a must-read for Christians today.
Dare to discover the imaginary Jesuses in your life. You won't regret it.