Everybody likes to think they know what Jesus was like. People invent their own Jesus, just the way they want him to be. Matt supposes a journey to find the real Jesus, but encounters all too many imaginary ones.
There is Perpetually Angry Jesus. “Some people believe that God is always mad at all humanity because the world is so full of evil.” (63) There's Testosterone Jesus, “a popular men's retreat speaker.” (164) The 8 Ball Jesus people pray to for answers to questions. There's King James Jesus. Bargain Jesus, who always answers your prayers – for a price. The Liberal Social Services Jesus, thinking the best way to tell people about God is through service. Political Power Jesus – together we can do incredible things! Don't forget Hippie Jesus, Televangelist Jesus, New Age Jesus, and a host of others, including one for each denomination.
Where do all these Jesuses come from? Lies others tell us or we tell our self.
Do you have your own Jesus? One who might say, “I always agree with [you], I don't enforce unpleasant rules, and I never tell [you] that [you] eat too much.” (81)
The problem with following an imaginary Jesus is that you get farther afield from the real one. “The real Jesus is inconvenient. He doesn't always show up when you call. He asks for unreasonable things. He frightens people.” (79)
Matt's hope for this book is that people will enjoy themselves while they are thinking about God. There are lots of funny scenes in this book that people can laugh over while they are discussing the real Jesus.
But there are some serious spiritual lessons in this book too. There is a great question and answer time led by Daisy the talking donkey about why we keep ourselves so busy and noisy so that we don't hear Jesus. There is also a good session between Matt and a couple of Mormon missionaries.
While technically not categorized as fiction, it sort of is. Matt says it is “sort-of-true” book. While it is based on actual experiences, he has added lots of fiction.
How do I evaluate a book like this? It is so different. I didn't think it was that funny but then, I'm a senior citizen. A young person may find it funny. I do think Matt has offered much for us the think about in an unusual way. There is an extensive Reader Discussion Guide at the end of the book so it could certainly be used for a youth discussion group.
I do know that just about everyone will find thought provoking content in this book. Just how much of the Jesus you believe in have you imagined? The answer may surprise you.
You can follow Matt's blog at www.mikalatos.com or visit him at www.mattmikalatos.com. You will find free materials especially created for churches at www.myimaginaryjesus.com. Also check out http://mattmikalatos.com/index.php/photo-gallery/ for images of the imaginary Jesuses and other stuff. There are also lots of YouTube videos you can access from the book by QR Code, or go to www.tyndal.es/MIJtrailer to get started.
Matt Miklaltos works with a Christian nonprofit equipping college students for overseas missions. He lives near Portland, Oregon, with his wife and three daughters.
Tyndale House Publishers, 258 pages. Publisher product information.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.