Thursday, March 12, 2015

On Jabez, a New Ebook, and Offended Sensibilities

It appears that before long, I will be releasing the third ebook under my little cottage-industry imprint, Homing Pigeon Publishing. That title will be Jabez: A Novel

Funny thing about this book: I wrote it at the suggestion--actually, more like the urging--of my publisher at the time, which also happened to be the publisher for the wildly successful Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. Bruce's book has been lauded and panned, usually based on the lauder's enthusiasm for the perceived blessings generated by Wilkinson's proposed program of praying the brief prayer (found in 1 Chronicles 4:10) regularly, or else the panner's dim view of the mechanistic, genie-in-a-bottle theology some have perceived as the book's main teaching. Along the way, it sold over nine million copies worldwide, spawning its own industry, complete with a generous supply of derivative products.

The thing is, I don't hold with the so-called prosperity gospel. Whether my publisher realized it or not, I had no intention of writing a novel about Jabez that preached such a doctrine. And honestly, when you're writing a novel--even a really short one, like this--on a person in the Bible about whom there are precisely 2 verses containing 63 words, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out that you're 
going to be supplying some extra material. In other words, it was pretty much up to me, the storyteller, to decide about Jabez's personality, his life story, his theology, his relationships ... everything that makes him a fully realized character.

"The opposite of faith is not doubt--it's self-satisfaction."

So, I wrote the little novel, and it did pretty well ... admittedly, largely on the heels of Pastor Wilkinson's publishing phenomenon. But the folks referenced above who lauded said phenomenon--the handful of them who read my story--didn't take too kindly to my portrayal of the main character.

You see, I decided that my Jabez would be a person who had really experienced pain--a lot of it. He
would be a person who had heard things about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but only second- or third-hand (which, during the periods of religious apostasy spoken of in the Old Testament book of Judges, seems a likely scenario). He would be a person who came to the kind of faith needed to pray his famous prayer, but gradually, haltingly, and not without relapses into doubt such as even the most sincere believers still experience (see, for example, the painful, honest revelations in the diaries of Mother Teresa, published after her death).

I even got a copy of the book that was returned to the publisher after the purchaser had scrawled things on it: "Fake, like Hollywood!" "Coward!" "What a despicable way to make $$$ from Pastor Wilkinson's true book!" and the like. Apparently, this individual felt pretty strongly that I had profaned the Holy with my novel. I keep that copy on my shelf to remind me that not everyone will admire something I've written--even those few who actually notice it.

Be that as it may, I have elected not to tone down or change the narrative in my novel. I happen to believe that the opposite of faith is not doubt--it's self-satisfaction. So, look out, world: here comes Jabez--again.

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