The Writer's Connection, SM
a publication of The Virtual Writing Coach SM
In This Issue:
2. Publisher's Note
3. Religion Meets Mainsteam Fiction
4. Helpful Hints
The Writer's Connection explores the creative process of writing and the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and actions. We are an interactive community of authors and readers who share ideas to enhance our knowledge, skills, and experiences in writing fiction in any genre, but our emphasis remains mystery and suspense thrillers.
Published monthly, the Newsletter offers writing tips for authors, coaching suggestions, editing, and marketing information.
Topics are presented from the perspective of Keith Barton and represent only his ideas on producing your first manuscript, and are provided to the general public. Because we are an interactive community of writers, other viewpoints are welcomed and may be printed in future monthly newsletters with permission from Keith Barton.
2. Publisher's Note
Dear Writer's Connection Subscriber,
This month features Peter Gomes' seminal treatise, The Good Book as proof that biblical interpretation is hampered by bibliolatry, literalism, and culturalism.
3. Religion Meets Mainstream Fiction
With the phenomenal success of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code and the more recent spin-offs such as Bart Ehrman et al’s The Gospel of Judas, mainstream literary readers are walking a fine line between fact and fiction. Nothing is sacred today. Now we have Judas conspiring with Jesus in a grand plan to finish what God had begun thirty-three years before his horrific death. Or we have the humanization of Jesus as he and Mary Magdalene are betrothed. Such shocking portrayals rock mainstream churches and religious dogma and call into question the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God as taught in Christian theology today. Rather than debating the authenticity of these literary works, I wish to take the reader back to 1996 when Peter Gomes, preacher to Harvard University, authored The Good Book, which created a stir amongst religious circles for his candid appraisal of Jesus’ teachings of love and acceptance as a roadmap as to how we should treat one another in a world, defined by geographical prejudices and religious dogma that excludes marginal groups.
What is interesting about Gomes is that he is black, gay, and a Presbyterian minister in one of New York’s largest churches, The Memorial Church, and the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard College. He delivered the benediction at President Reagan’s inauguration and the inauguration sermon for President Bush at the National Cathedral. With the skill of a surgeon he slices through the American religious fabric of wholeness to bare the naked truth of society’s views on race, homosexuality, women, and anti-Semitism. His pre-911 treatise is all the more prophetic, given the Islamic divisions and clashes with western culture. Let’s take a look at what Gomes has to say.
A basic theme of Gomes is that all scripture is interpreted. The question that he raises is how we interpret scripture. He speaks of the “interpretive triangle” that describes the relationship between author, text, and reader. In addition there is the communal context which speaks to today’s context and circumstances. He addresses bibliolatry, literalism, and culturism. Bibliolatry is the worship of the bible in its prominent display on the center of the communion table and the elitism of the church that mandates certain orders of worship, at the exclusion of a populist interpretation that has led to the decline of mainline churches and phenomenal increase in non-denominational evangelical churches. The danger of literalism is the language points to a truth that is beyond and transcends the text: God. In an eloquent argument he avoids medieval devices such as allegory, symbolic interpretation, and typology that equate truth and meaning. By culturism Gomes refers to defining scripture by conformity to a rigid set of values and beliefs rather than the transformative power by the renewal of your mind. He uses Matthew 19:23-24 as an example. In today’s world of possessions money is not the evil but how we use our possessions for the betterment of humankind. In 70 A.D. possessions consisted of livestock, fruit, grain, grapes, gold, silver, and progeny.
Another theme of Gomes is that suffering, joy, and mystery are “thin” places. There is in Celtic mythology the notion of thin places in the universe, where the visible and invisible world come into their closest proximity. To seek such places is the vocation for the wise and the good. Looking at suffering in this context places it in close proximity to blessings. Two human questions follow: "God where were you when I needed you?" And “what have I done to deserve this?" Religion by its very nature has an intimacy with redemptive suffering and only those who traverse this “thin place” see the power and glory of the Holy Spirit in times of suffering and joy.
For those of you willing to look at your core religious beliefs, you will find Gomes’ book challenging and uplifting. It involves a rather daunting effort to see beyond the diversions of text and context into the far more complex landscape of principle and teaching. Thus we should give more attention to the Bible and use the more demanding criterion of seeking truth that transcends our own biblical situations and interpretations. Until we can do this, we will always have religious divisions that exclude and keep us from embracing the most important commandment: love thy neighbor as thyself.
1. Try reading the Bible in 90 Days, NIV, a program introduced by Ted Cooper that treats the bible as a novel to capture cultural and literal themes. This program is available in many churches and will change your life by reading just 12 pages daily.
2. Read Peter Gomes' The Good Book. Gomes will challenge your prejudcies and force you to look within your "thin places."
3. Why has the DaVinci's Code captured the public's insatiable desire for mystery? Join a critique group that reviews Dan Brown's book for its fact and fiction.
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About Keith Barton, Ph.D.
Dr. Barton received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Texas at Austin and has been a practicing therapist for over thirty years. He is currently enrolled in MentorCoach and is accepting new clients. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, consultant to Fortune 500 companies in executive development, founded and managed Texas Community Living Ventures, Inc., in 1986 for providing group home services to persons with mental retardation, and has been running a clinical practice in Northwest Houston since 1990. He writes part-time with the goal of completing one novel a year. His desire to coach others derives from his passionate interest in helping others become attuned to their creative powers of storytelling.
Dr. Barton has training in coaching, cognitive and family therapy and health psychology. He has published articles, made presentations and conducted workshops about:
Anxiety and achievement
The relationship between psychology and spirituality
Copyright by Virtual Writing Coach and Keith Barton, 2001-2010.