Discussions on Faith

Discussions on Faith: My Next Writing Project

I’ve had a second novel in draft form for some time now.  Again, it has a religious theme. The premise for the story occurs at the confluence of Christianity and Buddhism — a place I am drawn to, for reasons beyond my current understanding.  I like to tinker around at the fringes of orthodoxy, in places which are often a long way from the comfort zone of many fellow Catholics.  It is as place where the language is rough and the characters undeserving.
In this new story, the spirit of John the Baptist returns to the world stage and inhabits the body of a former prostitute and Buddhist apostate.  By all worldly accounts, she is the most unlikely candidate for this holy role – that of a latter-day Baptist.  
In the course of the story, I hope that the characters will allow me to say a few words about our inability to know the mind of God, and how our efforts to squeeze out some profound insight into “what God is thinking” often end in failure.  I believe that we cannot truly know what God is thinking — and that perhaps the very concept of “a thinking mind of God” may simply be anthropomorphic patchwork to fill in the language gaps when we try to describe something unknowable, and therefore indescribable.  Our theological language simply collapses.  Enter fiction.
As the story unfolds, claims asserting her legitimacy are made by a local Catholic parish priest and his associates, acting on her behalf.  These claims are initially swatted away and casually rejected by the Church.  However, as the evidence for her legitimacy grows, the criticisms that the Church makes against her become stronger, even turning violent.  Esteemed theologians ask, “How could our God, a God of great wisdom, have selected such a low-bred and faithless person – a virtual pagan”?   
The point — and lesson — is that we, indeed, cannot know the answer to that question, and even asking that question reflects our presumptuousness.  The underlying theme throughout the story is that God is immensely great and good.  Unbounded.  And human knowledge simply fails to apprehend that greatness.  And it is within this spirit I approach the idea that we should not be surprised when God chooses a person, otherwise disenfranchised by society and the Church, to perform His work.  
As the novel moves forward, evidence regarding her legitimacy reaches a tipping point and stale orthodoxy begins to unravel. 
I landed on the idea when thinking about the possibility of a latter-day prophet living amongst the homeless.  This seems to be a possibility that could reasonably exist within the Christian experience — at least as I understand and embrace it.  Perhaps the knowledge that the reanimated spirit of John the Baptist now walks amongst us would offer a place for us to pause and evaluate our sense of humility before God, not to mention a new way of thinking about the poor and destitute who are (and have always been) devalued by society.  
I admit it is a stretch for me to venture into the depths of theology, despite my exposure to such profound topics at divinity school.  What emerges from the deep dive into this territory are the words of a fiction writer and not a theologian.  And an attempt by a fiction writer to reconcile Christian and Buddhist faiths is asking a lot.  For example, the reincarnation elements of this story are well outside Christian orthodoxy.  Nonetheless, there are more hits than misses, and I count that a good thing.  I believe that some degree of reconciliation likely exists in the hinterlands of orthodoxy – and that is a territory worth exploring, if only through fiction.
I hope to have a draft manuscript ready by early next year.  And in the interim, I’d really enjoy your feedback on these thoughts!