My second novel, The Awakening, comes out in less than a month. The idea for the novel came to me one morning while I was in the shower.
If you were raised in many of the Christian denominations here in the United States, when you attended Sunday School you were most likely taught that God loves you and sent His angels to watch over you. The adult Christian experience is often slightly different. Childhood could easily be summed up through the song, "Jesus Loves Me;" adulthood is framed with the phrase, "Repent and be saved."
Having grown up in several churches (we moved a lot), I remember being taken aback when I transferred from Sunday School to Youth Group and the message I was being offered changed as well. The experience was very similar to having a parent constantly hug you and tell you, "You're doing a great job and I love you," before waking up one morning to find them saying in a serious voice, "We need to talk..."
When I asked why things had changed, no one could provide me with a satisfactory answer.
So I began to search for my own answers. By the time I graduated from high school, I had read the Bible cover-to-cover nine times. I'd gone through both the Old and New Testaments one verse at a time using the Greek and Hebrew lexicons. Not only did I study the history of the time periods that were covered in the Bible, but I studied the culture. What I discovered illuminated the Bible in a different light.
For instance, in Mark 10:25 Jesus says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” It's a metaphor. "The Eye of the Needle" was a small door set in the massive city gates that could be opened after dark to let a traveler pass through without having to open the larger city to danger. For a camel to pass through this man-sized doorway, it would have to be unloaded of all its cargo then get down and crawl through the door. What was being said here is that the attachment to wealth was so strong it was preventing the rich person from embracing their spiritual path. They would have to first shed all of their wealth and then humble themselves in order to full rid themselves of this attachment.
As I began to dig, I slowly filled a notebook with questions. To these I added questions that arose as I studied the history of the early Church as well as the history of the Bible itself - how it was compiled and translated. After my ninth pass through the Bible, I was ready to ask my questions.
What I discovered was that I had a notebook filled with questions that no one could answer.
I was asked to no longer attend one church where I asked the questions to the clergy behind closed doors. In another, people who knew me came up to me after meeting with the pastor as they'd been told they needed to pray for me. These weren't crazy questions that a conspiracy theorist would ask, but things that were laid out in the Bible in black and white. In church after church I was told the same thing - "You shouldn't be asking these questions."
A week after my seventeenth birthday, having no one else to ask, I knelt in prayer and made a pact with God. I'd go anywhere I was led, walk through any doorway that opened for me, but I wanted to know the answers for myself. No middle-men. No interpretations. I wanted to know and be able to make my own decisions once I held the data in my hands.
And then I went out into the world.
I was the only Caucasian attending an African American Pentecostal church whose pastor embraced my questing spirit, studied Eastern paths (from modern Taoism to Tibetan lore that was last recorded more than a century ago), was trained as a traditional shaman, and walked down roads I would have never considered even had I known they existed. Many of my questions were answered by an old Rabbi that I became friends with; other pieces were found scattered on other spiritual paths.
The journey took my writing down two separate roads. One leads to a series of non-fiction books that are coming out a little later this year: the other leads to a trilogy of novels that begins with The Awakening called "Rebirth." Like any work of fiction, the story focuses on characters and their journey through the events around them. The world that frames their journey is woven from the synthesis of each path I studied. Rather than being a story about the end of the world told from a Christian perspective, it draws upon Hopi beliefs, what we know of the Mayan calendar, and current advances in quantum theory. Many of the questions that I asked are pivotal pieces of the plot. While it is suspenseful and tragic, the trilogy is also a story that there is hope to be found even in our darkest times - hence the name Rebirth.
As I stood in the shower, reflecting on all I had learned, I wondered about angels. We're taught in Sunday School that angels are benevolent beings who watch over us, who love and protect us at every turn. Yet the Revelation of John from the Christian Bible states that it is the angels who will pour out God's wrath on humanity, murdering billions of people.
If you were an angel and truly loved those you watched over, could you destroy them, even if God commanded you to do so?
It was purely a logic problem, not a reflection of anything that I'd learned on my path. But it got me thinking - and those thoughts became the seeds of the Rebirth trilogy.