Novelette (42 pages), released 4 Feb 2017 in e-book format on Amazon. Click here to purchase and read on any device for only US $1.00
In the New Testament’s Book of Acts, a mere eleven verses tell the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who were caught defying the rules of the first Christian community in Jerusalem and promptly “gave up the ghost.” Based on these records, mainstream religion treats them as thieves who got what they deserve, and as far as we know the story ends there….until Ananias wakes up in an office at the Middle Realm division of Pearly Gates, Inc.
With the help of the archangel Gabriel as a world–weary modern day case worker, Ananias must untangle the circumstances of his abrupt passing, and grapple to understand why his beliefs did not give him a free ticket to heaven. What he learns through his purging process gives an entirely different meaning to the concept of salvation, and teaches us that, no matter how bureaucratic it can seem through our black-and-white-colored lenses, God’s mercy leaves no one behind.
In the spirit of The Last Temptation of Christ which inspired it, this story challenges every literal assumption we make about the Good News of Christianity, offering in its place a more progressive vision based in wisdom it shares with other faiths, as well as basic human values like compassion and self-sacrifice.
This 13,000-word novelette was written as part of The Camerado Chronicles, a stream of theological consciousness-meets-road journal project that covered the second half of 2009.
It was an incredibly rich period of time for me creatively and spiritually, as I spent weeks at a time alone at the wheel of a truck criss-crossing the country. I had returned to the road after an eight-month period of close involvement with a church from the Calvary Chapel. This is a “denomination” (they don’t like that shoe, but it fits) that is very prominent on the US west coast– they cultivate a laid-back, coffee-housy atmosphere very much in sync with the local culture– and compared to other evangelical organizations I suspect their tolerance of dissent from the official teachings was fairly high. But to me, the Calvary Chapel, like all other churches before it, was a square hole where my round peg felt unwelcome, the kind of place where keeping quiet about my unorthodox beliefs was the price of maintaining friendships.
Hitting the road helped release a ton of pent-up energy that I channeled toward explaining my disenchantment with mainstream religion. In the first installment of what became the Chronicles, as I moved into my new rig on 9 June 2009, I started by throwing down the line between the world where I had come from and where I wanted to go spiritually:
“I do not believe in the Bible, but I believe in Christ.
Another way to say it: I do not believe in the words, but I believe in the Word.
(believe in = put one’s faith in = commit one’s life to)”
“The Word” as a symbol for Christ was an interesting concept to me back then. It was the English translation of what the original New Testament, written in Greek, called “Logos.” This word had acquired many meanings in the Greek lexicon, but the literal verbal units on the pages of a book were not among them– those were “lexis.” Logos had a broader meaning that included reason, and a basis for understanding. It was also adopted by many of the predecessors of pantheism to describe an ineffable ordering principle of the universe. Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC) was the first to use Logos as such; the Stoic philosophers identified the term with “the divine animating principle pervading the Universe.”
That previous winter, I had read a book by an Eastern Orthodox Christian (a tradition with Greek origins) illustrating the connection between Logos and “Tao,” which is the translation for Logos used by Chinese Christians. Taoists can certainly relate to understanding the Tao as “the divine animating principle pervading the Universe.”
It was this concept of “The Word” that I meant in my introductory statement: not a person, but a Presence. A transcendent Is-ness that wraps Christ, Logos and Tao into one seamless manifestation of non-dual Reality expressed as holy and divine, to be understood across cultural lines as the I AM that exists within and beyond the birth-death-rebirth cycles we perceive. Ten years later, I call this the essence of pantheism; at the time, I was still culturally acclimated to Christianity, and wrote about it in a quirky mystic Christian language.
This is the language of A&S, quite different than how I would write it now, ten years removed from church life. But it was far better to preserve this language than rewrite it, because it is precisely in character with the Ananias I want to convey. If Ananias and Sapphira lived in early 21st century West Coast America instead of early 1st century Jerusalem, I suspect they would have been drawn to the Calvary Chapel too. And their advisers, Gabriel and Metatron, are clearly archetypes for the inner guru who turns our attention from the lexis of scripture to the omnipresent Christ-Logos-Tao-Word, that which makes us whole as we choose to identify with it. Of the tiny bit of editing I did to this story post-Chronicles, almost all of it was to the voice of Gabriel, sharpening the focus of his winnowing words as better forms of expression came to me over the years.
I offer A&S in this ecumenical spirit, hoping that partisans of specific faiths will find something of themselves in the conversation between Ananias and Gabriel too.