Friday, September 30, 2011

The UnDwellable City

I've always been amazed by people's willingness to talk about movies, books, and television. Even bad movies, books, and television. Buckaroo Bonzai generated a lot of conversation. The new Conan remake got a lot of people talking. Twlight, The Shack, and The Five People You Meet in Heaven were all watercooler fodder for a long time.

I've written 1.6million words of pop-theology in my 6 years at Westwinds. 36 Teaching Atlases. 19 White Papers. Granted, I'm no John Donne or Thomas Aquinas...but the sheer volume ought to count for something.

It occurs to me that, had I written 1.6million words of FICTION instead of non-fiction, I might have had far more success in fostering conversation. And that's really what I want. I began writing Atlases so people could take what they experienced at Westwinds, digest it on their own time (and at a deeper level), and then live enriched by their new understanding.

But William Paul Young has been far more successful in getting people to do that with The Shack than I have with even my best stuff--Bleached, Sin Monkey, Monsters, Shadowing God.

So I've written a story, my first attempt at a novel. It's about a widower who takes the gospel to Atlantis and it's titled "The Undwellable City."

I originally began referring to the genre as "speculative theology" (a play on "speculative fiction," often referred to as SCI-FI or FANTASY). But speculative theology makes it sound like I'm going to pretend Jesus was an astronaut and Mary was his buxom barmaid. Instead, Jvo suggested I call it "anecdotal theology." I like that, a lot.

But the truth is that The Undwellable City is narrative theology in the strictest sense. I've taken God's story, and woven it together with the lives of real people in a fictional story. It's His narrative + our narrative; which, after all, is the basis for all good theology.

Jacob, my 7 year old son, provided the source material. Knowing I have a tendency toward abstract concepts and heady-ideas, I asked Jake what his 5 favorite things were to read about, play with, and pretend to be. As a result, The Undwellable City takes a "speculative theologian" and exposes him to Atlantis, sports, war, science, and zombies.

The Undwellable City will be released in 5 parts, beginning this Sunday, at Westwinds. Each part has been lovingly illustrated by my friend Heidi Rhodes and beautifully laid out by our mutual friend Carrie Joers. Davey Buchanan, my long-time mentor and coach in the world of new media, has spent hours developing a short-film//fictional documentary series about David Mann (the principal character), and we'll be showing these films around the winds as well.

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