[[ Below is the intro for Jackass for the Hour. That novel needs revising. The intro needs to be revised. However, I reproduce the original intro here since that project of revising has not taken place. But perhaps this will whet your appetite. ]]
This novel is a disclaimer of religion for Jews, Christians and Muslims, who are angry with the world’s violence, angry with their inability to stop it, angry with their own revelling in aggression, even using children, but angry most of all – though unbeknownst to them – that some Catholics have sheathed the double-edged sword of Truth, sparking violence with half-truths of niceness, appeasement, false compromise. The interreligious mix of hell and heaven found in these pages provides a paradigmatic shift for understanding religion, peace, children… Novels can do that.
Jesus spoke of tying millstones to the necks of those scandalising youngsters so as to drown them in the sea. Self-defence contributes to justice. Violence is not always evil. John the Baptist advised soldiers. That’s reasonable. This book confronts religious violence difficult to understand, like past and present conquests of Jericho, with children being ‘religiously’ killed. Diversely, there is the spreading by the sword the faith one preaches, with, for instance, a poll-tax for infidels who are unable to pay, perhaps because of the number of their children. The list goes on.
Politically convenient misperceptions of this book may incite violence, but witnessing to love – whatever the cost – remains good, even while purposely seeking martyrdom is stupid, hateful, witnessing to oneself instead of God’s truth.
For atheists and agnostics — You will enjoy the book more than others. Intrigue will help you glut yourselves on difficulties that will, however, be regurgitated later in the book for a nutritive chewing of the cud. This is aggressive language, to be sure, but good things happen by falling headlong into the rubbish trough of ‘noble atheism’, amid things that were first tossed into that self-affirming magical bin that is transparent for everyone except the one scrapping inconveniences into it. Read what awaits Catholics below. Nervous bitterness is no excuse.
For homosexual activists — Your ‘right’ to obligate others to bless your activities doesn’t mean this book contains homophobic hate-speech. Don’t fear what is a critique offered in love!
For Muslims — An incisive critique of Islam’s central religious event – Ibrahim’s would-be sacrifice of his son, without which there is no Islam – is found in these pages. Hardhitting, it is not disrespectful. The purpose is to put the brakes on violence by an honest appraisal of Islam.
For Jews — Abraham’s would-be sacrifice of his son is also appraised, seeing it in its proper context centuries before the ‘common (read Catholic, that is, universal) era’. The book is not anti-Semitic, nor does it lose sight of the Shoah. It is critical of any ethnic cleansing of non-Jews.
For (non-)Catholic Christians — The Sacrifice of Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham, is considered. One Catholic priest working in the Holy See at the time he read this opus thinks these pages are a travesty, written by a Judas-priest, the most incisive bigotry against Catholics ever published: “The author hates the Church, handing over on a silver platter the best arguments against the Church to those who hate the Church.” He didn’t finish reading, rejecting, it seems, the Pope’s call for “self-critical dialogue.” Enter Hilaire Belloc:
To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power. […] The mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul. [Hilaire Belloc, Selected Essays (2/6), ed. J.B. Morton; Penguin Books (1325): Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958. See the essay “On Irony” on pages 124-127.]
If not happiness, irony brings blessedness, living life on the edge, marginalised as obscurantist, cut down by the sword for reflecting light. As for me, without grace, I am not ironic, but self-affirmingly trample on others, claiming a moral high ground swamped by my weakness. Given the circumstances, and without grace, I would be more evil than the worst monsters in the book.
Nice circumstances do not justify, but tend to delude. Anyone saying differently is a liar. Any irony in the book is, then, most ironic, for, with Peter, I learn not from any failure, but in being forgiven for culpable ineptness by the One I have often betrayed, Irony Incarnate. Irony is not diablerie. He who said – “One who talks does not know; one who knows does not talk” – spoke of nirvana, not religious politics. To remain silent would be a travesty.
On the one hand, some might feel disgruntled if they think that words similar to their own may occasionally be found on the lips of a character who may not be a hero. Aspects of a character are not to be attributed to any such person. No attack on a person is ever made. The characters are who they are for the sake of the plot. Sound-bites, jettisoned into a maelstrom of fictional characters, reflect reality. There is no need for paranoia. Such words are commonplace.
On the other hand, if a reader thinks to have found the original context for any given statement, and thinks again that it may be difficult or impossible to see any justification for the statement as originally intended, they can take consolation in the fact that error, or even heart stopping ambiguity, which promotes violence, has no rights, and is rightly crushed in these pages. Yet, they may well be wrong about the provenance of any statements. See the first hand, above.
Characters, situations and plots are fictional and ridiculously exaggerated, or not, making analogies with reality painfully recognisable. A vision or two, an outrageous trial, etc., merely speak to the urgency of the matter. Villains can say exceptionally good things; heroes need help to shine.
The story is set in the immediate future, but is woven with threads that can be verified, whether in history, modern controversy or on the street. To protect the innocent, mistakes are intentionally made regarding the location of an apartment, ‘cultural’ incidents near a village in Africa, the policies of an Apostolic Nunciature, what is taught in a seminary, membership in a religious order, and so on. I beg the indulgence of the institutions, Nunciatures, Episcopal Conferences and dicasteries of the Holy See (the ‘Vatican’) that are named, and especially of those who now hold offices which are specifically named, including that of the Bishop of Rome.
On a personal note, I must thank my father and many others (priests of some note), who, through the decades, urged me to write an autobiography, not any Cartesian “I think, therefore, I am” self-aggrandisement – neglecting the One writing the Book of Life – but rather, something akin to Saint Augustine’s Confessions, about the One who makes us restless until we are face to Face. But my unwieldy protestations would be unhelpful. Even if one must write about what one knows, I have revealed only my limitations in becoming all things to all men, in understanding the difficulties which many face, but for which, because they are so grave, I have tried to make myself available. Pop-psychology rejects irony as satire, a projection of self, an autobiographical laxative. Before such obtuseness, a disciple of Saint Francis described irony as understanding willingly at risk of being misunderstood. God ironically brings others to heaven by way of us. That is my hope.
© International 2005-2018 – George David Byers