JEFFERSON CITY—Holy synergy happens when flawed creative types feel free to work out their own salvation within the structure of community.
Martin Luther had conversations with students and colleagues who scribbled bits of his wisdom and a classic book called Table Talk was the result. More than 60 years ago, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and other Oxford writers, who called themselves Inklings, met once a week to discuss their writing, current events and life as they saw it and the literary world hasn’t been the same since.
Allen Palmeri, associate editor of The Pathway, taps into this synergistic vein in his recently released novel, The Cyberspace Letters.
Scriptura is a rigid, theologically-minded 40-something year-old former sportswriter who has left the world of sports for what he perceives to be the deeper things in life. When he is paired with Skateboard, a 20-something year-old tech savvy writer for ESPN to write a pro/con column for a Christian sports magazine, the two men exchange correspondence and a mentoring relationship ensues.
Scriptura, who lives in Canada, is old school, so he writes letters to Skateboard. Skateboard, who lives in Michigan, is new school, so he emails his responses to Scriptura. Palmeri borrows the format from Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.
As the two men get to know each other, Scriptura is initially determined to help Skateboard contend for language in the 21st century.
“As simple as it may seem,” Scriptura tells him, “we must pick up one word at a time, clean up each of those words as we go and set them one by one on a true foundation, in a context where people will actually take the time and the thought to read them. This must be the business of the authentic communicator of the 21st century. It will be gritty, necessary work.”
In their correspondence, they discuss words such as “hope,” “idol,” “filled” and “beauty.” Scriptura is full of knowledge and as he passes it along to Skateboard, their mentoring relationship seems to be quite healthy. But there is something missing.
Scriptura never leads Skateboard in a conversation about the words “love,” or “grace” or “mercy.” He is more concerned about being right than loving because, in his mind, right doctrine is the only hope for saving the world—forgetting the fact that God incarnate left heaven in the name of love to do all the saving the world would ever need.
In Scriptura’s mind, psychology is the evil of his day, so he sets his sights on it, hoping to kill it. He even gets Skateboard in on the act and Skateboard is happy to be on board because he is bipolar and he despises the diagnosis.
After the two men take a break in their mentoring relationship, Scriptura sets aside six months to travel to Michigan. He wants to meet and spend time with Skateboard and while he is there he wants to write the definitive book that will kill psychology. Skateboard cheers him on.
After hitting a wall during the writing process, Scriptura accepts an invitation to a 12-step recovery group at Skateboard’s church, not knowing what to expect. He finds broken people who care more about redemptive healing than their reputations. Seeing God at work in the midst of a broken community of believers drives Scriptura to his knees in repentance as he sees the ugliness of his pride. The mentor becomes the mentee.
During their journey, Palmeri’s characters discuss modern day controversies, ranging from eschatology to methods of psychology to alcohol. And, as is the case with Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the reader is always mindful that a character arc exists – that characters don’t always recognize or embrace truth – leaving readers to work through these issues.
As such, Palmeri has written a novel that challenges the natural way devoted Christian men think. The Christian faith is about redemption, not rigidity. It’s about a theology of both the mind and the heart—one that loves God and others more than it loves being right.
If that is a message that appeals to you, you’ll enjoy Palmeri’s challenging novel. You can find out more about the book on Palmeri’s website: www.allenpalmeri.com.
LEE WARREN/contributing writer