by Anniel 5/5/17
A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Jesus Christ • Author: Andrew Klavan. Available on Kindle • Please, if you read only one new book this year, let this be the one. I have been considering this book and author now for several weeks, trying to find a way to introduce it without trying to convert anyone, but to put forth the idea of one man’s path to belief and how that has helped and changed him.
Andrew Klavan is a best-selling author and screen-writer. This memoir is partially about what becoming a Christian has meant in his public life as a very visible man. It is also about his family, their influence on him, and what growing up in the U.S.A. meant to him. If that were all he wrote about, it would still be an interesting and inspirational read, but it is so much more.
Klavan’s love affair with the United States, the form of his education, his search for truth as an author, his desire to be a writer – including his love of words- reveals so much about the PC thinking that has come to characterize our age. The historical emphasis of Klavan’s life and decisions illuminates clearly how we ALL, in countries all over the world, have come to be where we are today.
At first reading I felt that Klavan’s experiences were foreign to my life, but then, the more I drilled down, the more I saw our common humanity as his real story. I confess I was totally mesmerized by his writing, and his thoughts about God and the meaning of Truth. I read, pondered, and reread again and again so I wouldn’t miss his meanings. He writes:
I was forty-nine years old and about to be baptized a Christian. . . No one could have been more surprised than I was. . . I never thought I was the type. I had been born and raised a Jew and lived most of my life as an agnostic. I believed in the fullest freedom of thought into the widest reaches of fact and philosophy. I had no time for magical thinking of any kind. I couldn’t bear solemn piety. I despised even the ordinary varieties of willful blindness to the tragic shambles of life on earth. And as for what the philosopher Schopenhauer once called the Christian’s “banal optimism” — that forced praise-singing cheer in the face of pain and disappointment and inescapable death – Oh, God, how I hated it; it set my teeth on edge.
And if my realism and worldliness didn’t keep me from baptism, there was the even greater obstacle of who I was- my cultural identity . . . I belonged to what the British refer to as the chattering classes. I thought and wrote and created stories for a living. I was one of the men of the coasts and cities, at home amongst the snarks and cynics of these postmodern times. By rights, my attitude toward religion should have been the same as theirs at its harshest, a disdain for the irrational survival of a primitive superstition; or in milder and more tolerant moods, a wistful regret over the demise of a comforting delusion and pass the Chardonay. Ho-Hum.
At a very young age, Klavan decided he wanted to become a writer. His father laughed at him and did everything in his power to keep him from his dreams. He seemed to be the son who could bring out the very worst in his father, a famous New York radio personality, who wished to retain some connection with the family’s Jewish background while remaining an entirely secular Jew.
. . In all my books my characters raced against time to explain the world while the world eluded them. Some deadly reality was always closing in around them as they chased after the illusion up ahead. . . In telling these stories, it turned out, of course, that I wasn’t just exploring them as a writer, I was also wrestling with it as a man. What was truth? How could you think, live and make choices and judgments day by day if you didn’t know?. . .
The oldest fragment of New Testament papyrus we have preserves the question of the sophisticated Roman Official Pontius Pilate as he sits in judgment over the backwoods Jewish preacher Jesus of Nazareth: “What is Truth?” The Gospel’s weird answer has already been spoken by Jesus elsewhere in the narrative. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” he says.
How can this be? In what way is it possible for Jesus to be the Way, the Truth and the life? What does that even mean? A real riddle for the author it seems.
Pursuing the Truth became the Path of Klavan’s life. Along the way he tells us how he became a con artist at his neighborhood school, how he never did the reading or the work assigned, he did fear being exposed, but his love of conning the teachers was a thrill he craved; he had a crises of conscience at his Bar Mitzvah because he didn’t believe what he had to say and do. An early rebellion against his father.
Klavan’s mother was an atheist and feminist who apparently hated being a mother. She said even a cat could have kittens. Having Andrew’s older brother, Andrew and then twin boys was a shock. She treated her children better than any other children around them. She taught them that they were <i>better</i> than the other people around them. Smarter and worth more.
Having fights with his brothers and other kids at his school turned Klavan into a tough nut who would never quit fighting, no matter how badly he was beaten.
During his youth he read action and crime books almost exclusively, nothing high-brow for him. He was a fan of detective novels and dreamed of being a hero, saving beautiful girls. Once he read where Philip Marlow said if you were going to write, it had to be for at least four hours a day. So he disciplined himself to do that. He wrote his first novel when he was fourteen. Was it any good? Probably better than most fourteen year old efforts. When he left high school he traveled all over to gain experience. He worked at newspapers and radio stations, he swept floors, loaded trucks, and for awhile was homeless. But he was getting experience all the time.
Klavan tells of his many bouts of depression and of his travels and drinking and myriad girl friends, and how he wound up attending Berkeley, where he continued academically conning one and all; he had periods of madness and thoughts of suicide; but he also had good things, such as meeting his wife and the birth of their children. He tells of the years they spent living in both New York and the UK, and the different disciplines, such as his devotions to Zen and Transendental Meditation, that he attempted before becoming a Christian.
There are so many things I disagree with in Klavan’s religion and his understanding of God, but it was fascinating to watch him develop as a man. He had many dead ends, but he learned from them. We should all learn so much in our struggle through life.
After his Bar Mitzvah Klavan bought his first New Testament and read it out of curiosity. He still owns and uses that version of the scripture today.
Klavan began a pattern of prayer early on, but confesses that prayer was often just “meditating out loud.” And yet prayer became vital to him, and as the years passed, sometimes it seemed like he really did connect with God and could almost believe that he received answers.
He did a couple of things that were fascinating. While he BS’d his way through Berkeley and never studied anything, he bought and kept every book on his syllabus, and if there were other books mentioned on the book jackets, he bought those also. He didn’t read them for a long while, he just saved them in a big stack in his room. One morning after partying all night, he was too lazy to rise and he could not sleep so he decided to read. He reached out and picked up a book at random, that book was by Faulkner, and that action turned him into a lover of words and he lived in amazement about what he read. He decided to read everything in the books he had saved, so those books became the basis of his education.
While he was still at Berkeley, he had his eyes opened to the future of literature because of post-modernism and literary deconstruction. The very idea of truth was rejected, morals became relative and all cultures were said to be equally valid while he was a student.
One day in an English lit class the professor was speaking gently of the poem by Tennyson called “The Charge Of The Light Brigade,” which Klavan had read and fallen in love with. Suddenly, he says,
. . a very serious young lady, in a very serious pair of spectacles rose from one of the front seats and demanded angrily, “How can we even read this poem when all it does is glorify war?” . . .[The professor] probably never had to defend the beauty of beauty before, or the wisdom of wisdom. She shrugged weakly. “I see what you mean,” she said. . . At the back of the auditorium , I leapt to my feet, appalled. . . reading the opening lines aloud and saying, “Listen! Listen to this! Listen! ‘Half a league, half a league, half a league onward- All in the valley of Death rode the six hundred.’ You can hear the horses! You can – listen- you can feel the courage and the madness, everything, it’s all there . . .” The professor made a bland gesture . . . as if to say, “Yes, yes I suppose it’s something of that sort.” Such survivors from the old days could raise no defense against the postmodern onslaught.
And that’s how learning and truth die, with hardly a whimper from bewildered teachers.
I kept thinking that Klavan’s name was very familiar and checked to see if I had read anything by him. There was nothing shown. Then, as I was reading, his writing for young people was mentioned and listed the four books of The Homelanders series. Then I remembered reading the books a few years ago: The Last Thing I Remember, The Long Way Home, The Truth of the Matter, and The Final Hour.
It had been awhile since I had read the books, so I reread them and remembered how religious, patriotic, loving and brave the hero and all his real friends, and some friends he meets along the way, are. The hero moves from one crisis to another, with fast moving and graphic violence, but the books are gritty in showing the sacrifices that some people must make to protect us and our freedom. No PC crap is permitted.
So, if you know a young person who would like a rollicking good adventure, these books are a lot better than some of the tripe out there, plus the values taught are so good. Read the books aloud together.
After hearing how raw Klavan’s adult books are, I decided to read one I pulled up at random, called Empire of Lies. I found it revolting in its language, violence and also in its descriptions of sexual perversion. But I kept reading because the thread of a profound morality wound throughout the book. Later I heard an interview Klavan gave about his new novel, which has raised a storm of controversy. That book is Empire of Lies that I read.
I expected the controversy to be about the language, violence and sex, but, no, it’s about why Klavan made the hero a Christian. The whole point of the book is that the protagonist is a flawed human being faced with unprecedented challenges in his moral, sexual, and religious life and how he meets those challenges as the ONLY ONE WHO BELIEVES THE EVIL AND CAN do what needs doing in order to save lives.
Yes, somewhat reluctantly I would recommend this book, too.
These are the five epiphanies that Klavan says guide his life:
- Sometimes you just have to play or perform in pain.
- My misery is not me, it is not the world, and it is not connected to my talent. Misery is just a broken part that can be fixed.
- Have a love of life in both joy and sadness. Everything that is vital in life can be done with joy.
- A husband and wife can really become “one flesh.” Particularly when a child is born as part of that love.
- Beyond the painted scenery of mere existence is love, love unbounded.
Klavan has left conservatives one more gift of writing, it is a long pamphlet or tract called The Crisis in the Arts: Why the Left owns the Culture and How Conservatives Can Begin To Take It Back. This is available on Kindle for only 99 cents. Well worth the read.
Klavan began his book with this thought provoking quote:
FINE God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars, certitude, heartfelt, joy, peace God of Jesus Christ. . . My God and your God. . . Joy, joy, tears of joy.
From a note that Blaise Pascal (d. August 19, 1662, Paris, France) wrote to himself after his own conversion to Christ. Note found after his death.
Now I’m going to reread this book.