Keith Snyder
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Response to Jamie at RLP

For whatever reason, this comment keeps triggering the Real Live Preacher anti-spam measures and gets automatically deleted every time I try to post it there--which has been several dozen times, with various alterations each time.

So with apologies to RLP and anyone else who feels weird about my moving the conversation (which I do), here's what I promised Jamie a few days ago.

For those who read my blog and not RLP, here is the conversation up to this point.

Jamie, I'm sorry it's taken me so long. I had half a response all written and fine-tuned, and when I went to finish it up, I discovered I'd deleted the wrong file. Couldn't get it back.

I'm going to answer individual statements in the second half of this response. First, I'm going to try to write, again, what I already wrote. Which never comes out as well, but please bear with me.

The gist of that response was that I finally figured out what parts of this conversation reminded me of. In one of my other lives, I'm a mystery novelist, so a group called Academics for the Second Amendment (which I'd guess had to be underwritten by the NRA, though they didn't say so) flew me and a dozen other mystery writers out to Las Vegas a few years ago, put us up, fed us, and told us all about guns. What we got out of it was better working knowledge of guns, so we wouldn't write them wrong. What our hosts got out of it was twofold:

First, they got to sit us in a room and push their political agenda on a captive audience of people with the power to disseminate it to the general public.

Their second aim was the same as ours: Get the guns right. Don't put a silencer on a revolver. Don't make 50 rounds come out of a Baby Glock when it hasn't been reloaded. Don't have a small person fire a Ruger Black Hawk with a magnum load for the first time, and not hit themselves in the forehead with the recoil. (Not that this is based on anything in my experience, in case any of my smaller friends are reading this. It's completely hypothetical.)

During a lull on the firing range between trying out different weapons, I got into a conversation with one of our hosts, who expressed the group's frustration. It's just not that hard, she said, to find someone who knows, and get the guns right.

From her perspective, that's true. It's just a phone call to someone she knows.

From my perspective, it's different. I said, Sure. But it's not just the gun people.

The gun people want us to get the guns right.

The car people want us to get the cars right.

The medical people want us to get the medicine right.

The law people want us to get the law right.

The local people want us to get the streets right.

The refrigerator people want us to get the refrigerators right.

The shoe people want us to get the shoes right.

The tooth people want us to get the teeth right.

Think I'm kidding? There's a very nice woman in the crime fiction community who works as a dental hygienist, and collects mentions of teeth in mystery novels. Get the teeth wrong, you'll hear from her.

No matter how many THINGS are in your book, that's the number of specialists, hobbyists, and special interest groups who want you to get it right.

Is it important to try to get those things right?

Absolutely. To the best of your ability, within whatever time and resource constraints you have.

Is even a single one of them THE POINT of the book?

Not even close.

So. The God people want me to get the God right.

Okay. Works for me. I'm all for getting things right.

But what's right? Jamie's interpretation?

Two points. First, your interpretation, which unless I'm wrong, you believe to be The One True Interpretation, is one among many, and I find it no more compelling than the rest. You can say it's not yours, it's God's. I can say no it's not.

Second, this is a work of art (by which I don't mean it's for the ages--it might be bad art, it might be good art, but it's art because there's no better word). It's not How To Fix A Faucet. If it were How To Fix A Faucet, and I said the only reasonable choice for gasket material is tuna salad, you could say THAT IS A WRONG STATEMENT. And you'd be right. There's a right, there's a wrong. Tuna salad: Wrong.

But I'm not saying here's the only reasonable answer. I'm saying, What if? Criticizing a short film--even a short film of ideas--for not adhering to your view of your faith says more about you than about the film: Namely, that you want it to be something it's not. It's a version of the straw man tactic: I never said this was an unassailable work of scholarship. I said it was a short film, hopefully one you enjoy, and hopefully one that entices you to think, even if you end up at "No, I was right before."

So that was a rambling version of what was--really, trust me--a brilliant, concise, and convincing comment before I wiped it from existence.

On to some specific statements:

You're taking a lot of creative freedom with the nature of God here.

Right. That's the job description. I also take creative freedom by inventing entire humans when I write a story. I invented at least five in my last story who don't exist at all!

There's not another way I can do this. I have to listen to that stupid mysterious voice that RLP alluded to in his recent post, or I will have demeaned the gift utterly.

You're trying to put Him in a little box that we can all look at, understand, and identify with.

I don't understand this statement. I thought I did when I skimmed it, but when I look more closely, I don't. So I'm finding it difficult to respond to. Can you rephrase it as something that isn't a metaphor? "Putting God in a box" doesn't make sense to me.

The truth of the matter is that the Bible doesn't support your picture of a god limited in knowledge.

Maybe--though RLP cited passages that may contradict that. But that aside... so?

It's not a textbook.

It's not homework.

It's not a road atlas.

I'm not a prophet.

I'd have to ask Larry to make sure, but I don't think he's one, either.

We have a set of talents. We have some thoughts and feelings. We put those things together. This happened. We love it.

At no point did we think, "Let's convince the world that we know about God and they don't."

How can you possibly explain the vast amount of prophecy in the Bible?

Well, I don't need to. But I'm interested in stuff, and that's an interesting claim. I've never heard any biblical prophecy that held water. Can you point me toward some?

The Bible is the only concrete source of information that we have about Almighty God. To disregard that because "It doesn't sound right" is certainly your prerogative; just don't call your God "Jehovah", 'cause that name's taken by the GOD OF THE BIBLE.

Okay, I'll match you, tone for tone.

The Bible is just a point along a river of myth and belief whose headwaters lie before history, and whose outlet is far beyond our seeing. To disregard that because "It doesn't sound right" is certainly your prerogative; just don't call your perception all-encompassing and final, 'cause that job's taken by the GOD OF THE BIBLE.

And you're no more him than I am.

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