Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Manuscript

Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar

Follow the link under the title of this posting and will take you to my complete book manuscript. This is still in the "beta testing" mode so if you have any suggestions, feel free to share them under comments.


Anonymous said...

Formatting tip:
Page break between chapters.

Headless Unicorn Guy

MJ said...

Yeah, I did do "Page Break" between chapters. Did you see somewhere that it blurred? When I converted Word to PDF, there were a few screwy things that happened. Like the "1" before the title and a couple of paragraph indentations that didn't convert. But I think I have a page break between each chapter.

I never did get any of your writing.

Jaimie said...

Wow, congratulations, that is quite an accomplishment. I do want to read it all one day, when I have more time. I'm going to be writing a screenplay about a disenchanted missionary in the near future (based on the true story of my uncle in Brazil). I know this will help with the character... and be enlightening in general, too. Congrats!

MJ said...

Jamie, thanks but I'm not sure what the "Wow" is for. I mean a lot of people write a lot of things. This may never go anywhere (except in the bottom of the bird cage).

There are so many missionary success stories out there like, Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot (maybe that one wasn't success) but the point being, these people are made bigger than life. Therefore, us "little people" get the feeling that we are well, "little people." So, what I'm trying to say, we really need some good books, movies, tv shows, that present the reality of failures.

We like to sweep the failures under the carpet. Our neighbor (20 years old) went on a 1 year mission trip last year. The Latin American missionary (whom he was going with) spoke at our church and every church in town. This kid comes back and I could tell that it was a difficult experience (and he was very disillusioned). But apparently this pastor, married with a big family, slept with women in every church they visited and used the money he raised to buy stuff for himself (watches, cars etc). I mentioned to our pastor and it was like I did something horrible (by mentioning it). They like to hide these bad stories.

Molly Aley said...

There are about a hundred or so things I could comment on, one for each page I've read so far, but quickly I wanted to say how much I love this quote and the concept that you are etching as I read,

"Keep in mind what I said about ESW
(economics of self worth) that you cannot determine your own value unless you can compare
yourself with others. A Christian on a deserted island, whom had never met another Christian,
would not be able to figure out how mature he or she was, or how valuable they were in God’s
sight, without a reference point."

In the midst of my world-smashing paradigm shift, one of the deepest, if not *the* deepest, most profound and meaningful things happened to me. My body had begun wasting away and I couldn't figure out what was going on (and neither could any doctors) and for all practical purposes, I felt like I was dying (no, I am not a hypochondriac).

I remember sitting on the bathroom floor, so weak, bones sticking out all over, imagining myself even more emaciated and dying in a hospital bed, at which point I said, "But what will I do for You then?" Like, I was doing all this stuff for God, going to a Bible College, doing mission trips, then being a pastor's wife, having a big family and making them all look clean and cute every Sunday, running a Bible study, homeschooling (God's way to educate, you know), blah blah blah, and suddenly it was all gone because, even if I wanted to, I couldn't. My body wasn't letting me.

And that was when I, still in the imaginary hospital bed in my head, realized that I'd been so very very wrong. Because I whispered, "I will just love You, then." And I can't really explain it, but it was like the heavens rejoiced or something. This warmth spread all over me and I started bawling as I realized how far off track I'd gotten, how silly it was to even think that God needed all my frantic labor, like He was a perfectionistic husband that I could never satisfy.

Anyways, I'm rambling, but I'm so resonating with what you have written. Gah. It's just so good.

...Also, I've found a few typo's here or there, but I was too lazy to write them down and now I'm feeling sorta guilty... *innocent grin* Confession does good for the soul...right...?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I did do "Page Break" between chapters. Did you see somewhere that it blurred? When I converted Word to PDF, there were a few screwy things that happened. Like the "1" before the title and a couple of paragraph indentations that didn't convert. But I think I have a page break between each chapter.

OK. I didn't see a break between Chps 1 & 2, but that could be an artifact of the PDF translation. (I'm not familiar with PDF conversions.)

I never did get any of your writing.

That's because I've (1) been crazy-busy, (2) just returned from a vacation on the East Coast, and (3) have a hard time deciding what samples to send. Expect a big batch over the next week.

Headless Unicorn Guy

Anonymous said...

I actually had the corny bumper sticker on my jeep that read something about at
any moment the jeep could become diver-less, as I would be raptured.

pg. 113

driver-less, not diver-less.

And the actual bumper sticker (yes, I had that one, too) read:

Warning: In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned


MJ said...

Molly, sounds like one of those Luther epiphanies. I can always remember the image of him in the black and white movie, scrubbing the latrines . . . exhausted . . . never feeling God's good pleasure.

Thanks for the typo note. I think if I read it a thousand times, the typos would keep appearing . . . like trying to rid our house of dog hair once and for all(and we have a hyperactive long-haired Saint Bernard).

Turcano said...

There are a couple of issues that I would like to address, but I waited to see if they had been dealt with in the earlier round of feedback.

The biggest issue is what I believe to be a very distorted view of Zoroastrianism; in fact, you portray it as almost identical to Manicheanism, which is not true in the least. While there is a strong element of dualism in Zoroastrianism, there is no moral dichotomy between matter and spirit, only between good and evil -- or more accurately, between asha (truth, order and creation) and druj (falsehood, chaos and destruction). As mortal agents, humans promote either force through their actions, but there is no favoring of spirit over matter (one of the consequences of this is that Zoroastrians look down on monasticism, which is heavily influenced by Platonic dualism, as a waste of potential).

This principle is perhaps best illustrated in the traditional funerary practices of the Zoroastrians. A corpse (and even parts of the body that have been cut off such as hair or fingernail clippings) is a vessel for druj, and Zoroastrians were reluctant to bury or cremate their dead, as doing so would pollute earth or fire. Instead, the body is exposed to the elements until the bones have dried, then destroying the bones with lime and putting the result mixed with rainwater through sand and charcoal filters. When they do bury their dead, they seal off the grave with plaster to protect the surrounding ground. If Zoroastrians believed in Platonic dualism, that would be a lot of effort to protect something inherently evil or worthless from contamination (assuming matter can even be contaminated under such a worldview -- you can't contaminate garbage).

The other main thing is your coverage of the Renaissance. You ascribe motives to Cosimo de Medici regarding his adoption of Platonism that would be hard to verify. Also, the first humanists were still thoroughly Christian; this really only changed during the Enlightenment.

MJ said...


I thank you for your comments and I will seriously consider them and when I get the time I will try to do some more research. But I want to make a few points.

1) The great challenge in writing something like this for the lay public is the problem of complexity. I think I lost my wife by the second chapter and she has never ventured on. She is typical of the targeted audience.

I made several statements about the fact that I have oversimplified the influences for the sake of clarity not to deceive. With that said, I did try very hard to be as accurate as I possibly could be. I am not a scholar in these areas and was clear about that, but I approach this a s reporter, learning as I go.

I am sure a PhD thesis on the comparisons between Zoroaster and Mani, Plato etc could do a much more thorough job is sifting out the real differences. I know at the time I wrote this, I spent many hours reading papers and books on the issues and I think I’ve done the best I could in presenting philosophical complexities in simple terms. If I made them more complex then I may as well give up because the book would quickly be out of reach of the intended reader.

With that said, I still sense that along with extreme moral dualism within Zoroasterism there is the flavor of a metaphysical one as well. This seems to be reflected in this tenet of belief:

There will then be a final purgation of evil from the Earth (through a tidal wave of molten metal) and a purgation of evil from the heavens (through a cosmic battle of spiritual forces). In the end good will triumph, and each person will find himself or herself transformed into a spiritualized body and soul. Those who died as adults will be transformed into healthy adults of forty years of age, and those who died young will find themselves permanently youthful, about age fifteen. In these new spiritual bodies, humans will live without food, without hunger or thirst, and without weapons (or possibility of bodily injury). The material substance of the bodies will be so light as to cast no shadow. All humanity will speak a single language and belong to a single nation without borders. All will experience immortality (Ameretat) and will share a single purpose and goal, joining with the divine for a perpetual exaltation of God’s glory.[5]

3) My point with these men was not to make them one and the same but, as I said, different rivers that led to the sea of influence in the early church.

4) Regarding the Medicis, I read several books about them and I’m sure each historian has their own perspective but this was perspective I picked up from my sources. In your opinion why did Cosimo seek a philosophical center among the Greeks?

5) I have to go back and re-read the text but one thing I feel strongly about is avoiding declaring who is a Christian and who is not. So I don’t remember declaring the Humanist as categorically non-Christians, if I said it that way, I must have mis-communicated.

But thanks again for taking the time to read it and to give it thought and suggestions. When I get the chance I will try to go back and re-exam these issues. Right now, let me see I’m working on a big paper on cervicogenic migraine.

Turcano said...

Thank you for considering my feedback, and I'll try to address some of your points.

1) I would be reluctant to use the Zoroastrian view of the afterlife to ascribe dualism in the Platonic sense to the religion; after all, very few religious cosmologies have a material component to the afterlife. You may wish to place emphasis on how Zoroastrianism influenced the Persian Gnostics indirectly (and there is little doubt that such influences exist) while stressing the differences between the two groups.

4) I'm not an expert on Italian history, but I would assume that Cosimo was simply convinced by Platonism on a philosophical level, and that his practice of quasi-interest was merely a coincidence. Dodging of usury laws through creative bookkeeping is not necessarily tied to philosophical justification, as explicitly religious people do such things where such laws exist; for example, Muslims dodge usury laws by writing a contract that essentially making a legal partnership out of the debtor and creditor. But if you do have evidence that contradicts this assumption, I'll stand corrected.

5) That reaction was mainly due to the use of the phrase "secular humanists," which as you no doubt know carries some considerable baggage with your target audience; shortening it to just "humanists" would make it more clear.

Don Hendricks said...

I am on page 180 and am getting your reconstruction and the need to simplify the complex in both history and philosophy. I am also seeing in my past all you describe of the links to the present. In college I once gave a new shirt to a man who really needed it, and by the next day he had given it to someone who needed it more, as his own body did not matter to him.

I think being raised in the very body and worldview of Frances Scheafer helped me to avoid some of the worst dualisms. More when I finish, but now, thank you for your studies and writing.

Don Hendricks said...

Well, I have spent most of my Saturday with MJ, and walked into his rabbit hole with him and noticed the similarity of our journeys, though mine is from that other lonely side of the pulpit.

The images and stories hold together all through the book, and your conclusions are helpful. I would add that a recovery of Pauls view of reconciliation would help us in a this world methodology of sharing hope with sinners. This is a powerful manuscript. I would share the perplexity of wondering if those who need the message would read the message. I am grateful you shared the manuscript with us and encourage you to keeping going where it leads you, hopefully to publication.

MJ said...

Thanks Don. I hope that your Saturday wasn't has beautiful as ours has been here . . . if so, I feel some guilt having kept you inside.

I know what you said is true (about being on the lonely side of the pulpit), but never the less, I'm sorry it had to be that way.

Anonymous said...


SO GOOD!!!!!! Get this baby PUBLISHED somewhere. Seriously. Have you sent it in to anyone?

pennyyak said...

Looks great!

Angela said...

Mike, I am reading your manuscript right now, and I just had to tell you how drawn in I am. You describe EXACTLY how I have felt over the last few years. Your descriptions of Curt literally have me shaking. I have met so many "Curts" in my 13 year stint as a Christian. I can really relate to so much that you're saying.

MJ said...

Angela, if anything, I just hope you can feel that you are not alone from the book.