Novelist and infamous liar James Frey has a new novel out, "The Final Testament of The Holy Bible," which he pompously holds forth as a "theoretical third volume of the Bible" that conceives of a second coming of the Christ in the person of "an alcoholic bisexual living in the Bronx who impregnates prostitutes, titillates priests and becomes the ultimate seducer himself," John Murray of the Irish newspaper the Independent noted in his review.
So why does writer and musician Michael Lindgren -- in his May 16 review for the Washington Post -- hail Frey's novel as "an honest attempt to follow the teachings of Jesus to their radical conclusions"? Indeed, Lindgren adds, "in doing so, [Frey] has created a chronicle that, despite its contradictions, moves to its own inner spirit."
But one suspects Frey's inner spirit is one filled with disdain for orthodox Christianity, particularly Catholicism. One vignette revealed by Murray but left out of Lindgren's review:
For this second coming, Christ's main quality appears to be his ability to sexually stimulate everyone, even the most devout -- sexual healing indeed.
"The words I spoke were empty, and I no longer viewed the blood and flesh of the Eucharist as anything other than what they were, and what they are, which is cheap wine and bad wafers." So admits Mark, a once pious priest who has become bewitched by Ben with a single kiss.
Although Ben appears to have been born as Christ, it is not until a potentially fatal accident that he really transforms into the Second Coming. And he subsequently connects directly with God through increasingly prolonged epileptic seizures.
Yes, a voraciously horny epileptic alcoholic is Frey's idea of "a vivid re-imagining of the life of Jesus Christ," at least according to Lindgren.
To be fair, Lindgren is taken aback by the radical free-love theology espoused by the novel's protagonist:
There’s a fish-in-a-barrel element to this, of course; the novel’s villain is Ben’s brother Jacob, who has become in the years of Ben’s wanderings the worst kind of narrow-minded, born-again preacher: bigoted, homophobic and inflexible.
In reaction, Ben emphasizes the holiness of love, which in his teaching turns out to mean limitless sexual partners of both genders, all the time. Few people would disagree with Ben’s rejection of the hatred and divisiveness that so often accompany religious dogma, but to counter that with an explicit mandate to start your engines for a rolling, never-ending orgy is its own kind of tyranny.
But while Lindgren insists that Frey's new novel is "[c]arefully designed and formatted to resemble a traditional Bible -- right down to the words of Jesus highlighted in red," he fails to protest that Frey's hero and his free-love theology and utter "refusal to acknowledge any civil authority" sound nothing like the celibate life and apolitical teaching of Christ.
What's more, whereas the Jesus of the Bible claims that the whole of Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Him in fulfillment of prophecy, Frey's false messiah rejects the Bible as authoritative.
Lindgren is pleased to hail Frey's $50 400-page tome as "a pricey quasi-objet d'art" and "a moving examination of the nature of spirituality," opinions he's certainly entitled to. But to suggest that "The Final Testament" was "an honest attempt to follow the teachings of Jesus to their radical conclusions" is preposterous, offensive to Christians, and insulting to the intelligence of readers everywhere.