by Stephen McCutchan, @stevemccutchan
A Good Mystery
A good mystery helps restore order and makes sense out of something that is unexplainable in our society. People do not like to live in a society that doesn't respond to logic. How do you protect yourself if there is not a logical explanation for what is happening? When we experience brokenness in our society, we need someone to fix what is broken and fill the hole in our universe that threatens the logic of our lives. The mystery can be personal, a mysterious death, or enter the area of thrillers with a threat to our whole society. A good mystery helps us make sense and restore order again.
An Anxious Society
The news seems dominated by scandals and examples of forces beyond human control. In politics, think Anthony Wiener, in religion think Jimmy Swaggart, in ecology think Tsunami or Hurricane Sandy, in the economy recall the large banks and investment firms fiascos. On a personal level, we hear of crazy people with guns invading our schools and terrorists threatening our embassies. How does a person make sense of how to live in such a crazy world?
Fascination with Powers Beyond Our World
If the media is a barometer of our society, we see an increased fascination with chaos, and with the possibility of forces beyond our visible world touching our lives. Think of the various versions of Dystopia in recent books and movies. Think also of the popularity of stories about vampires, demons, and alien invasions as well as the traumatic breakdown of our ability to control the forces of nature.
There is also an increased interest in Super Heroes who can save us from ourselves. These range from Superman, Spiderman, to friendly aliens like ET and the world of Harry Potter. On a more personal level, there is the rise in popularity of Gurus with special secrets of how to lose weight, find peace, become rich, etc.
Mysteries with a Spiritual Edge
This hunger in our society for ways to restore order, either by human courage or mysterious forces from outside our world, makes mysteries with a spiritual edge particularly appealing. Such mysteries allow the reader to experience the chaos but also the promise that life will ultimately make sense once the mystery is solved. By adding the spiritual angle to the mystery, we address the interest in how we can draw upon forces from beyond our visible world to assist us.
Some mystery/thrillers like those written by Dan Brown, suggest that there is some secret to be discovered that can unleash these powers into our world. In my mystery novel, A Star and aTear, I choose access to the spiritual forces through the more common experience of religious disciplines, relationships, and reason. In my story, the demonic aspect of life is represented by the toxic mixture of a distorted version of sex and religion that wreaks terror in the community. The mystery is solved by a healthier confrontation with the symbiotic relationship of sexuality and spirituality.
Sex, Religion, Reason, and Hope
As one of the characters in my novel says, "religion and sex are two of the most powerful creative and destructive forces in our universe." We deny the reality of these forces at our own peril. However, as the mystery is solved, we make sense out of life again, terror is banished, and hope is present.
I invite you to enter the conversation and join me in my effort "to build respect for clergy one story at a time." Click here , enjoy the mystery, and consider if this would be a good book for discussion among your friends.
Having a Discussion with Friends
If you have a group of five or more, I am willing to provide you a discount code of 20% to apply to your Amazon bill. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to secure the code.
The book includes provocative questions at the end of each chapter to help your group probe some of the themes that are in the book. As you discuss the book in your group, you may also want to email two or three questions to me as the author and I will respond as quickly as I can. We also may be able to find a common date in which we could have a more personal conversation via Skype.
I hope you will enjoy A Star and a Tear.
Stephen McCutchan, writer, humorist, and advocate for the care of clergy, is a Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister and the author of Let’s Have Lunch: Conversation, Race, and Community; Experiencing the Psalms (recipient of the Jim Angell award from the Presbyterian Writers Guild); Good News for a Fractured Society, and three volumes of lectionary devotionals for pastors plus two CDs, A Deep Well for the Pastor and Laughter from the Well.