Book Review: The Second Coming, a Love Story
Ya know what it is, is something very special.
Pinsker takes us on an epic journey of the End Times, but the literary device that he employs – a Savior and an Antichrist who may not be what they seem – creates a foreboding undercurrent that’s irresistible. Never before have good and evil, light and dark, God and Satan been so interchangeable. And at the last minute, right when you think you’ve figured everything out, all the pieces come together in an ending that would give a (young; not old) M. Night Shyamalan night-terrors and WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.
In order to explore these concepts (and so much more) I invited Mr. Pinsker for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Iceberg:Thanks so much for joining us, Scott – and right from the beginning, I’ve got to tell you that your book is amazing. Absolutely amazing. I started reading it on Saturday morning, and I literally couldn’t put it down until I was finished Sunday morning. Didn’t even get a wink of sleep. I’ve never read a book like this. You’ve basically invented a brand-new category of religious fiction. I don’t even know how to describe it… it’s part mystery, part action-adventure, part satire – and Lord, the ideas you explore…
Scott Pinsker:That’s so kind of you, Ice. I’m really glad you enjoyed it.
Iceberg:Your book, The Second Coming: A Love Story, is based on a chilling premise: Two men claim to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Each man is capable of incredible miracles. But each man also swears that the other is the Devil, trying to deceive mankind.
SP:Right. And it’s not entirely clear who’s telling the truth.
Iceberg:One of the two Second Comings preaches the word of the Bible – old school Christianity. The other preaches a sort of New Age spiritualism, that, well… how would you put it, Scott?
SP:He preaches that God simply wants us to render our world more holy than whence it was found. Nothing more, nothing less. When a brother or sister is hungry, render more holy God’s grains by baking them into bread. When you see garbage in the street, render the earth more holy by cleaning it. When a friend is sad, render his life more holy by bringing him joy. According to this Second Coming, “render the world more holy than whence it was found” is God’s only commandment, and mankind is led astray when we substitute this with the false laws in the Bible – things like condemning homosexuality, or claiming that certain people are damned – stuff like that. To him, all Holy Books are essentially idols, and it’s a Deadly Sin to limit our knowledge of the Almighty to the few hundred-or-so pages in a manmade books. God is infinitely greater than a million-billion Bibles, right?
Iceberg:That was such a strange idea to me, to think of the Bible as an idol.
SP:This so-called Second Coming preaches that it’s blasphemous to believe that an infinite God could be limited to the words of a finite book. He says that our ancients weren’t stupid; when they worshipped an idol of stone thousands of years ago, they fully understood that a stone statue couldn’t move. I mean, c’mon! Instead, the ancients believed the idol was “divinely inspired” and thus a suitable proxy to channel their prayers. So, to an illiterate during the Iron Age, how is using a stone idol to reach god any different than modern man using the pages of a Bible?
Iceberg:But the other Second Coming argues for a real extreme version of Christianity –
SP:I don’t mean to cut you off, but I wouldn’t consider it extreme at all. It’s traditional Christianity: God’s immortal word is revealed in His Holy Scriptures, and the only path to salvation is through the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Preaching that the Bible is the literal word of our Heavenly Father – this is very straightforward stuff, Ice. No different than what you’ll hear in countless churches every Sunday.
Iceberg:But it creates an incredible conflict: One Second Coming preaches “render the world more holy” and calls the Bible an idol, and soon he is worshipped by liberals. The other Second Coming preaches traditional Christianity – fire and brimstone – and is worshipped by conservatives.
SP:Yes. The Red America/Blue America cultural divide –
Iceberg:And we’re so ridiculously polarized that we’ll actually believe that the other side is following Satan!
SP:It’s true. The hardcore left that hates W. Bush and the hardcore right that hates President Obama have one big thing in common: No matter what happens, the most dastardly motive that could possibly be ascribed to the other side is the one that must be true! That’s their default setting. We’ve become conditioned to thinking the worst of each other, Ice. Not only is this trend growing, but it’ll be worse in the future.
SP:30 years ago, most American households only had three or four TV channels, one or two daily newspapers, and a dozen-or-so local radio stations. There were an extremely fixed number of media options, and this limitation fostered cultural cohesion. You, me – everyone, we all sampled and shared the flavors of society’s top tastemakers. Red America and Blue America overlapped constantly; it was unavoidable. Everyone knew about The Beatles, who shot J.R., Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, and why Johnny Carson hated Joan Rivers.
SP:We’re hopelessly tribalized by our interests and our beliefs. A conservative in Red America will see, hear, eat and drink something completely different than a liberal in Blue America. This insularism reinforces our differences, expanding and exasperating the cultural divide. We spend more and more time in our self-constructed echo chambers than in the outside world.
Iceberg:I’ve noticed that too. And not just politics, some people spend their whole lives now immersed in the “tribe” they’ve selected. I know hardcore gamers who’ll spend their entire lives reading about video games, playing video games online, chatting with other gamers…
SP:A person can now be wired into his tribal niche 24/7. Other than maybe the NFL and a handful of national holidays, we really don’t have many transcendent activities anymore. It’s worth noting that the top-ranked TV show of today wouldn’t even crack the top-50 back when we were kids. 30 years ago, the finale of MASH was seen by 105.9 million viewers, despite our population having 80 million fewer people. Ten years later, the finale of Cheers was seen by 84.4 million. Five years later, the finale of Seinfeld was seen by 76.3 million. Five years after that, the number of people who watched the finale of Friends was down to 52.5 million.
Iceberg:Each time, the number of viewers drops.
SP:Right, and since the advent of the wireless web, downloads and e-commerce, our fragmentation has accelerated. The finale of Breaking Bad, arguably the most heavily-hyped TV finale of the last half-decade, was seen by just 10.3 million people. Out of a nation that’s grown to over 315 million! There is no “popular” culture, Ice. It’s all just cult culture.
Iceberg:And who better to take advantage of our cult culture than a cultist?
SP:[Laughs] That’s one way to look at it.
Iceberg:What really struck me about your book is how even-handed it was. I’m used to the advocacy of FOX News – no offense – or MSNBC, but with you, the reader never gets a sense that you’re cheerleading for either Second Coming to win.
SP:That was really important to me… I didn’t want my own biases to interfere with the story. This is about the characters and the ideas, not me.
Iceberg:You weren’t espousing any specific ideology – not even a little bit?
SP:No. I mean, the characters certainly do, and they make powerful arguments for what they believe in. But me personally? Nah.
SP:Because what you believe is up to you. Look, no offense to anyone, but I know what I believe and that’s good enough for me. I have zero interest in arguing to death about what happens after you die. And besides, being unshackled by ideology allows the characters to explore some very interesting ideas in extremely novel ways.
Iceberg:Big ideas: the meaning of life, the nature of God, the future of earthly existence.
SP:If you’ve ever stayed awake at night and wondered about faith, God and ultimate truth, then you need to purchase this book. Life’s greatest questions are dissected and filleted, and I guarantee you, you’ll never think about God – or yourself – the same way again.
Iceberg:The character of Margaret Magdala was my favorite. She’s based on Mary Magdalene, obviously.
SP:Yeah. But whereas Mary Magdalene is traditionally depicted as a prostitute, Margaret Magdala is a lawyer.
Iceberg:Prostitute, attorney – all the same to me.
SP:[Laughs] Mary sold her body for profit; Margaret sells her mind and education for profit. That’s what criminal defense attorneys do. In a matter of speaking.
Iceberg:Y’know, you mentioned Breaking Bad earlier… I almost got a Walter White-vibe from Margaret. She begins as an unfeeling, uncaring legal prostitute, but her newfound belief system pushes her down the slippery slope to evil. She soon finds herself justifying all kinds of immorality: lying, adultery – even not reporting the sex crime of another apostle, because it would bring negative publicity to their cause.
SP:That’s an interesting observation. Both stories are morality tales at heart, I suppose. Remember, in addition to selling her mind to the highest bidder, Margaret also suffers from the agony of feeling nothing and wanting nothing. The apostle she’s often paired with, Peter Clay, has the opposite affliction: He’s an addict, and therefore feels and wants too much. All the characters are based on Biblical characters, and they all have their own metaphorical demons to deal with… as well as some actual demons.
Iceberg:There’s also a strange secondary story. You know which one I mean?
Iceberg:Right! You talk about an unholy mindbender?! Good Lord! I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. The way it ties together with the rest of the story… where in the world did you come up with that?
SP:It’s inspired by Revelations 19:17. I’m paraphrasing, but it goes: “And I saw an Angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice to all the birds in the middle of Heaven, ‘Come gather for the great feast of God.’”
Iceberg:At first I thought the crows were retelling the story of Jesus, especially when the “special” crow appeared. But what happened next… to me, it’s one of the best parts of the book.
SP:Thanks. According to Christian theology, Heaven and Angels existed before the earth was ever created. We always assume that the earth was created for us… wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the concept that maybe, just maybe, the earth was also created to send a message to someone else?
Iceberg:Like, to the Angels? Because clearly, there were some major problems with God’s Angels. The War in Heaven, Lucifer’s rebellion – all of that.
SP:Humans are finite beings. By definition, we’re limited; that’s what “finite” means. God is an infinite being. He has no limitations. Since He has no limitations, why should we assume that the intent behind His creations would be limited to just us?
Iceberg:And by His creations, you mean the earth?
SP:The earth, humanity, the universe, our souls… all of it. Jewish people, Christian people and Muslim people all talk about an infinite God, but very few have taken the time to consider what that actually means. A truly infinite God would be infinite – and so would His actions. All His actions.
Iceberg: Instead, we think of God as a wise, old father figure.
SP:But that’s not infinite at all. That’s painfully, humanly finite.
Iceberg:Scott, I wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I really enjoy talking about this kind of stuff, and I encourage everyone to check out your new book, The Second Coming: A Love Story.
SP:The pleasure’s all mine, Ice. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Iceberg:You’re currently working on the sequel?
SP:And then some: This is the first in a trilogy. The next book, coming out in 2015, will be entitled Three Days Later: A Revenge Story. I encourage everyone to come visit our official website, www.secondcomingishere.com.