It’s been about a year since I entered the world of Twitter. I swore it would never happen, but it did, giving credence to the adage Never say never.
But this isn’t about Twitter. It’s about a book written by someone I met on Twitter through the Independent Author Network, an organization of self-published and small-press authors. One of his books, A Higher Court, sounded intriguing, so several months ago I decided to buy it for my Kindle. I finally got around to reading it last week.
It’s a story about a trial attorney who’s called to serve on a jury charged with deciding a highly unusual case: Does God exist, or is it all a lie?
A couple of things drew me to this book. For one, having been a legal assistant for thirty years, I like stories about attorneys and the law; it’s something I can relate to. But mostly, of course, the issue to be decided is near and dear to me.
Mr. Betcher writes with competence and skill, and the book displayed none of the irritating technical and editorial problems that too often plague “indie” books. Most importantly, the author did an excellent job of presenting the evidence. He gave both sides equal time and equal thought. He laid it out objectively, not ridiculing any argument but allowing the jury (or, in actuality, the reader) to consider each point on its merits.
And that’s important. People tend to get worked up about this subject, and I’ve seen more than one discussion degenerate into a juvenile-minded melee of insult slinging. I’d intended to share with you just such a conversation I had on Twitter this past summer, but the other party has blocked me from his account and I’m no longer able to access his tweets on the subject.
He initially replied with scorn to a blog post I wrote about God. I no longer have his exact words, but they were derogatory. I agreed to discuss the matter provided it all remained civil. Through a series of ultra-brief back-and-forths (Twitter exchanges are limited to 140 characters, including spaces), he made a number of ill-informed and/or blatantly false statements, including but not limited to: the whole Bible has been proven wrong by every reputable expert; science has indisputably proven evolution and debunked the existence of God; all scientists are on the same page about this, with no controversy in the academic community on this score; any scientist who claims to believe in God is not really a scientist. I asked his sources for these statements, saying I’d like to learn more. His reply was, “Try reading a book. Any book. Take a college course. The proof is everywhere.” When I shared some titles I’ve found informative, he commenced to call me foul names. After I thanked him for his gracious and edifying conversation, he blocked me, which is why I can’t quote him verbatim here.
That wasn’t the first time I’d witnessed this sort of pseudo-academic diatribe, and it won’t be the last. That’s one reason I appreciated the calm discussion presented in this book. Though some of the characters expressed strong emotions, no one interrupted the flow of the conversation or prevented the witnesses from having their say (because the judge was there with his gavel at ready, maintaining order). Nor did the author try to tell the reader what to believe. Careful to differentiate between facts and conclusions, he laid out the evidence and and allowed the reader to decide what to conclude from the facts.
Nevertheless, I experienced mixed feelings while reading it. Though I very much appreciated the careful and fair-minded presentation of the evidence, I wasn’t wild about the story. The thin, unlikely plot seemed contrived, much like a clumsy easel nailed together to display a masterful painting.
Perhaps this bothered me because, as a writer, I’ve learned that story is the backbone of a work of fiction. It’s bad form to use a shaky plot as a pulpit; if we want to get a point across, we should craft a story that’s solid enough to carry it.
The end, however, almost redeemed the whole thing. Without giving too away much, a character suffering brain injury thought he was hand-writing an account of the trial; but what others read was just one sentence repeated over and over, page after page: God loves you.
Whatever we think of Mr. Betcher’s story—and whatever we conclude from the evidence presented—the heavens declare the glory of God and the universe demonstrates His handiwork. No one’s forcing us to accept it, and we can’t expect to fully understand it. But nothing can change the facts. God loves us.
Thank you, Mr. Betcher, for taking the time to share this vital testimony with the world. It’s worth a serious look no matter what sort of easel it stands on.