What can a Christian learn from the conversion of a secular Jew? The list is nearly endless.
It might seem odd that a site mostly (though not exclusively) dedicated to culture in the context of the arts and entertainment would be talking about a nonfiction book. But in essence, Andrew Klavan’s story, documented in his memoir The Great Good Thing, shows exactly the things we engage with every day. A novelist who was brought up as a secular Jew, Klavan begins his story talking about his experience converting to Christianity and. being baptized at age 50. That in and of itself is worthy of note, but the story itself is beyond remarkable.
In his memoir The Great Good Thing, Klavan chronicles many events that one would think were Hollywood dramatizations. He grew up under an oppressive father who was enraged at finding his son reading the New Testament. He drank himself penniless at Mardis Gras and ended up in a terrible fever before being nursed back to health on a bus by a total stranger. He even talks about having a bizarre out-of-body experience when his daughter was born. This, combined with the personal demons that Klavan is very open about, including severe depression and other issues tied to his relationship with his father, simply makes for a good story, complete with villains, character arcs, and compelling themes. This connection to story is expounded upon by Klavan himself in some ways. As a novelist himself, he was constantly thinking about story, and that thread is woven throughout his story in multiple ways.
But the biggest takeaway here is exactly how Klavan became a Christian. This isn’t an apologetics text; you won’t find a Strobel-esque investigation here. What you *will* find is a path to God through culture and the arts. Klavan’s investigation into the New Testament began in his recognition of its impact on Western culture. He wanted to be an important cultural voice as a novelist, so he sought to understand it. He found it compelling, and had great respect for it, even though he didn’t buy the miracles. Years later, when facing some particularly cruel demons, he decided to try prayer, even though he wasn’t totally sure God was there. Needless to say, He answered.
While Protestants have largely ignored this approach, Catholic apologists sometimes speak of an argument for God from beauty. Not unlike The Moral Argument, this applies a spiritual understanding to something that is self-evident. Just as intuition tells us there is a transcendent sense in which rape and murder are wrong, intuition also tells us of the beauty and awe of the ocean and the sunrise – something that goes beyond the evolutionary instincts of survival of the fittest. While Klavan doesn’t mention that argument specifically, it maps a lot of his journey, and shows the impact that the arts can have on faith and the heart.
While that’s the biggest takeaway, the lessons from Klavan’s memoir are multiple. His compelling writing style and the nature of the subject himself make for a continually thought-provoking book, and one I highly recommend.