it makes me feel superficial to admit that i read john grisham, but i do. while tony york is reading tozer and bill grandi is reading stearns and brian webster is reading piper, i am reading grisham. i am carnal scum.
but john grisham is an incredible story-teller. he’s not a great writer (like pat conroy and philip roth and mark buchanan), but he writes the proverbial “i couldn’t put it down” types of stories. grisham is one of the few authors whose books i buy as soon as they come out (in hardback!) and read immediately (perhaps this is a compulsion i should confess to my accountability partners). i consume the story in a couple of sittings and pass it along to someone else.
“but, randy, what’s john grisham got to do with ‘your best life later’?” you might be asking. “and besides, i clicked on the spiritual tab and you’re talking about novels.”
bear with me. there is an interesting twist that makes all this blog-worthy.
grisham’s latest offering is entitled “the confession” and, fundamentally, it is a treatise on the death penalty. one of the main characters is a lutheran minister from topeka, kansas named keith schroeder who crosses paths with a murder who confesses to pastor keith, and insists that the wrong man is about to be executed in texas (and the great state of texas takes it on the chin in this story). schroeder breaks the law (obstruction of justice in abetting a parole violation) to rush the murdered back to texas to tell his story. small-town pastor schroeder is sucked into the drama and ends up witnessing the execution, which (as expected) profoundly affects his perspective and his theology.
As a minister, he steadfastly refused to mix politics and religion. In the pulpit, he had stayed away from issues such as gay rights, abortion, and war, preferring instead to teach what Jesus taught–love your neighbor, help the less fortunate, forgive others because you have been forgiven, and follow God’s laws.
However, after watching the execution, Keith was a different person, or at least a different preacher. Suddenly, confronting social injustice was dar more important than making his flock feel good each Sunday. He would begin hitting the issues, always from the Christian perspective and never from the politician’s, and if it rankled folks, too bad. he was tired of playing it safe.
“Would Jesus witness an execution without trying to stop it?” he asked. “Would Jesus approve of laws that allow us to kill those who have killed?” The answer to both was no, and for a full hour, in the longest sermon of his career, Keith explained why not.
there is one final plot line that every pastor is sure to savor. after admitting his complicity in the “crime” and pleading guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, keith schroeder is called in to meet with the bishop who tells keith he was being placed on leave of absence. then and there, reverend schroeder resigned. as it happened, a prestigious, socially-active church in austin, texas (whose pastor was retiring) had heard his story, invited him to speak, loved him and his wife, and declared that he would be the perfect man to lead them into the future. pastor keith schroeder had followed his heart, bucked the system, and done “the right thing.” his denominational leaders sought to punish him, but god rewarded him with a new place of ministry at a church twice the size of his old one.
talk about a happy ending.