Saturday, April 10, 2010


I don’t usually read novels twice. But I decided to make an exception for Jessie (1993), a novel written by pastor/professor/theologian/author John Killinger. I first read Jessie in the 1990s and recently read it again, finishing it on Easter Sunday as planned. (As it turned out, about the only thing I remembered about the book was that it ended with events that occurred on Easter.)
I was not disappointed in this second reading, although there is much in the book that is somewhat incredulous. Jessie is the name of the thirtyish women who is the central character of the book, and she is very much a Christ figure, in spite of the gender difference. In fact, the idea of gender equality is one of the main themes of the book, and Jessie elicits strong opposition because of that emphasis.
Here are quotes from the novel that I thought were worthy of inclusion in my diary/journal: Early in the book Jessie says, “God is not like a medicine you have to take. God is the sum of everything good and clean and pure and wonderful about the world” (p. 25). Throughout, Jessie calls God Baba, her childhood name for God which she continues to use all her life. At the very end of the book she remarks, “Baba is love overcoming hate and darkness and prejudice and everything that stands in the way of love. One day, Baba will have conquered everything and all the hate and darkness will be expelled” (pp. 287-8).
Jessie very much lived by, and expressed, the resurrection principle that I wrote about in my previous posting—and that is one reason I like the book so much.
Dr. Killinger (b. 1933) has written more than sixty books. Jessie was his first novel, and he has written only one other novel. A former pastor in Baptist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches, he also taught for fifteen years at Vanderbilt Divinity School and was Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Samford University in Birmingham. He is now retired and living in Virginia.

Dr. Killinger’s newest book is If Christians Were Really Christian, published in October of last year, and I have just started reading it on my Kindle. I don’t know yet how he will develop that topic. But I do know that in his novel Jessie, Dr. Killinger depicts a woman who really lived as a Christian. That’s another reason I like the book and recommend it. But even more, thinking about Jessie—and about Dorothy Day, whom I wrote about recently—makes me want to become more Christlike in the way I live.

I wonder if any of you, my Thinking Friends, have read any of Dr. Killinger’s books or have heard him speak. If so, I would enjoy hearing your impressions. 

1 comment:

  1. There has not been much response to the above posting, but Dr. Ken Chatlos, retired professor of history at William Jewell College, sent me an e-mail saying, "Years ago, Dr. Killinger spoke at Jewell in the Binns lecture series."

    Then an old college classmate, Rosanne Osborne, wrote (in part), "Thanks for reminding me of John Killinger. I haven’t thought of him in years. He made quite an impact on me when I first started teaching English at Louisiana College, . . .

    "At my suggestion, the college brought Killinger to campus for an Honors Convo in the sixties."

    Then I had an e-mail from Norm Doeden, a former Lutheran missionary to Japan, who used to live in Fukuoka City as we did. He asked for his son, whom we knew as a boy, to be added to my mailing list, and I was delighted to make that addition.