A New Kind of Zeal


This is for anyone who wants to explore my novel, A New Kind of Zeal. In this novel, I’ve tried to translate the Gospel into kiwi terms, with a kiwi version of Jesus, called Joshua, from Kaitaia. He wears jeans rolled up to his knees, and fishes off Ninety Mile Beach…

I’m keen to read your thoughts!



Author: Michelle

Michelle lives in New Zealand. She is a mother, a writer, and a doctor.

11 thoughts on “A New Kind of Zeal”

  1. Oh, okay: warning length! It’s interesting reading modern Christian fiction, at least the kind that’s based on the Gospels, objectively. I’ve read lots. It’s shallow and uninteresting, suffering always due to the end being known before the beginning, the hero, Jesus, ALWAYS dying, and then, ho hum, ALWAYS returning. For this reason it is a story that holds no interest for those not in need of the message of hope and purpose it is there to impart. Simply put it’s boring because the plotline is so telegraphed.
    And so you look for other reasons to read it. An on-the-surface one is of course the well-advertised need to evangelise. This fails since a person unpersuaded by the Gospels themselves is hardly going to be persuaded by material of the same, the written, medium, are they?
    So again. Why pick it up? Why read? Again – the plotline fails to hold interest.
    I’ve read “A New Kinda Zeal” a few times now. I personally found it to have the ability of opening up a few ways a non-initiated reader could understand some of the more apparently crazy things of the faith, things that those outside it looking in see and find to be incomprehensible, things such as sin and hell and the blood and the Eucharist. And also why Jesus had to die. Reading this book I found myself able to formulate an understanding of this last thing in terms acceptable to non-believers unable to incorporate elements of the supernatural into their explanation. This is a thing that is well needed I think, since for those outside of the faith misunderstandings of this nature often leads well beyond mere neutrality and into conflict.
    There is another reason to read gospel fiction. And that is attempt to gain some understanding as to what the faith actually IS. I personally found that in this book.
    As for the plot, the story follows the lives of a few individuals and families as they come and go against the backdrop of a modern gospel tale, intersecting it as they will. It opens in the Far North of New Zealand and ends in the capital, Wellington.
    Oh and (spoiler alert!) Jesus dies!
    Readers will find what they will in this book – as they will from any work of fiction. Of course what they find may well not be what the author wishes but, unfortunately, authors often don’t have the power to ensure the impartation of their own vision: as an example just see at the many and various interpretations of the Bible itself! Outright believers will receive from it the message of hope and purpose that they are looking for. And for those of a slightly different bent – well hopefully they will receive other useful things. As I did.

    1. There’s a lot here of interest to contemplate, both from the point of view of a writer and specifically re Christianity.

      Firstly, let me respond as a writer. There are comments here re the genre of modern Christian fiction being boring because the plot is predictable. My response to this would be to point out that in fact all modern genres today are entirely predictable. It’s a known reality to writers and readers alike that, as we get older, we tend to look for good characters rather than plot, because the plots have all been seen before: it is the characters that make a piece of fiction unique. So it is in real life, also: Jesus dies? Well, yeah: but so do we all. The plot of our own lives is entirely predictable. The question? What happens during life, and then after death. That’s where it starts to get interesting. Unlike physical death, which virtually all of us are destined to experience, life after death? Well, in the history of both fiction and non-fiction, that’s a pretty unique plot development. 🙂

      Consider also the genre of a biography, after the famous person has died. That the person is written to have died at the end of the biography is hardly surprising, is it? But, then, the reader presumably isn’t looking at a biography to be surprised at an historic death. Rather, I would have thought the reader is searching for more insight into the person’s life: the character, the acts, the choices, the passions, the sacrifices, the driving motivations…everything that makes a human being unique.

      Naturally, a depiction of Jesus Christ is going to involve a death. And, if the writer is Christian, there is going to be a resurrection. But who is this person? Why the death? Why the resurrection? What’s it all about? These are the questions I am seeking to translate.

      Re evangelism: you might want to expand on your expectations with this. ‘The well-advertised need to evangelize’? What do you mean? I think there is an overemphasis in some of the expectation of evangelism. To my mind, evangelism is simply communication. It is an offer of the knowledge one has of Christ, in the same way that anything perceived to be good for humanity ought to be offered.

      Why pick up a depiction of Christ? Well, I would hope in order to seek greater understanding of Christ. Why else would one go there? But there is an interesting statement here: ‘I found myself able to formulate an understanding of this last thing in terms acceptable to non-believers unable to incorporate elements of the supernatural into their explanation.’ Why unable to incorporate elements of the supernatural into an explanation? And this is where the discussion becomes really interesting.

      What is the point of the reader, and of the writer, in this exercise? The point of this writer is to communicate Christ. Christ was written to have dealt with the supernatural. Central to Christianity is the question of God: central to Christ is the depiction of the supernatural, in order to demonstrate God. Central to modernism today is a desire for evidence for God. So, then: time for a translation. Bring the events written of 2000 years ago into our setting. As a writer, I have sought to depict the implications of actually meeting someone along the lines of Christ today: someone of his character, his power, and his choices. Would it be persuasive, to meet him? Vicariously, in fiction, the reader can explore that possibility for themselves. That’s the beauty of a parable: it’s safe; it’s fiction. One can entertain possibilities without necessarily having to believe them.

      But what is the point of the exercise for a reader who cannot accept the possibility of the supernatural? To somehow reframe Christ as not having dealt in the supernatural? If we take the approach of redefining Christ according to what we ourselves can accept, then, yes, there will be a multitude of different versions of Christ. In this way, with my fictional representation, and with the original New Testament accounts, people can take what they wish out of them.

      But what we wish to take is not necessarily the truth.

      For my part, I seek to translate what is in the New Testament. I represent Christ through my own lens: and my representation bows down to the reality. Jesus was a real person: he is who he is, irrespective of our need or hope, or whether or not we can accept him.

  2. Hope this is the place for generalised comments … 🙂

    Formulaic plots … boring stereotypes … sensationalist themes … predictable endings …
    Each of these comments are descriptions by current Christian writers describing the fiction they are attempting to supplant.
    Taking just a one of these: The characters must be real. They must be you and I. Our neighbours, workmates. In other words they must be very, very fallible human beings. Too often Christian fiction/movies have had utterly unbelievable characters: Mr and Mrs Goodie Two-Shoes in other words, characters who are invented as having a level of moral purity no one ever meets. The Christian genre is guilty of being seen as making such morality the literal, and realisable, goal. True it is that such unrealistic characterisation is beneficial in being something that we can all trend towards … as opposed to it being something we can ever reach or even expect to. But this is a distinction that those in the secular community do not make. They feel that the point of these characters is for them to BE real … and so again the lack of interest expressed in the stories. It is a funny irony that these authors don’t even write to their own theology.
    So you have the fact that Christian authors must select their target audience very carefully – and this is often a very difficult tightrope to negotiate. If it proves necessary to write fiction for Christians – and nothing against that, plenty of good things come from it – do not expect to be understood in the least by those not sharing the worldview.
    Of course non-Christian authors do not have this difficulty – there is no dispute who they are writing for.

  3. As per that last comment, this book most definitely does not fall down on this score … as so many other examples do.

  4. I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, but great
    topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this info for my mission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *