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Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 19

There was one immediate surprise waiting for me. It happened when Jesus walked around the table, greeting everyone.

When Jesus reached Robert A. Heinlein, he hugged him and said, “Judas, how are you, my old friend?”

I nearly fainted.

I turned to Heinlein. “You were Judas in a previous life? The Judas? Thirty-pieces-of silver Judas?”

Robert Heinlein and Jesus both looked at the expression on my face, then looked at each other, and burst out laughing.

“Tell me, Duj,” said Jesus. “How long do you think one of my apostles could hide an evil plot to betray me, given my power to look directly into men’s souls?”

I smiled sheepishly. “I keep forgetting to place the historical facts into the context of my new knowledge,” I said.

“Wisdom takes time,” said Jesus. “At the last Passover seder, when I said ‘He who dips after me will betray me,’ it wasn’t a prophecy. Why would anyone who was really secretly plotting to betray me reveal himself by dipping after I said that? It’s ridiculous. No. I was asking for a volunteer for the nastiest, dirtiest job I’d ever given any of my disciples. To betray me, take money for it to keep my real purpose a secret, and watch me die on a cross in horrible pain. Then, to make it even worse, he’d have to put up with his name being spit upon for two millennia, by people calling themselves Christians who can’t read a simple paragraph with proper comprehension. I granted him special dispensation to hang himself so he could be the first of my apostles to be resurrected.”

Jesus put his arm around Judas’s shoulders. He looked like he was trying to hold back tears.

“It was so terrible a mission,” Jesus continued, “that I didn’t feel I could just order one of my apostles to do it. This merchant marine turned commercial broker, at that moment in time, before any of the other apostles had started their missions and found their own courage, had more sheer guts than the other apostles all put together. He just took a sprig of bitter herb, dipped it into the salt water after me, and said, “Master, you’ve got yourself a boy.”

Jesus turned to the others in the room. “No matter what else happens in the next three weeks,” he said, “I will take it as a personal favor if all of you do your best to set the record straight about my most loyal disciple, Judas.”

And at that celestially perfect moment, Judas Iscariot, under his original name, got his first standing ovation in history.


Things went into high gear after that. The election was only three weeks away and with her slickly produced dream-campaign spot that night, Lucifer immediately established herself as the frontrunner. I wondered which Hollywood director Lucifer had working her media when I realized that it was a pointless question—she could have her pick of the best of them, and they were probably donating their services for free.

Meanwhile, we were playing catch-up.

Jesus had visited earth only a couple of times since his crucifixion, and hadn’t been allowed to set foot on earth at all in five centuries. So he decided to rely on the political judgments of his more up-to-date earthborn campaign staff. He reconfirmed my job as his campaign manager, as well as all my duty assignments, and when we all took our seats at the round table again, I continued to chair the Central Committee while Jesus just listened unless one of us asked his opinion directly.

We didn’t know precisely what our order of play was yet—a lot of campaigning is taking advantage of opportunities as they come up—but we knew that before Lucifer could get too much momentum we had to introduce Jesus to the world again.

Ironically, Lucifer had done half my job for me already. The publicity coup she and Reverend Chill had pulled off had the whole world talking about God, Adam and Eve, and the life of Jesus again. Our problem wasn’t so much going to be convincing the world that Jesus was real—Lucifer had already solved that problem for us — as it was getting out a more accurate version of historical events and getting the news coverage spinning our way.

Speaking in general about the next three weeks of campaigning, I have to acknowledge that both Jesus and I were relying on the judgments of men and women who’d had vastly more hands-on political experience that we’d had.

Most campaign decisions I immediately shoved onto the lap of my chief of staff, now holding the title of Deputy Campaign Director. Robert Heinlein had been heavily involved in political campaigning back in the 1930’s, even running for office himself, and one of his forty-plus books was a manual on electoral campaigning titled Take Back Your Government.

Heinlein, in turn, was making maximum use of our central committee’s top political operatives, people like Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Golda Meir, and Benjamin Franklin/H.L. Mencken. Among them they had enough campaign experience that they could have elected a Republican as mayor of Chicago.

Mencken/Franklin stayed in his job as the campaign’s press secretary, but now he was going to have to manage daily contact with the mortal world’s news media.

It was clear this was no longer going to be a campaign restricted to dreamland, although that was still an important part of our media creation. Much of our campaign was now going to be in the waking world of mortal men, and Jesus was going to have to be as in-your-face as any other office seeker.

Right after he’d served the Anorexic Party with our just-under-the-deadline notice of ballot-line substitution, I gave Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the job of being Jesus’ advance man for rallies, demonstrations, and personal appearances. Martin Luther King knew as much about preparing a crowd and stirring them up as anyone in human history, including the Lord, himself.

Mark Twain and Bernard Shaw teamed up as Jesus’ main speechwriters—although Thomas Jefferson and Franklin/Mencken were also submitting speeches — but I was giving Dr. King everybody’s final drafts before Jesus used them and Martin was spicing up their rhetorical flourishes.

I gave W.C. Fields a job that is crucial to every successful campaign, but which few campaigns even admit exists. He was our joke writer. It was his job to stay close to Jesus at all times and on a moment’s notice be prepared to feed him snappy one-liners.

Not that Jesus wasn’t a master at snappy come-backs on his own anyway.

The central committee debated hard (but not long; we didn’t have the time) about what the theme of the campaign should be. We discussed using “The Second Coming.” But we decided the word “coming” has too much of a sexual connotation for use to a G-rated audience and when you’re in advertising, you never want to use a slogan your competitors can turn back on you. We played around with all the variations we could think of—“He’s Back” or “The Homecoming” — but they all sounded like slogans for a movie sequel.

We examined traditional themes associated with Jesus—even considered basing the campaign on Christmas and Santa Claus—but it just came across as stale and hokey. “Fisher of Men” just wasn’t going to work, either; the unavoidable imagery of having a fishhook down your throat was just too icky.

Finally, we decided to modify the idea of “savior” just slightly, and base our campaign imagery on rescue workers already associated with saving people when they were in trouble.

We didn’t have any trouble at all finding firefighters, paramedics, or ER doctors and triage nurses who wanted to pose with Jesus. As you can imagine, a lot of them had prayed to Jesus for courage in dire moments, and this was the sort of prayer Jesus had been permitted by treaty to answer.

That’s how our campaign theme became, “Your 911 call’s been answered. Jesus is here to rescue you.”

We decided it would be in poor taste to pose Jesus wearing any sort of uniform. That’s why, in our campaign handouts, posters, billboards, TV spots, and dreamscapes, we showed Jesus in his traditional robes, working side-by-side with firefighters, EMT’s, and ER personnel.

We needed to make a decision about which image of Jesus to use during the campaign: the short, bearded, Middle-Eastern Jew who had been born to Joseph and Mary, or the taller, blond, clean-shaven, more-movie-star-like Adam.

That was a no-brainer.

But our first job was to find the right venue to launch our campaign and introduce our candidate to the voters. Lucifer had set the bar very high for show-biz value but for once I wanted the good guys to outdo her.

We called in some outside talent of our own, and I think you’ll agree that what we came up with for Jesus first reappearance on earth on Tuesday, October 11th, was quite spectacular.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XX.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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