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Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 23

Jesus’ words were prophetic.

“We’re behind Eve four percent in the polls,” Heinlein told us at our morning staff meeting on Friday the 14th.

“How close is that to the margin of error?” I asked.

“Not close at all,” said Heinlein. “I like mathematical precision so my thought is that if we’re going to make decisions based on polling data at all, it needs to be a large enough sampling to be useful. The margin of error in the polls we’re using is one tenth of one percent.”

“Do we know why?” I asked.

“Yes,” Heinlein said. “We did a focus group.”

“I don’t need a focus group to know what the problem is,” said Dr. King.

“You go first, then,” I said to King.

“I don’t know any other way to put this. Jesus is just too human.”

“That’s what came out in the focus group, too,” said Heinlein. “We’re soft in what should be our Christian strongholds.”

“We’re behind in the polls because the Savior of humankind is too human?” I asked, astonished.

Dr. King nodded. “You weren’t raised a Christian so perhaps you don’t have a natural feeling for this. Jesus is a mysterious, mythic figure to Christians. He’s the all-wise teacher who speaks to us only in parables and riddles. He is lofty and above it all. He’s called the son of God but is treated more like a stern father figure. He’s morally perfect and incapable of error. The only human quality Christians are apparently willing to ascribe to Jesus is his ability to suffer pain and one brief moment of fear.

“Now, Jesus returns to earth, and Christians are confused. Jesus admits to us that he has made mistakes, particularly the catastrophic mistake that caused the very fall of our race. He gains points for his classiness in being up front about his fallibility … more points for his willingness to make up for it on the cross … but the Lord and Savior’s shown us a side of himself that we didn’t expect. We knew he was a god who became human, but we didn’t expect him to be this human.”

“The singing on TV didn’t help,” said Golda Meir. “That sort of show-business flashiness was beneath him.”

“I thought the way he sang was gorgeous,” said Marilyn Monroe.

“It was a bromide,” Ayn Rand said, “overly sentimental. It sounded to me like a cross between two other bromides, We Are The World and Imagine.”

“You can apologize to Uncle Albert,” said W.C. Fields.

“Well,” I said, “the recording is getting more downloads from the Internet than any other song in history.”

“Wonderful,” said Meir. “Jesus can have a career as a recording artist after the Anorexics take control of this planet and turn it into hell.”

“Why doesn’t Lucifer have this image problem?” I asked. “She’s as much at fault in the events that led to the fall as Jesus.”

“It’s that we had already thought of her as fallen, as one of us,” said Mencken. “We had no expectation that Eve would be perfect in the first place. All the stories about her show her as a girl who liked to have a good time, right from the start. So when she comes here and looks sweet and pretty, that’s all we expect from her.”

“Great,” I said. “We’re losing this election to sexism and lowered expectations.”

“We have to go negative,” said Meir. “Tear away this innocent image that Lucifer’s built for herself here. Show them films of the mass extermination camps in Hell. Make people realize that she’s not just Eve, she’s also their great enemy, Satan.”

“No,” said Jesus. He had popped into the meeting so quietly that none of us had even realized he had joined us.

“But why, sir?” Mencken asked.

“My reasons are not a thing I feel compelled to discuss with any of you,” Jesus said.

I felt I couldn’t keep silent any longer. “Your father put me in the job of managing this campaign and told me all of his creation rides on how this election turns out. I know that you still have feelings for your ex-wife, but don’t you think it’s wrong of you to sacrifice your father’s life’s work because of your own personal feelings?”

Jesus immediately looked wounded and I was sorry I had spoken up in front of anyone else.

Jesus paused a moment then said, “Don’t you understand that Lucifer was the worst of my victims? That what she has become is my fault? That it was my gross insubordination to my father, my failure to use my better judgment, that began the disappointment that put her on the path to believing in nothing?”

Came the dawn and I suddenly understood. “You didn’t come back to save the earth at all,” I said. “You came here to save her. You’ve never gotten over her. You’re just like your father, betting the house on a long shot.”

“You make very free with me,” said Jesus. You go too far.”

“So I’m too damned arrogant to know my place,” I said. “But I’m not exaggerating the truth, am I?”

Jesus howled in pain.

I felt horrible, the worst I’d ever felt about anything in my life.

He stood there for a moment like a deer caught in headlights, and spoke with his head bowed. “Everybody thinks I’m so forgiving. How could I not forgive people their sins? Without the empathy I gained from committing the biggest sin in history, I would have continued being a callous fool forever.”

Then Jesus raised his head, looked directly at me and said, “Save your home world. I’ll do anything you tell me.”

He disappeared from the room.

I looked around the table. Everyone was staring at me in disbelief.

I have a tendency to lean on wisecracks in moments of crisis, but this time, George Bernard Shaw beat me to it.

“All too human,” he said.

So I’d finally found out for what purpose I was created by God. I was here in loco parentis to Jesus because God couldn’t be here, to stand in the shoes of the father whose job it was to tell the sweetest son in all the universes that there was no end to the pain he would have to endure because of youthful high spirits.

Well, if I was going to have to be God, then I was going to be God.

“We’re going for broke,” I told the Central Committee. “There is no way I am going to make Jesus have to decide between his love for us and his love for his ex-wife. We will not campaign negative against her.”

“Then you may have just thrown away the whole universe,” said Golda Meir.

I got mad. “You’re the smartest people God ever created,” I shouted. “Think of something!”

I snapped my fingers and translocated myself instantly from Mount Shasta to my living room 600 miles away.

Until that moment I hadn’t even known how to do it.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXIV.

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

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