Every Monday night for five years I attended a secular writer’s critique group. I wanted to attend a Christian group. If one existed in the New Orleans area they were well hidden because I could not find them and settled for the secular group. I strived to respect their various beliefs hoping they would reciprocate with the same respect. But something about Christianity brings out either the best or worst in people.
The first year was shaky. Religion being the sensitive topic that it is we established a rule to curb potential quarreling. Comments were limited to how the material can be improved. Sometimes the rule helped when comments took a dark turn but not always. I made it a point to ignore insults and, if necessary, turn the other cheek.
A moment of dread washed over me when the critique of my submission Heaven’s Address began. I knew what to expect from most of the members, but Otto, a new member and a Jew, would critique my submission for the first time.
The leader of the group was too busy venting anger to invoke “the rule” when he quoted from my submission, “There are no good ole’ boys clubs in heaven.”
“That’s not true,” he railed at me. “God plays favorites. He showed favor to …”
“David,” someone blurted out.
“Solomon,” he said.
“So God is not just?” I asked. I couldn’t resist breaking the rule either.
“God is not fair and I’m entitled to my opinion,” he insisted.
He was entitled to his opinion even though we had a rule not to express such opinions. I could have easily refuted God showed favoritism toward both names that surfaced. Unwilling to argue, I smiled and the critique comments continued around the circle with more members breaking the rule as I sat stone-faced waiting for the thrashing that would come from the practicing Jew.
Otto spoke last. All eyes were upon him. He looked at my submission collecting his thoughts. Then cleared his throat and said, “I’ve read the Old Testament a lot and this is damn fine material.” Otto continued his praise until I was embarrassed.
The offended leader of the group closed the meeting and left first. Otto wasn’t finished. He continued praising Heaven’s Address to those who remained for another ten minutes and then followed me to discuss my submission. I was humbled that a Jewish man thoroughly acquainted with the Old Testament would be so moved by something this Gentile had written.
As I walked toward the bookstore exit I heard my offended leader say, “Goodnight, Teena.” He was looking at some books near the place Otto and I were talking. Apparently, he heard everything Otto had to say after the meeting as well. I left the bookstore feeling vindicated.
The next time someone takes issue with your God, don’t defend yourself. There is a Jewish savior in heaven who just might send a Jew to defend you.