I sent Alex this review of Tony Hendra’s new book, “Father Joe,” a memoir of Hendra’s spiritual mentor, a Benedictine monk. It is, by all accounts, the story of a decades-long friendship with a man whose vision of God matched this description: His God is ”gentle, generous, endlessly creative, musical, artistic, an engineer and architect of genius, a ‘he’ who felt his joy and your joy deeply, who could be hurt just as deeply but would never give up on you.”
Alex replied: As a gay man — and one who was raised without religion, one who has experienced persecution by the pious and become quite embittered — there’s part of me that wants to throw rejection back in their faces. And yet sometimes I feel as if I’m cheating myself out of experiencing spirituality. … I wish there’d been a Father Joe to talk to me when I was seventeen instead of a high-priced shrink when I was thirty-four.
There’s one take. Then this morning, I read this column, jeering at Catholic cardinals for disapproving of the Iraq war, and came across a remarkable passage: I am a Catholic convert, baptized 15 years ago this Sunday. Growing up seeing the greeting-card Jesus � a hapless-looking, bearded man in pyjamas � I didn’t “get” Christianity. What changed everything was the day I saw a 16th- century painting of Jesus after his resurrection. He had just blasted his way out of his own tomb. He extended his pierced hand to Abraham, to rescue him and the other patriarchs from Limbo and bring them home to heaven. This Jesus was forceful, businesslike and respectful � like . . . well, like a Marine.
(“Blasted” — I like that. Christ as munitions expert!)
They say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but obviously steroids work pretty well — on New York Post columnists, anyway.