Several years ago, TIME MAGAZINE’s cover story asked the question “Is God Dead?” in our society. While it is generally believed today that somewhere between 75% and 85% (depending upon which poll one reads) of the people in America believe in a supreme being, the belief is trending down, and those beliefs that do exist are varied, from those who say they believe, yet don’t practice any faith, to those who are daily practitioners of their faith, and every combination in between. In the early years of this great country, if polls on the subject had been taken, the likelihood is that the believers would have reached percentages exceeding 99.99% of the population, and the vast majority would have been regular practitioners. The purpose of this post is not to consider the reasons for this decline in belief and what effect that has had on our society. Each of us our own opinion on these questions, and each opinion has a germ of truth to it. The question here is what would happen if there were actually concrete proof of the existence of God? What would that do for our society?
Until 1988, most people who knew about the existence of Shroud of Turin would either have had no opinion on whether it was the actual burial linen of Jesus Christ, or would have grudgingly shrugged that it could be the real deal. Until that fateful year, all scientific studies done on the cloth established that it bore pollens, fibers, and other natural elements from the time of Jesus’s existence, and the marks and images on it were consistent with the biblical description of Jesus’s crucifixion. Then in 1988, a carbon dating test was done on a tiny piece of the edge of the cloth with three noted laboratories coming to the same conclusion: that the cloth was made sometime between 1260 A.D. and 1390 A.D., and therefore could not have been the burial cloth of a man who died around 30 A.D. Atheists and others who viewed Jesus with disdain cheered the finding and declared that the cloth was a hoax painted by some artist in the Middle Ages. True believers’ hopes were dashed.
But, was the carbon date correct? New evidence suggests strongly the test was wrong. I won’t get into the details here, as it is part of the mystery which unfolds in my new thriller, THE FIRST GOSPEL. However, if it was wrong, and the truth about the Shroud were revealed to a world in need of hope and something real to hold onto, would the effect be that all would have to then believe in God because there would be clear proof? Would that make us a kinder, gentler nation and world? Those are questions we must each grapple with in our search for peace and happiness in our society. Let us go together to learn the truth and let us spread that truth to others so that we may all live joyfully in this life.
Excerpt from THE FIRST GOSPEL
MATT GUESSED HANNAH was waiting in the parking lot when he didn’t see her as he stepped onto the bank’s stoop. He tucked the folder under his arm, zipped his jacket to the collar, and stuffed his hands into his pockets. He then walked down the steps, and turned north toward the parking lot. He took less than a half dozen steps before he heard a voice so deep and breathless that it almost slipped past him, until it caught suddenly and forced a shock of fear to skitter up his spine.
“I will take the folder, Mr. Carter.”
Matt’s first reaction was to stop and turn, but as he started to do so, a body bumped him firmly from behind, and he felt the pressure of hard metal against his lower back.
“Walk, Mr. Carter,” the voice commanded. “Do not turn. Remove the folder from under your arm and hand it back to me without turning.”
Matt’s mind was numb. Although he heard the words and was able to continue walking, it was only because the bump and pressure of the metal object had propelled him forward. He couldn’t formulate the thought necessary to obey the command nor could he maintain his forward motion.
He again stopped and was again bumped, this time with a force that caused him to lurch sharply forward, stumble off balance, and turn sideways. Mechanically, despite the warning, he turned his head and caught steel blue eyes.
“Move!” the voice commanded with a promise that death would follow if not obeyed.
In an instant of slow motion clarity, Matt became aware of passersby glancing at them, the two now suddenly facing each other, one glaring with deadly menace and the other staring in stupefied ignorance at the coat pocket that held the gun.
It was in that instant that Hannah appeared. She came up from behind the voice. Matt watched her raise the hard plastic knuckles of her key chain, and in a single, savage, downward thrust, drive the sharp bottom knuckle into the man’s arm. He screamed. Hannah then brought the knuckle up sharply and slammed the upper point into his chin. The man lurched backward, his damaged arm bleeding through his jacket and rising to his chest in a protective motion, while his other arm pin-wheeled for balance. Matt’s shock was broken; his senses came roaring back. Hannah grabbed his arm.
“C’mon Matt!” she screamed and tugged.
But Matt struck out, driving his lower shin between the off-balance man’s legs and up into his exposed groin. The connection forced a gust of air and a hoarse scream from the man as he doubled over and grabbed at the wounded area.
“Matt, please!” Hannah screamed again.
But Matt didn’t stop. He stepped to the man, who, although bent over and reeling in agony, had lifted his head and was glaring murderously at Matt. Matt swung his right arm up at the face and his tightly clenched fist hammered into the upturned jaw. The man’s eyes rolled up and he flew backward, crashing to the ground unconscious. Matt stood over his enemy as blood pooled beneath the man’s head where it had struck a stone planter. Adrenalin raced through him. He kicked the prone figure viciously in the side.
“You sonuvabitch!” he shouted. “Leave us alone!”
“Mathew!” Hannah’s shouts finally broke through his haze. “We’ve got to get away from here.”
Matt glared at the unconscious attacker, fear and hatred battling in a blast of adrenalin. Finally, he bent, grabbed the gun lying in the man’s open palm, and followed Hannah away from the gawking crowd.
THE FIRST GOSPEL, in the tradition of “The DaVinci Code,” is an historical thriller at the center of which lies the truth about the greatest archaeological mystery the world has ever known.
Edessa, Turkey 943 A.D.: Eighty thousand Byzantine knights lay siege to the Muslim citadel. Prepared to raze the city, the Byzantine commander offers to spare it if the Muslim emir will hand over a fourteen-foot long linen cloth. The stunned emir readily delivers the cloth that bears the shocking full-body image of a crucified man.
Arizona almost 1100 years later: Matt Carter, an under-employed law school graduate, discovers the brutally murdered body of his old professor, Samuel Rosen. When Matt returns home, he finds a letter posted by Rosen before his murder. Rosen begs Matt to protect an ancient parchment owned by his family for generations. Unknown to Matt, the parchment holds the key to the two-thousand-year-old mystery of the Cloth of Edessa. Now Matt becomes the unwitting prey of those who will stop at nothing to keep his parchment’s truth hidden.
From the magnificent opulence of Rome’s St. Peter’s Cathedral to the breathtaking beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, readers will become part of Matt’s frantic search for a truth that will forever change political, religious, and industrial fortunes around the world … even as Matt fights for survival.