WWJD was written as Anna Lewis’ Master’s thesis in Creative Writing. The following is an excerpt from the accompanying essay, which we will be reprinting in serialized form in the days leading up to our production of WWJD.
When I was about eight I had a dream about the war in heaven—the war where Michael and his angels cast out Satan. It was obviously a byproduct of some Sunday school lesson, except, in my dream, it wasn’t so much a war as it was a baseball game. No swords or guns or broken beer bottles—not even a Fantasia-like exchange of colored lightning bolts. It was an outdoor baseball game and I was the catcher. I had the mask, the pads and the funny-looking catcher’s mitt. Satan, who other than being abnormally tall seemed like a perfectly normal guy, was up to bat. What I remember from my dream begins with Satan tapping the dirt out of his spikes, and me starting to shake. I remember I was terrified.
The thing was, I wasn’t scared because Satan was three feet away from me holding a baseball bat. I was frightened because on the mound God was pitching. I knew I was supposed to catch the ball when he pitched, and I just knew that he was going to knock my head off. Even as an eight year old I was sure that I did not want to get in the way of God’s fast ball.
I started to cry, positive I was going to die. A timeout was called and God motioned me to the pitcher’s mound. In the infield Jesus, as shortstop, gave me a thumbs up. When I got to the mound, God crouched down, put his arm around me and told me not to worry about the pitch. All I was supposed to do, he said, was keep my left hand open and he would land that ball in my mitt, real sweet and gentle.
That’s all I remember. I still think about it a lot; it’s my best dream. It easily reflects how I felt about divine beings as a kid. I liked the idea of a more familiar Godhead. God was not just someone I could pray to, but someone who might buy me a corndog after the game. I started thinking a lot about God and Jesus after that dream. In school I wondered what Jesus’s favorite color was, and wondered if he liked grape bubble-tape as much as I did. I once got a beautiful, white sweatshirt covered with plastic jewels and poofy-paint and I remember thinking: “I bet Jesus would love a sweatshirt just like this!”
Flannery O’Connor describes herself and the south she grew up in as “Christ-haunted.” I imagine her, walking down her street in Milledgeville, knowing that Jesus is somewhere lurking beyond the corner of her eye. She goes to the grocery store; Jesus is just around the aisle picking a good melon. She goes to the library; Jesus is shelving books two rows over. She never sees him clearly, but he’s always there, down at the pool hall, mercy and judgment spilling out of his flowing sleeves as he bends over the table to take a shot.
I think I know what she meant by “Christ-haunted.” In my family the words “God,” “Jesus,” and the “Holy Ghost” were spoken as often as the words “shoe lace,” “chicken nuggets,” and “stop teasing your brother.” Being constantly surrounded by religious vocabulary and stories, I, like Faulkner, “absorbed Christianity as if by osmosis” (qtd. in Ketchin xii). How could I help it? It was natural to me to believe that if God would be there to help me say no to drugs, as my mom promised, he would also come to my classroom to learn cursive with me.
Of course, I am no longer naïve enough to think that God actually learned cursive with me in third grade—I am sure he knew it before then; however, once you are “Christ-haunted” I suspect you are always “Christ-haunted.” Everyday images, such as telephone poles, are not just telephone poles, but symbols of the cross. The resurrection is everywhere: the sun setting and rising, flowers blooming, dying, then blooming again, even my leftovers from last night, frozen then heated again into their earlier splendor. I’m not saying that these things bring me any kind of religious ecstasy, or even any meaning, I am just saying that as a legitimately Christ-haunted person they seem unavoidable. It is no wonder then that the play I wrote for my thesis involved Jesus as a character.
It is also hardly surprising that within the play, instead of being a distant, all-powerful being, he is more of a deity-next-door. In my play Jesus is exactly the kind of guy who would wash your dishes or go miniature golfing with you–and in fact, he does both.