Bright, Brave New Wave of Christian Authors
Interview with Ted Dekker
WestBow Press-New things
Trilogy: The Lord of the Rings
Book: Matrix Reloaded
Phone Call: Phone Rings
Ted Dekker: This is Ted.
Mike Furches: Yes, Ted Dekker?
Ted Dekker: Yea, Ted Dekker.
Mike Furches: Ted Dekker, this is Mike Furches in Wichita Kansas.
Ted Dekker: Yea, how you doing man?
Mike Furches: I’m doing great how are you doing?
Ted Dekker: Where do you live?
Mike Furches: Wichita, Kansas.
Ted Dekker: Yea, Wichita, somehow I had in mind that you were in L.A. but it was probably from Hollywood Jesus.
Mike Furches: Yea, Hollywood Jesus is actually based out of L.A. but David Bruce the web site administrator, the guy that actually owns the site he actually lived there for awhile. He actually has everything based out of Oregon now and he has a number of writers that lives all over North America.
Ted Dekker: How in the world do they get like 2 million hits a day out of that thing?
Mike Furches: They are getting about 3 million now.
Ted Dekker: That’s incredible. Where do they come from?
Mike Furches: Well, initially there was just that many people looking for movie reviews.
Ted Dekker: Right,
Mike Furches: And over the years it has just grown and developed. We were averaging probably about 3 million hits a week up until about 6 months before the release of The Passion.
Ted Dekker: Right.
Mike Furches: And after the release of that particular movie we started getting all kinds of hits and they have kept growing. I wish I could explain it.
Ted Dekker: It’s incredible. I was trying to explain to my publicist out of New York We were blown away by those numbers.
Mike Furches: Yea, it is fairly phenomenal. Part of David’s story is that he lived in Chicago for awhile. I don’t know if your are familiar with Jesus People USA or not?
Ted Dekker: Yea, I used to live in Chicago.
Mike Furches: Really?
Ted Dekker: Yea.
Mike Furches: I lived at JPUSA for a long time.
Ted Dekker: Yea, I was only there for a year. I lived in North Chicago actually.
Mike Furches: Well David was there and had done a lot of work up there and he had gone to a Billy Graham Campaign and Billy Graham had challenged the people at the crusade to begin using the internet for some form of evangelism or to find some innovative ways to use it for evangelism. David had looked at the number of things on the internet related to Christianity and I think he said something like 95, 96 percent of it was being used more for informational types of material.
Ted Dekker: Yea.
Mike Furches: And there was very little that was being done for evangelism. And, that was something that he took off and started doing. It is amazing at what happened and I know it’s hard for me to believe it.
I started actually posting on some of the bulletin boards or message boards on movies.
Ted Dekker: Yea.
Mike Furches: A number of years ago and he asked me to start doing movie reviews, which has been unreal.
Ted Dekker: That’s cool. So what do you do with the rest of your time?
Mike Furches: I actually pastor an inner city church.
Ted Dekker: That’s right, that’s right, yea.
Mike Furches: It’s a trip. Most of our members are from gangs, and they come out of drugs and alcoholism, substance abuse. We even have a number of people who have come out of prostitution. We have one girl that six months ago she was still stripping and all at strip bars but finally she’s quit that.
Ted Dekker: Right.
Mike Furches: As far as the stripping part. It’s a different kind of church. We’re trying to reach folks that the normal church doesn’t reach.
Ted Dekker: Yea.
Mike Furches: Are you familiar with World Impact at all?
Ted Dekker: A, World Impact?
Mike Furches: Yea.
Ted Dekker: I don’t think so.
Mike Furches: World Impact started in the Watts in California, or South Central Los Angeles.
Ted Dekker: Right.
Mike Furches: South Central L.A.. There primary purpose was to help with the inner city and they are starting now to plant inner city churches. Jack Hayford’s on the board of Directors there as well as Andre Crouch and a few other folks.
Ted Dekker: Yea, Jack’s a good guy.
Mike Furches: Yea. Jack’s a real good guy. I just came back from a conference at his church where he used to pastor at Church on the Way in Van Nuys.
Ted Dekker: Very cool.
Mike Furches: Yea, well it’s a treat to get to talk to you. I’ve actually got you on speaker phone and I’m recording it. That way I make sure that I get everything right.
Ted Dekker: Yea, no problem.
Mike Furches: Okay and a…
Ted Dekker: Feel free to a, well I’ll just ramble.
Mike Furches: Okay, that’s fine.
Ted Dekker: Don’t use me verbatim. Feel free to make me sound somewhat intelligent. (laughter)
Mike Furches: (laughter) That’ll… I’ll have to do that more for myself than I do for you probably.
Ted Dekker: Anyway, I think it is great what you are doing so.
Mike Furches: Well thank you. I’m excited about it. What happened, well it was actually a number of months ago. I was in the bookstore and I was looking for something and actually saw the book Thr3e. It was the first book of yours that I saw and I thought this is kind of interesting and I picked it up. And to be honest about it, it reminded me after reading the jacket of, it kind of reminded me a little bit of the movie Phone Booth.
Ted Dekker: Yea.
Mike Furches: So I picked the book up and read it and was just blown away because I had turned away from just about any kind of Christian Fiction. The last few things I read were really just pretty miserable to be honest about it. So I was just blown away and since then I’ve read everything now that is out except for the new release of, I guess it’s Red that is yet to come out yet and I’ve not read White yet.
Ted Dekker: Right.
Mike Furches: So, to do that in about Three or four months for myself is…
Ted Dekker: Wow man, you’ve had your dose. Do you understand? Very few people read that much of one author in that short a period of time. So, that’s a lot. I’m sure by now you have a pretty good idea of where I come from.
Mike Furches: Pretty good, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the story because I think, at least the impression I’m getting of where you’re coming from is fairly unique in Christian…
Ted Dekker: What did you think of When Heaven Weeps?
Mike Furches: I really liked it. I was kind of curious. In one of your emails that you sent me you said that you thought I’d really enjoy that and I was kind of curious as to why you said that.
Ted Dekker: Well, it could have been just a guess but from reading your posts and stuff. When Heaven Weeps, at least the way I look at When Heaven Weeps is that it is a hard hitting novel. It kind of grabs the whole issue of love and sacrifice and all by the throat. It deals with somebody who is in substance abuse. But essentially, it’s a, this incredible love story which is what Christianity really is. This incredible passion play between the forces that draw us one way or the other. Helen really represents all of us. I was just thinking that with you from the inner city and knowing or having read that, that I thought you would see some things there with someone that was relatively close to you. We are all Helen but you see, at least I think of Helen with a kind of addictive personality who is finally won over by sacrificial love. In one degree or another we’re all essentially out of that same experience. I don’t know, I just thought you would connect with that.
Mike Furches: Yea, one of the things that’s different is that our church is different. I’ve not been a pastor very long and before that I was actually an Executive Director for a mental health agency. I was blessed in that whole bit as far as recognition and all that kind of stuff. But I always had a dream of going in and working in the ministry. I actually did that for awhile with Christian bands. A long story made short is that our church is real different. One of the things we did for example this last weekend was actually did a Fear Factor.
Ted Dekker: Right.
Mike Furches: I had been doing a series called, well actually on Community and the message was Evangelism, The Heart of Community. So, what we did was a Fear Factor for actually about 35 minutes of the service. It was like a legitimate Fear Factor with people eating bugs, and grubs, holding rats, snakes…
Ted Dekker: Oh… (laughter)
Mike Furches: So what I did was after at the end for the message I just shared a passage out of the last part of Mark there where Jesus confronts the disciples. As a part of that I wanted to challenge the people with, here we are we say we love Christ, we say we do all of these things and the reality of it is that we’ll eat bugs, we’ll do all kinds of crazy stuff but when it comes down to sharing the Gospel and showing people love we don’t do that.
Ted Dekker: You know it’s funny. It reminds me of a time I did something very similar with our youth group where I took a little fish, a bait fish you know?
Mike Furches: Ah huh.
Ted Dekker: You know you go buy them for bait, or people do. I got a little bag and I had them give it a name. It was a tiny little cute fish swimming around in there and we gave it a name and connected with it. I was talking or teaching out of the story of Lazarus and everyone felt great and I dumped the water out and dropped the fish on the floor. And we all sat there and watched it flop and I mean it died. Everyone just started crying and there parents that was there was really upset. This was like 10 years ago. So here we are crying and all over this one little fish who’s dying and here we don’t give a rip about the fish in the world who are dying in their sins. We pass them by everyday and we don’t even give them a second glance. “Okay that’s enough, you’ve made your point, put it back, you’ve made your point.” And I said, “okay.” And I dumped it back in not knowing what would happen and it revived. It was cool because I was teaching out of Lazarus or I think it was out of Luke.
Mike Furches: One quick thing, when I was doing the message I gave the story of Jan and Helen and made mention of the story from When Heaven Weeps.
Ted Dekker: You did?
Mike Furches: It is a real challenge that we have to do is because a part of what I got from this story is that it’s not just what would we do if forced with making a decision, but do we love someone enough to challenge them in their decision and in what they would say. Let me go ahead and get started on these questions because I have a number of them and I doubt that I’ll get all of them done.
There is a lot of people who is reading Dekker right now. The lady at the bookstore was telling me that your stuff is just flying off the shelves here. Tell us something about Ted Dekker that a lot of folks maybe don’t know or don’t understand.
Ted Dekker: Well I’m definitely a person who is out of the box here in the United States because I grew up overseas. My parents were missionaries and what that meant for me as a little kid growing up was that I grew up in a culture of which I really didn’t belong. Everyone there had a different skin color than me, spoke a different language and I learned their language, I tried to fit in and I learned their language. I was always in one way or another ostracized. I came back to the United States every four years as a missionary kid and I was ostracized from this group too because I was too strange to fit in here. So I became what is called a third cultured kid which is basically somebody who is ostracized from any particular group of people and you develop your own identity. Now many people can identify with that here in the United States for many different reasons but my story is probably a little more intense than most. It is from that perspective and some of that background that I became an astute observer of culture, people, faith and of what makes us work as human beings. It is basically out of that perspective that I write. So I get things out of my writing that people don’t normally think about and so it is really nothing magical it’s just a different perspective on the same kind of issues that we all face. Does that make sense?
Mike Furches: Yea. It makes sense. It seems like one of the things I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of authors who seems to find their genera. They’ll find a specific style or a specific mode of writing.
Ted Dekker: Okay
Mike Furches: Your novels seem to be different in that you can read Black for example and it is almost a sci-fi, fantasy world but then you read Thr3e which is totally different.
Ted Dekker: Right.
Mike Furches: Where do you come up with your stories?
Ted Dekker: I’ll tell you what, my writing is definitely what is called cross genera, much like Dean Koontz, or even Stephen King. Those are probably the two closest writers, Dean Koontz comes the closest to me in the ABA world, American Book Sellers Association as opposed to CBA, Christian Book Sellers Association. My voice is the same in all of my stories. My stories are about a great confrontation between good and evil within a number of different genera’s. You’re always going to get a story, but all stories. Like in When Heaven Weeps, you could almost classify it as almost like a romance, it is a love story in one sense but it’s really a thriller. So there all thrillers but that’s kind of where the genera thing ends. My stories come from my passion to discover, and explore this struggle that we all have. That we all find ourselves engaging between good and evil and I write essentially modern day parables where I take the struggles and I put them on the canvas in big, bright, bold, colors. Those colors can be life and in really sensational ways it accentuates the struggle that we have in an ideal way. In those ideals with both the good and I characterize them in terms of ideally. For example in Blessed Child, there is the story of a noble savage, well there is no such a thing. You can’t find a Caleb, he doesn’t exist. But in the context of the story, he comes to life and we can examine good as it really could be. In the same way Jesus taught, he said; “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Well he didn’t actually want us to walk around plucking out our eyes. He is talking in ideal terms. He is using hyperbole to make a point and he used parables in the same way. That’s essentially what I am doing, I am characterizing good and evil in a very, a extreme way as I can do it without offending people or to drive away readers. So, my stories are born out of that desire and all of my stories will deal in one way or another with that common theme. What does good and evil really look like? Not the way where Stephen King casts it where there is no redemptive message in the end at all, there’s no redemption. Where good doesn’t conquer evil. I’ll take someone through the valley, and I am going to bring them up to the mountain top and have them look back and be able to say, “Yea, though I walk through that valley of evil, and death, I will fear no evil.” That’s kind of my mission in writing. Here I am rambling again, I’m rambling. So you’ll have to edit. You’ll edit this down, right?
Mike Furches: I’ll do a little bit.
Ted Dekker: (laughter)
Mike Furches: I actually like Koontz and I think King can tell a great story, I just wish he knew how to end it.
Ted Dekker: Yea, I agree. That’s exactly right. Koontz has got a much better spiritual compass in my opinion.
Mike Furches: One of the questions down the line is about that. It actually brings in Koontz. So I’ll get to that in a second.
Of all the novels you’ve written which one would you say represents Ted Dekker or maybe has more of you in it than any of the others? Any of them?
Ted Dekker: Yea, I can answer that. It is the novel I am writing now which happens to be called Storytellers which doesn’t come out until 2006. (laughter)
Mike Furches: So we’ll have to wait awhile?
Ted Dekker: (still laughing) It’s always the novel I’m working on now. You know what I’m saying?
Mike Furches: Yea.
Ted Dekker: I can’t say that, it’s just that I’m in love with the novel that I’m writing now and when I’m finished with it, in some strange, artistic way, junk. I need to move on, you know what I’m saying? It’s not junk, it’s like, “Okay, I’ve got to do better.” “I’ve got to move on to the next project.” “I’ve got to find a new way to do it that’s even better.” It’s, “more, more, always more.” We are creatures created to obsess and I am obsessive about this task.
Mike Furches: Do you have one that is in print currently that is a favorite?
Ted Dekker: I can’t do that man.
Mike Furches: Okay, didn’t think you would but I’ve got to ask. (laughter)
Ted Dekker: (laughter)
Mike Furches: I looked everywhere about this and I was amazed that I could find nothing on it, maybe there’s a reason for it and if there is that’s fine. But one of the things I was impressed with was the work you did with Bill Bright on Blessed Child and A Man Called Blessed.
Ted Dekker: Yea.
Mike Furches: You got to work with a man that’s considered an icon in Christian ministry.
Ted Dekker: The experience was incredible.
Mike Furches: Tell me something about it because I want to make sure that for me, out of respect to Bill Bright that there is something in print somewhere that says something about that.
Ted Dekker: There was actually a Time Magazine article written about, as a feature about him and me as well but I was more of a side bar. The focus was on him and his ministry. Those novels, actually, he had little to do with them. I just wrote them and he blessed me with his, well we co authored them but you know how that works?
Mike Furches: Yea.
Ted Dekker: So for me it was just, my greatest struggle was spending time with him and getting to know his heart. He was a very genuine follower of Christ who really, I think, more than most people. I mean, very few Christians have an honest desire to meet their destiny beyond this life. You know what I’m saying? To realize the joy that waits. In fact I have a proposal now to do a non fiction book on that very subject on the subject of Heaven and what waits for us behind the Vail. Which is a common thread actually in a lot of my books. I am fascinated by that hope that awaits us. Right now it is only something that resides in our imagination and in our faith. We need to quicken that imagination and bring it into the front of our minds because that imagination will motivate our faith. I’ve wrote a whole thing on that and Bill Bright is a person that for me personified that, a real living human being in a very unique way. He had that kind of child like faith that was delightful to witness, to watch.
Mike Furches: Bringing up Caleb from A Blessed Child and A Man Called Blessed, is there ever going to be the potential for him to come back or return?
Ted Dekker: Caleb?
Mike Furches: Yea.
Ted Dekker: I’m thinking about using him as a cameo in a book I have called Showdown. So, yea, it’s possible.
Mike Furches: There’s a chance. You seem to have written a lot about Muslim culture in some of your novels, obviously in Blink that’s the case. What’s your thoughts or attitudes regarding the attitudes and relationships right now in America between Christians and Muslims, especially with the terrorism threats and everything since 9/11? Any thoughts on that or things that we as Christians…
Ted Dekker: I have a whole, I did like 50 radio interviews on that when Blink came out and that was always the question because I grew up in a Muslim country and I understand certain elements of Islam very well. I’ll tell you that, that is a whole can of worms man. (laughter) It really is, it is a whole separate, it is a whole article. The bottom line is that Islam and Christianity really should be judged by their founders, Jesus and Mohammad. There is very little similarity between the two, Jesus and Mohammad. Okay, they’re totally different faiths, they really are, they’re very different faiths. Really, in Islam, if you look, any Muslim who is true to the teachings of Mohammad, will in the end hate Christians because Mohammad teaches in the later part of his life, in a system of progressive revelation where all of the revelations in the later part of his life superceded those in the first part of his life. So the revelation like the war, the revelation that he originally gave which urged Muslims to go to war defend their Islam, I mean that came at the end of his life and they superceded his teachings on peace. This is what Osama Ben Laden understands. This is what the true, what many Imams and Clerics understand which is why they can’t speak out against terrorism. They can say we’re for peace, peace, peace, but they can’t say we’re not for war. It is very difficult for them to say unless they vacate the teachings of Mohammad himself because Mohammad at the end of his life led wars, battles, killed many Jews, Christians and so it is very difficult. Now having said that, Islam itself is in total, is in total, well there is no way to bring Islam and Christianity together. You can bring Muslims and Christians together, and we should work very hard at doing this because many Muslims don’t even understand their own religion. Just like many Christians don’t understand their religion. You hear what I’m saying?
Mike Furches: Yea.
Ted Dekker: We should love Muslims, we should be willing to die for Muslims, you know? Jesus did! Jesus is a revered prophet of Islam but you can’t pretend that Islam and Christianity, let me back up, you can’t pretend that the teachings of Mohammad and the teachings of Jesus Christ are even remotely similar in the end.
Mike Furches: Okay. I just finished the Martyr’s Song Series, where did you get your inspiration for that?
Ted Dekker: My brother’s death. My brother died at the age of 33. He died suddenly, overnight from viral meningitis. And a, it was so unexpected and it crushed me. He was by far the best friend I ever had and it was a surprising experience, surprised me with people. It got me to examine, you know, life after death from that.
Mike Furches: Any potential future books in the Martyr’s Song Series?
Ted Dekker: There’s a project coming out next fall which I’m very excited about. It’s called the Dance of the Dead unless they rename it to something a little softer. It’s a Novella it’s a retelling of the Bosnia story with Korosic and Janovic come down into the village and kill the priest. It’s that story only with a whole new wrap around where it starts off in a contemporary setting with a teenager who is suicidal. I think you would like that too because of anywhere where there is harsh realities if you’ve lived through those realities you’ll identify with these kinds of themes. But that is being done as a Novella and also with a music CD and also in conjunction with several organizations, it’s in the process now of all being put together. That will kind of be the reintroduction to the Martyr’s Song Series. Because that’s where the story says a whole lot.
Mike Furches: I think you know that I was involved in Christian Music for a long time and some of the stuff we were doing really kind of set the groundwork for some of the Christians involved in music and some have been able to succeed. Bob Hay said that we were the first Christian Band to successfully go into the non-Christian world. But, in that whole process I became a little bit disillusioned with the business, I guess you could say. You seem to in Heaven Weeps, at least in my reading of that, to make a little bit of commentary towards how the “Christian Business” works. There was some discussion in the way that the book company deals with some things. As far as Christian movies, Christian media and the business end of it, what’s driven your opinions on those things, or have I just totally misread the fact that you’ve noticed that there’s some things that has the business there?
Ted Dekker: Excuse me, I think is very difficult to put labels on things like “Christian Business.” There’s, Christians that are in business peddling all kinds of wares and it doesn’t mean their followers of Christ. It doesn’t mean they have any favorites wherever that really acts as a guideline for the way they behave. They’re just humans, whatever their personal faith really is, for the most part is secretive. So, what does it mean to be a Christian? I don’t even like the word Christian Fiction. I really don’t because I’m not quite sure what it means. You know, where I grew up, or, I like have a friend who lives in Beirut and I visit him and there, Christian is something I certainly wouldn’t want to be. I mean, Christian for most people in the Middle East is someone who kills Muslim babies. You know, and its not someone who follows Christ, no not at all. That’s not the way they think, when they think of Christian they don’t think that. So the word means different things in different parts of the world. I’m not quite sure what Christian Fiction means. However, that is a label that is very popular now and if it’s a necessary label, that’s fine. That’s the same thing from the Christian Business man. So as someone who is a Christian and I’m in business, it means very little. That’s me.
Mike Furches: Okay
Ted Dekker: So I mean it is really the same thing with Christian Bands. The same thing with Christian Authors and in general, just, you know you can’t read a book by it’s cover they say, so there you go.
Mike Furches: And I want to include this comment in there, but thanks for the comment there. The reason for that is that this is one of those things that, just for years the same thing of “Christian” and “Secular.” It was just a real struggle for years, while we can’t just be Christians who happen to be involved in writing fiction or singing music, and if we have a legitimate relationship with Christ, that relationship will come through at some point.
Ted Dekker: Yea. You know that’s one of the things that I teach. You know Arthur Alms was a professor at Wheaton College in your backyard there. He had a book called; All Truth is God’s Truth, which is one of the books that I studied 20 years ago. He took the things that was very true and that I’ve always learned by and that is that really a false dichotomy between the fake and the secular. You know, everything is sacred, everything is secular, but that’s kind of what you’re saying. We use the term sacred and secular as convenient boxes. So that we can label things and put them in places that make us feel comfortable. They have very little bearing on the truth.
Mike Furches: Next one, next question here; I loved thr3e, it was the first book I read. I remember it like it was yesterday; I’m laying in the bed, I’m finishing it up because I can’t put the book down because I’m guessing here and I’m guessing there, trying to figure out what in the world is going on. I get about 40 pages from the end and my wife’s almost asleep and I yell out, “Ah ha! I’ve got it figured out.” She says, “What? What? What?” (laughter) I said, “I’ve got this stupid book figured out.” Long story made short, I get up and go to the YMCA the next day, I’m riding the exercise bike, I spend about an hour and half or two hours a day there, an hour in the morning an hour in the afternoon. I’m reading it that next morning and I’m finishing up those last few pages and I get to the place where it is like, “dad gum it!” (laughter) “I didn’t have it figured out.” Where did you get the idea for that book? That book probably has more plot twists than anything I think I have ever read. Where did you get your idea for Thr3e?
Ted Dekker: Again, again, first of all, it came from the passion I have to characterize the battle between good and evil in a very unique way, and the good that I would which is not that which I do not do. That is a battle that resides in all of us or is waged within all of us. I told my agent, I said, “I want to write a story about a serial killer that will be embraced by Christians.” “Ha!” he said, “You can never do it.” I said, “You know what? We all have a little serial killer in us. There is a way to do it.” So I started thinking of a way to write a story in which we are in essence serial killers. But instead of a killer we are going to show a bomber who is a quite nasty slayer. From there then came the idea… (Mike Furches notes: Out of respect of Ted, and the book Thr3e, I am leaving out some of the comments here to not give the book away. I will promise you after reading the book for the first time you will be glad I did. I am also deleting these comments from the audio version of the interview.” ) Now if you start talking about this you will ruin the book.
Mike Furches: Yea, I will delete that segment.
Ted Dekker: (laughter)
(Conversation deleted from tape interview and print interview. I will say this, there is a great deal of wonderful conversation around the issues addressed by this book at this point. )
Ted Dekker: To answer the question, that story came out of my driving desire to characterize the battle that we all face everyday in a very real way.
Mike Furches: Well it was a good way to do it too, so least I thought because it is something we can all use to look at our own inner struggles.
Ted Dekker: Right.
Mike Furches: I appreciate it. As a matter of fact, my daughter’s boyfriend is reading it now.
A lot of people make comments that your books would make great movies. Any plans in that area that you can talk about?
Ted Dekker: Well I cold tell you that Ralph Winters has optioned Thr3e, and it will be distributed by Fox Studios. In fact I just met, as I was telling you, this last, week before last I was out there. It was kind of cool, I went to Fox Studios and they ushered me through the back and I had dinner with the president of Fox Home Entertainment and the national sales manager, any way it was very, very cool. These guys , they’re distributing The Passion of the Christ by the way.
Mike Furches: Okay.
Ted Dekker: It just got released to them. But they, the national sales managers, they’re Christians. I forgot his name suddenly, but he is a very cool guy and so is Ralph Winter but you probably know that.
Mike Furches: Any discussion as to the book optioned?
Ted Dekker: The book, Thr3e, and we are in discussions about Black, Red, White, but on a whole different scale. Of course Generation Entertainment optioned, Blessed Child, and A Man Called Blessed. I was intrigued by that.
Mike Furches: What’s your opinion about spirituality, the discussion of spirituality in a contemporary media? Of course, that includes books, but also movies and music. We see a lot of discussion, you see a lot of movies now that seems to address spiritual issues in some way, your thoughts on that?
Ted Dekker: Well I think that most of the movies have come out totally flat and dry from my perspective. They make an attempt, what I find is that many people really aren’t in tune with their spiritual natures are addressing or tend to address spiritual issues because that is kind of the hot button. They do it in such a way to where it’s good until the last act so often in which it all just completely falls flat and it ends up undermining the true value of spirituality, for the true spiritual man. You know what I’m saying? In other words if you were to view it kind of like a falls issue, kind of like a pseudo spirituality. Very rarely do you have a movie that comes out and really honors and embraces this spiritual man, and then very, very rarely do they do it in a way that honors, or in any way kind of triumphs the teachings of Christ. For some reasons the teachings of Christ, and Jesus Christ himself has become the bastard child of the spiritual world. At least as far as the Western spiritual world. Does that make sense?
Mike Furches: Yea, yea.
Ted Dekker: I don’t know if I would put them in the same sentence.
Mike Furches: As far as the movies that do come out, and obviously with Hollywood Jesus we do movie reviews, I’m encouraging them to run this and they are doing that, what are some of your favorite movies be and or recording artists, musicians, bands and that type of thing?
Ted Dekker: Well, my favorite movie of all time is Moulin Rouge. It is a passion play, it’s like a story of, when I watched that movie I see a representation of the love between all of us and God. You have Ewen McGregor who’s a Christ figure, you have, what’s her name, Nicole Kidman. Have you ever seen the movie?
Mike Furches: Oh yea, I’ve got the review on Hollywood Jesus of it.
Ted Dekker: Oh really?
Mike Furches: Yea, go ahead though. Satine is her name.
Ted Dekker: Yea, yea, exactly. Satine who is the, I’m sorry I should use characters names. Satine who is the harlot and it tells her story. It is kind of like in one sense one has a thing or someone following her and what you have, that one song for me is the most emotional, wonderful song where it plays Roxanne and their dancing, dancing, away and he walks and says, “No!” and he starts singing to his own tune and he walks right past them. I just love that scene. I could just, me and my kids we sit there and we watch that and I say, “Here it is, this is Jesus and that’s us. Now look at his love, look at the way he loves her.” You know, we sit there and we watch that and we all get teary eyed, that’s just incredible man. That’s beautiful movie making. I have no idea if Baz knew what he was doing. True love stories is the story of love, or is the story of God because God is love. So in essence any great love story, even Romeo and Juliet, any great love story, is going to pluck certain spiritual chords in us. It draws us to it, that’s why we’re saps for love. Not teeny bopper love stories, those aren’t true love stories.
Mike Furches: That is one of my favorite movies too.
Ted Dekker: That’s cool!
Mike Furches: Yea, it’s a good one. Do you have the DVD of it?
Ted Dekker: Oh yea!
Mike Furches: Yea, you want to make sure because the extended version of Roxanne is great.
Ted Dekker: Yea, no I have the DVD. I like any movie of great sacrifice or movies like that, you know Schindler’s List is a great story as I’m sure you know, The Pianist, and I like The Abyss. I like X-Men 2, it’s a cool movie, it’s not fantastic but it’s pretty cool, better than the first one. You know I love going out to the movies. I watch tons of movies. I’m a movie fanatic. Cause our culture is really mussed or is become programmed now to engage during these two hour segments. I write my stories, I try to write my stories in a way that addresses that culture. It effects the ways that I pace my stories, and I address a culture that’s used to now engaging story in a short period or time frame, and in a very visual way. So I write very cinematically . That is a point being made all the time to me and I’m grateful for that because I work hard at it.
Mike Furches: One of the things I’ll say, is that I know that I’m supposed to be impartial in an interview, not be editorializing and all that but, I’ll do it anyway. One of the reasons I like you is because of, well, for folks that will be reading the article. You do a better job at that than anyone I’ve read, bar none.
Ted Dekker: Well thanks man.
Mike Furches: I love movies as well, but I also love literature because of the ability to escape. It helps pass the time away when I’m exercising or just doing nothing around the house.
Ted Dekker: I appreciate that because I work hard at it. I think Red and White, I gotta say that if I do pick one of my favorite books today it would have to be between Red and White. Those two books of the one’s I’ve actually written. Red when you get the depiction of, well I can’t give the story away, but it is very powerful. Visualizing or bringing into the mind, old, musty, dusty, truths and making them come alive again, in a whole new way, so the reader goes, “I never thought of it that way. That’s what I want.” I want everyone to say, five or six times, in every book, in every time they read one of my books, at five or six different points that, “You know I thought that but I’ve never thought of it that way. It is so cool!” I want them to connect and I want that truth to come alive in them in some sense, in some real way. That’s why visualization is so critical. I have a whole thing on the imagination and the quickening of the imagination. You can actually do that sometimes better in a book than you can a movie. But, movies are the product of the imagination, books are more the inspiration of imagination.
Mike Furches: One of the contemporary writers that the world seems to have hit on is Stephen King. I don’t know how well his movies have translated from his novels. Another one where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of movies made on their writings is Dean Koontz.
Ted Dekker: Right
Mike Furches: To me, my personal opinion is that Dean Koontz does a much better job than does Stephen King. They both have a niche to tell a great story. It seems that just as of recent Christians have gotten to the place to where it is becoming more popular to tell good stories and those stories are attracting Christians and non-Christians. Why has it taken so long to get there?
Ted Dekker: Well I think because of limitations placed on writers by what are called the gatekeepers. In Hollywood you have the gatekeepers, right?
Mike Furches: Right.
Ted Dekker: Well in the CBA you have the same thing. You know, gatekeepers who think, who are people who basically control the commerce, the business side of it. Only now are they starting to realize that the church, that Christians, believers, real believers, in a real society and real culture, warrant and benefit from real literature, not just Christianized stories, real stories that explore the truth. The true struggle that we all face on a day-to-day basis, which requires writing about both the light, and about darkness because in one sense they define each other. It’s very important to have. One thing I like saying is that if you paint evil with anything less than a truly black brush, you try to use a gray brush with evil in characterizing evil, you in essence are deceiving your reader by saying it is not as black as it really is here, it is actually a little gray. In essence, you are being complicit with evil because evil’s greatest objective is to hide itself. Right? So, who are we as writers to compromise the true nature of evil? To whitewash it with a little bit of white, to turn it into a gray mess when it really is black? Let’s call it what it is, especially evil! I can understand a person without faith doing that, but we, Christian writers painting evil with anything less than the blackest of brushes. How dare we! It’s sad. (laughter)
Mike Furches: Do you see any dangers in Christians who maybe become successful in the non-Christian world? Christian authors?
Ted Dekker: Well, there is a danger. The danger is that for a Christian to become popular in a non-Christian world, the danger that he gains his popularity on the back of a compromise. So, in other words, he becomes popular in the non-Christian world by becoming non-Christian. I’d really characterize it this way; he becomes popular among those that avoid a faith by stripping away his own faith. That’s the danger! Otherwise, no, there’s no danger if he can keep his faith. It’s like you, if you can keep your moral compass true, if you can keep your passion for God alive is there any danger for you ministering to people who you know who are rebels? You know, yea, the danger is perhaps to your own faith, that’s the danger. Otherwise, the rest is kind of just smoke and mirrors.
Mike Furches: Have time for a couple more questions?
Ted Dekker: Yea, we have ten minutes.
Mike Furches: Okay. Who do you read? Who does Ted Dekker read?
Ted Dekker: I read mostly newer, current best sellers. Dean Koontz, you know, all secular fiction. Only because, really, ultimately that’s the audience that I’m looking for. You know I want freedom. I’m not looking for non-Christians only, most Christians read secular fiction. Right?
Mike Furches: Right.
Ted Dekker: They go to, they watch X-Men. (laughter) Just like me. You know, they don’t watch a, well there aren’t really any Christian movies. Anyway, so I write for that audience and I write, and then I read a lot of non-fiction to feed my writing. Some of my favorite writers would be Dallas Willard, would be Philip Yancey, Thomas Mertin. Then others I like John Piper, Mike Dickle, a lot of really quite radical for writers, has done well with some people within Christendom.
Mike Furches: One of the things, is that in a lot of ways, the church around the world seems to be growing but in America the numbers involved in the church seems to be declining. It is almost as if there is a disinterest in the church. Why do you think that’s the case in America?
Ted Dekker: Because I think the church in America puts a lot more emphasis on form than on faith. It turns out even though many of us in the country, many people in other countries tends to be dense when it comes to a lot of issues, when it comes to a matter of faith they can smell that. They can smell a genuine, they can sense, because we are all spiritual people. We can sense the genuineness of any man. You know what I’m saying? Regardless of their ideology, they at least know and that they mean it. You know what I’m saying? It’s easier to do that than it is agree on ideology. It’s easier to at least appreciate honesty. You know what I’m saying? A lot of people say George W. Bush, they may hate his ideology, they may have a real difficult time even believing that he’s telling the truth but for them for the most part, even if they find themselves in that camp, they’re like “Neaa, he’s a pretty straight shooter, he aint stupid but he’s pretty....” I don’t believe that but honesty and integrity is something that is easier to identify. I think that’s what happened with the church. There is a lot of fakers out there.
Mike Furches: There is a lot of folks that are saying that Ted Dekker is one of the most important Christian writers to come around in a long time. How do you respond to comments like that?
Ted Dekker: I say, the teachings of Christ when characterized in real life settings, characterized in stories which represent real life. They are the most important thing to reenergize in our culture in a long, long time. I just happen to be one person who is doing it. We need many, many more. We need many more. I’m certainly not the best, I’m certainly not the first, the last or, I’m just one person doing it in an interesting way. It may not even be that great of a way. I’m just doing it and that alone is unique. And so, what is important is what I’m writing about, not me.
Mike Furches: One of the things I’ve always tried to do is to give tribute to some extent to the people who have laid the groundwork. To me, two people that come to mind right off the bat as far as doing things that are very similar to you are obviously, Frank Peretti and Flannery O’Conner. Some people may not categorize Flannery O’Conner there but I do. They both laid the ground for a lot of Christians to be successful in contemporary literature. What are some of your thoughts about some of the forerunners of your style, or your efforts? If that makes sense?
Ted Dekker: Well, style wise I am not sure there are any. I mean, I try to create my own style. I have great respect for Frank. He’s a good friend of mine, just a genuine guy who wrote about a subject that really fascinated him and low and behold found millions of others who are fascinated by the same spiritual struggle. Essentially that is the thing, I mean for people that are true to that, that true spiritual struggle that we all face. You know stories that really connect with that particular struggle, have a unique way of connecting with readers and then you have avid readers. Then you have avid readers who go, “You’ve gotta read this!” You see it’s knowing the story, it’s connected, it’s an unfair advantage. We will do that as an unfair advantage because we’re writing not just stories that we try to make great, but stories that connect with the person in a very unique way, by reaching into their innermost being and plucking those spiritual chords. It gives them an experience that is satisfying or disturbing, depending on which side you come from, beyond their norm. That’s why horror stories are so popular, that’s why Anne Rice is so popular, that’s why Stephen King is so popular. He is plucking spiritual chords. He may not define it, he has a unique way of, we all have a unique way of reaching in and plucking those spiritual chords. So, that is what is unique and people like Frank Peretti and if you look back at those people that’s what they are doing and they were among the first to be allowed to do that. Actually, they were the first to be allowed to do that but the first whose writings were publicized and published and made, or marketed across a broad spectrum.
Mike Furches: Two questions left. One is, one of the beautiful things about Hollywood Jesus is that it actually has a great deal of traffic to the website of individuals who are seeking spiritual answers. A lot of people who have no idea who Jesus is, what he stands for, they’re just looking for some type of spiritual truth. That is actually who the website is targeted for, more for non-Christians if you want to put it in that terminology. If someone were to ask for someone looking for spiritual truth; “Man here’s this writer and he writes some great stuff and it’s not going to offend you.” What would you recommend that maybe that person pick up read for the first time if they are picking up a Ted Dekker book?
Ted Dekker: I’d say Thr3e.
Mike Furches: Thr3e?
Ted Dekker: Um Hm.
Mike Furches: Okay. Any reason for that?
Ted Dekker: Well I think Thr3e is probably… You’re talking about someone who’s not a Christian? Right? Is that right?
Mike Furches: Yea.
Ted Dekker: Okay, I’d say Thr3e because Thr3e is a very clear personification of the struggle between good and evil. And the recognition of that struggle is the first step towards dealing with it in any way.
Mike Furches: Any different recommendations for someone who maybe is a Christian?
Ted Dekker: For someone who is a Christian, I would want to hit them over the head with When Heaven Weeps.
Mike Furches: Okay
Ted Dekker: There is a good chance they would throw it across the room. It’s amazing at the number of Christians who hate When Heaven Weeps. Which tells me where they come from, but anyways, they just can’t stand the fact that I’m dealing with drugs. It’s amazing, I mean in other people, for example, a lot of people on the boards on my website, their favorite really is When Heaven Weeps. They are just passionate about that story. That depends where they’re coming from. I’d say When Heaven Weeps, you know what I’d say it’s tough. It’s tough to characterize or pick one book. They’re so different, they’re about different topics. Blessed Child has it’s own unique, they’re all different, but I’d say for a non-Christian, if you want to start, if you’re young, if you’re young, if you’re under the age of 30 or 40, if you’re under the age of 40, I’d give them Thr3e.
Mike Furches: Okay. One thing I’ve always tried to do out of respect is that I realize that a lot of times individuals maybe have always wanted to say something in an interview or something of that nature and have never had the chance. Just leave a wide open question. Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to say that you would like to say now? That you’ve never had the chance to share in an interview?
Ted Dekker: I’d say that we writers, I don’t know about other writers but I’d just die in my basement writing. Okay, and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to mine my own experience in this world and to mine the teachings of Jesus Christ and faith. Then we walk in because of those teachings, and to put them on paper in a very, in a unique way in treating these stories. But, let’s make no mistake about it, it’s ultimately the discovery of faith that’s very cool in every one of my novels. Do you hear what I’m saying? Or, the exploration of faith is very cool, and not me as a celebrity, or me as a, you know, I mean I’ll play that role because that’s what our society does. The attempt, I can, I’ll play whatever, I’ll just play along, but it really has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the story. You know, I am subservient to the story. Does that make sense?
Mike Furches: Yea.
Ted Dekker: Okay.
Mike Furches: The last thing I want to say Ted is just thanks. The reason I say that is that I didn’t grow up in the best of neighborhoods or the best of environments and one of the things that has always meant something to me is that it is really nice to have the reminders of the importance of focusing on the simple things. You’re writings have brought me to a place to where as an adult, I can find those mountain tops again. I appreciate your work and I wanted to make sure I told you that.
Ted Dekker: And I write for people like you. Because, you know I am writing for my self. I’m writing about my own journey, my own struggles, and my own exploration bound of reaching out beyond myself for something greater than I am. That’s what it is all about. We are created to do that and so all of the people who read me are identifying with my journey, my characters journey. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all doing the same thing, I’m writing, you’re reading but it is the same experience.
Mike Furches: Well I really appreciate it. The Lord’s touched me through your work and I, well you’re probably the first person I’ve ever said that to and I just want to thank you.
Ted Dekker: Listen, I am so honored, I really am so honored that you are doing this, that you are writing this article. I mean there is so little written about what we’re doing. It’s becoming more popular now in certain respects but very few Christian writers who really have profound beliefs like you do who are writing about this to non-Christians. Yea, you can do a feature in New Man Magazine or Charisma. That’s one thing, but to do what you’re doing, and to put it on a web site like this. You know what, I applaud you. You know, I’m more excited about this, this interview, and this web site and what you guys are doing than probably anything I’ve done.
Mike Furches: I appreciate it, because I’m confident, I’m sure of the fact that you’re one who needs to be pushed and promoted because you’re stuff is not just speaking truth, it is written with quality. That’s something that we’ve lost out on for a long time. You’ll love my opening paragraph.
Ted Dekker: Cool man.