Moses’ Rejection Letter for “Exodus”

Approximately 1300 BC

Mr. Moses
1 Mt Nebo Lane
Pisbah, Plains of Moab

Dear Mr. Moses:

Thank you for sending your manuscript, Exodus, to Promised Land Publishing. However, it doesn’t meet our needs at this time. Or at any time, for that matter. In all honesty, of all the submissions I read each year, yours is the worst I have ever had the misfortune of editing. Actually, I take that back. Gilgamesh Vs. The Zombie Warriors of Uruk was far worse, but at least that technically followed some basic literary rules.

I’m breaking protocol on your behalf, Mr. Moses, and returning your manuscript, complete with my notes. This doesn’t mean I’m suggesting you rewrite it. Maybe by seeing your mistakes, you’ll be dissuaded from pursuing a writing career, and stick to what you know best: tending sheep, leading people through a desert, speaking with God…

I’ve reprinted several passages as examples.  Your text is in black; my notes are bracketed in blue.

One day [describe the day: was it hot? Had it just rained? Was it breezy? You have to draw your reader into the events here with imagery!], when Moses had grown up [how old? 15? 25?] he went out to his people and looked on their burdens [you gotta give me more here – describe the scene. Show, don’t tell! What does he see when leaving the palace? Does he wander through the marketplace? Set up the contrast between his privileged life and the poverty of ‘his people’. Show the burden of slaves working in the mud pits, of carrying straw on their backs. Show Moses’ feelings at seeing the slaves struggle to keep up. Is there someone he recognizes, that evokes pity? Is there some slave girl he has feelings for?]; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew [again, show don’t tell!!!!], one of his people [we’ve established that – doesn’t bear repeating]. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one [huh? How is this possible? All these slaves and overseers, and no one else is around? Describe this scene to make it more believable!!!] he killed the Egyptian [four words for a fight to the death? Action!! You need to show the reader what’s happening here!!] and hid him in the sand. [Did the Hebrew help him? Did he swear him to silence? Did the guy even say thanks??] When he went out the next day [that’s it? No meditation on this murder? No regret, or pride in exacting justice? He just offs the Egyptian, goes home, and goes out the next day??? I’m beginning to think Moses is a psychopath…], behold, two Hebrews were struggling together; and he said to the man that did the wrong [how do we know this? Who are these two men? Are they brick carriers? Mud men? Why were they fighting? Obviously Moses saw it start, because he knows who was wrong!], “Why do you strike your fellow?” He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” [Wha—-? This is the same guy he helped the day before? Or is it someone different? I can’t tell. Out of all those 1000’s of slaves, he just *happens* to come across the same guy? Didn’t Moses recognize him? You can’t have coincidences like this without some believable explanation. Not good.] Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” [You need to build up the suspense before hand. More tension. The reader ought to have info that Moses doesn’t, so they can see the noose tightening around him, and wonder if he will escape. You’re just springing this on the reader with no foreshadowing, and the reader won’t care what happens to him.] When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses [How did the Pharaoh hear of it? Again – I can’t repeat this enough! – SHOW DON’T TELL!!!!]

But Moses fled from Pharaoh, and stayed in the land of Midian [Huh? Just like that? How did he flee? Did he steal a horse? Take a chariot? On foot? Leave under the cover of darkness? Did he have to elude palace guards? Did he even say good-bye to his mother? You got a guy wanted by the Pharaoh, and he *just* flees???]; and he sat down by a well [Come on. Really?] Now the priest of Midian [does he have a name?] had seven daughters [do they have names?]; and they came and drew water [do they see Moses? Does he talk to them? Do they talk to him?], and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. The shepherds came [What shepherds? Who are these guys? How many are there? Are they rivals? Former employees out for revenge? Give these shepherds a background so that the reader will care what happens to the seven daughters!] came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them [helped who? The daughters or the shepherds? Unclear…], and watered their flock [This is confusing. The girls ran off and just left their flock? Does this happen regularly to them?].  When they came to their father Reuel [Finally! The name of another character!], he said “How is it that you have come so soon today?” [So…I take it the shepherds who harassed the daughters never did that before? This is the first time it’s ever happened? This part of the story needs so much work and development…]  They said “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” [But…but they were driven off just 3 lines ago!! How did they know this? Did they hide somewhere and watch?] He said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why have you left the man? [I was thinking the same thing, but okay.] Call him, that he may eat bread.” And Moses was content to dwell with the man [Just like that? Give the reader more of the conversation, of what Moses tells the man about why he left Egypt – set up conflict! Perfect opportunity here!], and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah.  She bore a son [What, right away? What’s happened during those nine months or so? Develop Zipporah a bit, and his daily life – for instance, what ever happened to the shepherds?], and he called his name Gershom; for he said “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” [Nice touch – need more like this!]

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian [Wait – I thought the guy’s name was Reuel! Which is it?]; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite [What?!? How does Moses all of a sudden have a brother? There’s been no mention of him anywhere! Did he flee out of Egypt with Moses? Did he come out later? This is just bad form – you can’t be making up characters out of thin air and expect your readers to maintain interest.  If Aaron’s important to the story, you got to introduce him earlier.].  I know that he can speak well…”

I’m sorry if I come across harsh and overly critical, but it’s deserved. Frankly, I doubt any publisher will touch this. The only way people ever read this manuscript is if you self-publish.

Good luck, Mr. Moses.

Sincerely,

Beniaiah Jehoiastein
Editor-in-Chief
Promised Land Publishing

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The Truth in Cardinal Müller’s Manifesto of Faith

I finally got around to reading Cardinal Müller’s “Manifesto of Faith” (can be read here, via the National Catholic Register) this morning, after seeing all the foofaraw it caused on Twitter and at other Catholic publications and sites. Depending on who you read, the manifesto was: a) a veiled attack on Pope Francis, because Müller didn’t mention the papacy; b) a swipe because the Holy Father still hasn’t answered the dubia over Amoris Laetitia; or c) a reprisal at having been removed from the CDF.

People either condemned the manifesto, or praised it, for those very reasons.

And not to be outdone, a couple days ago, Cardinal Kasper of Germany claimed that Müller’s manifesto’s contains half-truths and blanket statements, and went so far as to suggest Müller was following in the footsteps of Martin Luther.

Folks, it ain’t that complicated.

Does anyone recall this story in the Catholic News Agency from February 4?

Open Letter to Cardinal Marx Urges Changes to Church Teaching on Sexual Morality

In an open letter published Sunday by a German daily, nine German Catholics, including two prominent Jesuits, demand a break with the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.

The signatories call for a reworking of ecclesial structure, namely a “separation of powers”, the priestly ordination of women, an end to mandatory priestly celibacy, and other changes.

Published in the Feb. 3 edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the letter is addressed to Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the German bishops’ conference, and tells him that if he and other bishops were to decide to “spearhead the Reform movement”, they would be assured of the signatories’ full support.

This is what Müller was responding to, in my opinion. It wasn’t an attack on Pope Francis. It was a clear definition of the moral and sacramental life, as taught by the Church through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium. Period.

And let’s be honest: German Catholic theologians have always been kinda kooky, right? Their open letter is par for the course, and deserved to be addressed. By a German Cardinal.

The folks invested in either valiantly defending Pope Francis or actively opposing him interpreted the manifesto as an attack because nearly everything is evaluated through Francis-colored lenses. Long lost is the art of taking things at face value, at extending the benefit of the doubt. It’s about the “hot take”. And I say this as a Catholic who has given up on this pontificate.

Call me stupid, call me naive, call my analysis shallow and cursory. I don’t care. It may someday be proven that my opinion is completely wrong. I still don’t care. I’m not telling people what to say, argue, or debate, or what opinions they ought to have. Let them trade barbs and foist bad faith. Let them get angry. All I know is this: life is more peaceful, and faith is stronger, when other people’s bad intentions aren’t the first – and sometimes only – assumption.

If that’s the price of naivete, then please – take all my money.

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Can the Ol’ Catholic Blog Neighborhood Come Back?

[Welcome New Advent readers! Thanks for coming by!]

And should it? I gots thoughts.

ACM favorite Catholic blogger Sherry Antonetti, who writes at Chocolate for the Brain, wrote the other week:

I miss when the Blogosphere felt like a neighborhood with all sorts of takes on the same reality, with slices of home life here, theology there, humor another place, sarcasm another.  I miss feeling like walking through the internet like browsing the North End of Boston, or all the hidden lovely places in New York.   Now, everything feels like Best Buy and Walmart with a Starbucks on every corner.

There are sharp moments and glimmers of beauty and whimsy, but most of what we find, is what we’ve always found, and very little of it stretches us, challenges us, or delights.  I wonder, have I stopped looking, or have the shiniest of places been discovered and moved?

I share her sentiment. I’ve been writing enough years to remember the Golden Age of Catholic Blogging, when there was camaraderie and fun; when bloggers exchanged comments like neighbors chatting across a chain-link fence; when we shared and linked each other’s pieces; when there were Cannonball Awards and blogging badges; when the kindest thing one could say is “I’m adding you to my blogroll!”

But I get it. Times change, and change bursts upon people’s lives in ways unexpected and unplanned. Bloggers, like fashions and fads, come and go. Tastes and preferences shift and evolve like seasons and tides, and what was popular yesterday soon becomes out-of-date. Writing’s been crowded by podcasts and Facebook Live, and posts of 280 words or more have been pushed aside by tweets of 280 characters or fewer. And comments. Does anybody comment on posts anymore?

Has there been a write flight? I suppose that depends on who you ask. And although no one’s asked me for my two cents, I’m gonna slap my coin on the bar and tell you what I think anyway.

Firstly, some writers have stopped. Shut down their blogs and moved south (the Catholic blogger neighborhood is up north, y’know). I went on a sabbatical for almost a year, and found the strength and desire to resume. Not everyone does. And that’s okay – life happens.

Secondly, the neighborhood’s undergone a balkanization, and I attribute it to two major events. One, the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI and subsequent elevation of Pope Francis caused a huge hermeneutic of rupture in the Catholic blogosphere. Sure, there was already a rift between the “conservative” and “liberal” communities, and between the “Novus Ordites” and “Rad Trads”, but Pope Francis’ appearance split it all to hell, and the effects are still being felt. Camps formed quickly, and woe to thee if you didn’t choose a side. Further woe to thee if you chose poorly. It needn’t be said, but I’ll say it anyway: perhaps the strongest Catholic blog community today is the anti-Pope Francis residential district. They’re immovable and immutable. There is nothing quite like a common foe to foment unity. The bloggers who have Pope Francis in their crosshairs write with energy, passion, and consistency, continually sounding the alarm we stand upon the cusp of the coming apocalypse. Rightly or wrongly, that is where we are. I don’t like it, because us Catholics have so much more to share than shouts of “Heresy!” and cries of “Apostasy!” to the world. Call me crazy, but that seems counter-productive to the mission of evangelizing the world.

The second event was the 2016 presidential election, causing further fractaling among the Catholic blogosphere. Politics has become more difficult to discuss and write about – who wants to face the wrath, from either side? I suppose if a writer chooses to be controversial, confrontational, and contentious, it’ll draw all sorts of attention – for better or worse. After all, many people like to watch fights and witness trainwrecks. That will never change.

But at what cost? Sherry put it very well:

Everywhere I look, there is condemnation, condemnation of the condemnation, condemnation of those apologizing, condemnation of those criticizing the apologizing, and all of it, leaves a bitter aftertaste like I burnt my mouth.  

Thirdly, the rise of social media and alternative platforms. Used to just be Blogger vs. WordPress, for the most part. Over the years, a good number of personalities have packed up their stuff and left the neighborhood for other parts of Internet Town. I mentioned some earlier – Facebook Live, Twitter, and podcasts – but there’s also Instagram, radio, Patreon. There are more platforms to choose from. With more variety comes more competition for the written word. On top of that, some forgo blogging altogether, and move into the trendy, sleek, spiffy part of town, never settling into the neighborhood.

Fourthly, the endless cycle of Scandal du Jour in the Church has sapped the spirit and soul from many of us. It’s difficult to write about the joys of the faith when evils and horrors assail us on a daily basis. Maybe fewer Catholics read blogs because a) there are fewer Catholics; or b) they’re afraid of what they’ll read when they go on-line. You know what? I don’t blame them.

And finally, it’s harder to find the humor in a world increasingly becoming more averse to allowing humor in anything. It’s harder to promote the peace of Christ when some in the neighborhood choose to distribute division and disdain, and for what? Being the loudest doesn’t make you the rightest. Getting the most traffic doesn’t mean you’re the wisest. God came to Elijah in a whisper – and I think people desire the peace and quiet.

Despite the problems, now isn’t the time to move. Sherry wrote further:

So I’ll try to restart this party, to do my part to reopen the Mom-Pop store of the blogosphere. I’ll still link to pieces, but I’ll try to keep this spot lighter and brighter…to that end…

I’d better get to writing.

Like Sherry, I’m not ready to surrender the neighborhood to the creeping darkness and  prophets of doom. I’ll work hard to beautify my side of the street – linking to other like-minded writers, promoting the other Conspiracy members (are you reading them? You should be!), staying old school. I still have a blogroll, by gum, active and up-to-date. Who does that anymore?

So yes, the Catholic blogger neighborhood is worth restoring, even if it means being a bit smaller. Not only is it a great place to visit, it’s still a fantastic place to write.

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PARISH REPORT: IT Guy “Pretty Geeked” about Finally Launching Parish’s MySpace Page

ACMPress – DULUTH – Cal Porter, IT systems manager at Mary, Queen of Angels parish in Duluth, was all smiles Monday morning, having successfully launched the parish’s debut MySpace page.

“What an exciting day!” he told ACMPress. “I’m pretty geeked to finally bring our parish into the digital age, giving parishioners the opportunity to interact with the church in a cutting edge way. Social media is all the rage nowadays, so we had to get with it.”

Porter demonstrated how a parishioner could access the parish bulletin, get information about upcoming events, register for volunteer opportunities, and look at cat pictures.

“What I’m most excited about is being able to link to events happening throughout the diocese,” he said. “And the commenting feature! It’s almost like talking with people without using the phone. And just yesterday I found the Vatican’s website, so I can link to that as well. So cool!”

He mentioned he has plans to further expand the parish’s on-line presence. “I’ve heard Google+ is a super hot spot, so I’m checking it out.”

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