Today we're pleased to welcome author Michele Bowen to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Michele's book, Pastor Needs a Boo, combines the worlds of romance and faith, and it's that combination Michele is here to talk about today—the two are not as far apart as they might seem! Thanks for joining us, Michele!
When folks think about “Faith” and “Church” and “The Bible,” they might be inclined to take a detour around the issue of Romance. If that romance story is steamy and full of the possibilities of a few good pages of “Oooooo Baby-Babys,” there is a chance they will not want to mix that kind of good reading with a story filled with the concept of faith. I mean, like really, who looks at the Head of the Usher Board at their church and says to their friend, “Girrrrrrrllllllllllll, Mr. Jenkins sure does look like he needs to be on the cover of the next romance book I have on my summer reading list.”
On the other hand, while a “Mr. Jenkins” Head Usher may not inspire thoughts of what he could look like, shirtless, on the cover of a must-read romance novel, rest assured that church life can have some pretty juicy scandals. And there will always be something about the scandal that qualifies for a place on the Top Ten List (aka, the Ten Commandments).
We are talking about some schemes and plots and plans about money, love, sex, intrigue, deceit, and power that can rival anything Scandal’s Olivia Pope and Fitz Grant, along with Mellie and the rest of them could ever cook up on the show. In fact, Mellie Grant, on her best “Betty Crocker Dress and Accessories/White House Vamp” day, might have to take a back seat to a good old, gold-lame-with-lace-trimmed-hat-wearing inspired church scandal.
But honestly, even the juiciest church scandal pales in comparison to the heart-pounding, good-gracious content that you will find in the ultimate/original book of faith—The Bible. For anyone wondering just how old a good old church romance issue is (especially the most scandalous ones), you would be doing yourself a disservice if you did not crack open your bible and check out some of the novel-worthy stories. The Old Testament has some doozies!
For starters, there was Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38, NLT), whose hot-fling story reads like one of those “Girl, did you see that movie on Lifetime Movie Network last night? Those people were off the chain in that movie.” When I read that story, I was like “say whhhattt” and “uhhh…uhhh…no…whhhatttt.”
Judah was the son of Jacob and Leah, who did not start off their own marriage in the best way. Leah was the ugly older sister Jacob did not want. Judah’s daddy, Jacob, was madly in love with Leah’s cute baby sister, Rachel. He was tricked into marrying and sleeping with Leah because the older sister had to marry first.
There had to be a drought of potential suitors for Leah, if trickery was used to get the girl a man by using her baby sister as the bait. Jacob loved Leah’s cute sister, and he was tricked by the ugly sister into thinking he married and slept with the woman he wanted. Can you imagine what Jacob was feeling the day after the wedding? Do you wonder how they pulled that off?
Judah, Leah’s son, came here with some drama attached to him. He grew up, married, and had sons of his own. Two of his sons married the same woman, Tamar.
The first son died, and the second son married her, according to their laws and practices, because Tamar did not have any children by the first husband. Then, the second son died and still no children. Eventually the twice widowed Tamar had to return to her own people—something she probably did not want to do. Remember, Jacob, Judah, and “nem” were considered to be “all that and a bag of pita chips” back then.
When Judah’s own wife died, he traveled to Tamar’s territory, and was tricked by Tamar into sleeping with her. By now, reader, you may be shaking your head and saying something like “HUH.” But, it happened because Tamar wrapped herself up in a veiled outfit and gave the impression that she was a hooker.
One has to wonder how Judah did not know his own daughter-in-law. But then, we have to remember that his daddy did not know who his own wife was—so maybe this kind of craziness was normal for this family. Plus, why in the world was Abraham’s great grandson out there getting his freak on with a so-called hooker in the first place?
Tamar’s twisted mean-girl scheme worked. She got pregnant by her FATHER-IN-LAW (I have to stop writing and have an EEEEEEWWWWWWWWW moment), and finally had that baby she had been trying to get two brother-husbands back. Yes, that is in the Bible.
I really thought Tamar put the H in the word HOOCHIE, and then I had to re-think that when I read the story of David and Bathsheba. Now, we all know about King David and how he was a man after God’s own Heart. If you have read the Book of Psalms, you know King David’s God-anointed words captures the human heart’s yearning and longing for God in the most phenomenal way.
But what folk may not know is that David had it going on with the ladies. There is an episode in King David’s life where he asked a wealthy man named, Nabal, to donate some provisions to his cause (1 Samuel 25, NLT). Nabal was an ill-mannered brute, who was belligerent and nasty to Israel’s anointed King. So, David went after him, and Nabal’s wife, Abigail, hurried to appease David and save their community. But when Abigail told Nabal about her intervention, he had a massive stroke and died in less than two weeks time.
When David learned that Nabal was dead he said, “Praise the Lord, who has paid back Nabal and kept me from doing it myself,” (1 Samuel 25: 39, NLT). Then, David checked out the now widowed Abigail, found her pleasing to the eye, and took her to be his wife. And there is no evidence that Abigail had issues with becoming a widow and a bride in a relatively short time span. David must have had some serious swag, even more serious game, and he had to be rumored to be “putting it down” behind closed doors.
But few stories can trump David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11, NLT). The first time we learn of David discovering Bathsheba, was while she was taking a bath on the roof of her house! David was walking on the roof of his own house, and there was Bathsheba on another roof, in a tub taking a bath. WHO, PRAY-TELL, TAKES A BATH ON THE ROOF OF THEIR HOUSE?
Can you imagine the looks on folks’ faces when someone dared to ask, “So tell me, David and Bathsheba, how you all met?”
Was Bathsheba so clueless that she did not know her roof-top “spa” was right where the King could see her? Is it possible that she had an inkling of the times David was strolling across his roof? Did Bathsheba and one of her maidservants use some kind of spy-glass to watch when David came outside on his roof, and then decided that maybe she should just freshen up a bit?
Why a bath? Why not wash her hair and then fling it like she was just coming up out of the water on the beach? (I know this is super old school but somebody reading this essay had to see the movie Ten or at the very least Big Mama’s House 2 when Martin Lawrence/Big Mama came up out of the water flinging his/her blonde micro braids ‘Bo Derek Style’).
It is not hard to imagine the conversation between Bathsheba and her maidservant:
“My Lady, what has captured your attention on this lovely night?”
“That good looking man over there on the roof top. He looks so familiar.”
“My Lady, that is because he is the King.”
“As in David?”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“Get out of the kingdom. Are you for real?”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“Well, how did you know who he is?”
“I pay attention to these things, My Lady. It is my job to make sure that I know as much as I can as your maidservant.”
“Good looking out!”
“Are you ready for your evening bath?”
“Yes. And I’m thinking I need a bit of fresh air to get my circulation in better shape. I’ve been a bit lethargic since Uriah went to fight in the war. Bathing on the roof top, under the stars, with the warm evening breeze will do wonders for my constitution.”
“Yes, My Lady. Do you want the scents in the water? You know the ones that smell so good you can smell them from a mile away, or across a rooftop.”
“And which way do you want the tub to face?”
“In the direction where I look my best.”
“As you wish, My Lady. I will have the servants position the tub where there is a lovely evening silhouette of you. I remember Sir Uriah enjoying that view of you. It is the one that encouraged him to ask your father for your hand in marriage.”
I always tried to imagine what in the world that must have looked like. And then I have to remember that it must have been some kind of look because David was smitten and had to have this woman. In fact, he ended up having a hot and torrid affair with Bathsheba. David also found a way to send Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to his death on the front lines of a war Israel was fighting so he could have Bathsheba all to himself.
So, Uriah died, a pregnant Bathsheba went with David, and the baby died shortly after birth. But that is not how that story ended. Shortly thereafter, David and Bathsheba clearly had another night of wild abandonment and romance, and she got pregnant again. This time the baby lived, and grew up to become King Solomon, the first of David’s off-spring to rule over Israel after he died.
David must have been some kind of man to make a woman want to take a bath on the roof for him. Can you just hear the music playing in your head when he walked out on that roof—a hot blend of some Arabian Nights sounding music with some funky-blues-beat bass and percussion resonating underneath the basic melody. Did Bathsheba have on some sheer and flowing fabrics when she came up on the roof? Was David dressed in some kind of ‘back in the bible day’ ‘playah-play-on’ looking silk robe?
We will never really know the answers to those questions. And honestly, that part of the story is not any of our business, despite the fact that inquiring minds want to know. But what this story, along with the others I highlighted in this essay did, was demonstrate that Faith and Romance is not a paradox. It is a reality that goes hand-in-hand.
Faith-based characters in romance stories are passionate, believable and real. Some of them do things you would not expect from a “faith-based” character, like bathing on the roof of a house, so a good-looking man could get an eyeful of her silhouette. Some faith-based characters face odds that appear insurmountable but can be defied with faith, never growing weary in doing good, and perseverance. Abigail clearly demonstrated these qualities, and was set free and ended up marrying a king. And there are characters in faith-based novels who keep stories exciting by doing every thing they are big enough to do—like Tamar’s hoodwinking of Judah.
Romance and Faith and Faith and Romance—a combination that any romance writer should yearn for. It is as old as the stories in The Bible. And when you read The Bible, the one thing that will always jump out at you is PASSION. Who but a passionate and loving God would have His own Romance with us that read…”For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16 NLT).
That, my friend, is some kind of faith-filled romance story!
Learn more or order a copy of Pastor Needs a Boo by Michele Andrea Bowen, out now:
Michele Andrea Bowen grew up in St. Louis, MO, with a large, church-going family. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, and also the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked in Social Work, Public Health, and Education.
Michele became one of the groundbreaking writers in the area of contemporary African American Christian Fiction when her first novel, Church Folk, was published in the summer of 2001. She continued to delight her readers with down-home, funny, uplifting, and heartwarming novels like Second Sunday, Holy Ghost Corner, Up at the College, and More Church Folk.
Now, she will reach out to readers with a brand new three-part novel series called “The Pastor’s Aide Club.” Pastor Needs A Boo, the first novel in the series, will be out this summer (2014). It answers, finally, all of the questions readers have had about Pastor-FBI Agent, Rev. Denzelle Flowers.